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Hanagan thrilled to be back in the big time

Paul Hanagan has celebrated bigger winners than Majestic Dawn’s success in the bet365 Cambridgeshire, but few victories will have provided greater satisfaction given the year he has endured.

Having come close to calling time on his glittering career after sustaining a back injury in a fall at Newcastle in February, the two-times champion jockey continued his recent resurgence in the saddle with a breakthrough first victory in the ultra-competitive handicap.

Though one for more muted celebrations, the Classic-winning rider admitted he came close to letting his emotions get the better of him after steering the Paul and Oliver Cole-trained 40-1 shot to a surprise success.

Hanagan said: “That fall was the most difficult time of my life. You just know when it’s a bad one. The scariest moment for me was I couldn’t get up. I struggled to breathe and that’s when I knew it was serious.

“I’m not one for getting emotional, but when I was being interviewed on television after winning, I thought ‘oh no, I’m going to go here in a minute’, which I shouldn’t be ashamed of, but it was a massive thing in my life, that fall. Winning today was pretty emotional.

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“It was very special. I was six months out with the injury and I didn’t think I was going to make it back at all. To bag one like that is quite special. I’m absolutely delighted.”

Recovery was a slow process for Hanagan, but taking inspiration from his close friend and former rider Freddy Tylicki, as well as his own desire to return, has helped him come through those dark days and emerge on the other side.

He added: “I’m best mates with Freddy Tylicki and it kind of hits home how lucky I am, as he wasn’t so lucky after a life-changing fall. It’s people like him that have given me inspiration. The likes of Freddy have been amazing.

“I was in so much pain and just constantly struggling to get out of bed and because of Covid and the lockdown, I couldn’t get any help. Jack Berry House was brilliant doing a video link, but it is not the same as seeing people in person.

“What it really came down to was the operation. The specialist was amazing and it was a flick of the switch after that. It was then a case of do I really want it? But the hunger was there more than ever.”

Returning from any injury requires the support of others, and Hanagan, who is fast closing in on riding 2,000 British winners, is grateful to several people who helped get his career back on track.

He added: “The support I’ve had has been amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of Jack Berry House, which is on my doorstep in Malton. Without the support of them, I don’t think I would have made it.

“My agent Richard Hale never gets a mention, but I’ve been with him since I was 16 or 17 and I turned 40 last week, so it speaks volumes for the guy as he has been there from day one.

“I think the sport we are in is a great sport and everyone comes together when you have a bad time.”

While Hanagan may be in the later stages of his career, he hopes his return to the saddle can act as an inspiration to others that may be struggling for confidence or have been in a similar position to that he faced earlier this year.

He added: “The first couple of weeks were hard, just getting that race and match fitness back again, but once I got over those first two weeks, things have flown.

“To win a race like this maybe shows people who are going through a hard time you have the support out there to get back, and if you really want something, you can do it.”

Dawn delivers with clear-cut Cambridgeshire verdict

Majestic Dawn caused a 40-1 shock as he turned the bet365 Cambridgeshire into a procession under Paul Hanagan.

Fifth in the race 12 months ago, he was back again off just a 3lb higher mark, but he had only had one run this season when last of 10 at Kempton.

Majestic Dawn was wearing first-time blinkers and Hanagan took the race by the scruff of the neck at the halfway point in the nine-furlong heat.

Hanagan kicked into what would prove to be an unassailable advantage and on entering the final furlong, it was clear the leader would not be caught, as Paul and Oliver Cole’s four-year-old maintained his gallop right through the line to win by four and three-quarter lengths.

There was a blanket finish for second, with Lucander just ahead of Bell Rock and 100-1 chance You’re Hired in fourth.

Oliver Cole said: “We always thought he was a very good horse and last year he finished fifth in this race.

“All year we’ve had all sorts of little problems. We ran him at Kempton a few days ago, just to get a bit of work into him really and he came last, but it obviously put him straight!

“I still can’t believe it to be honest, it’s a real shock. I couldn’t be happier for the owners and the staff at home – it’s a great thrill. We’re very lucky.”

Hanagan, who was almost forced to quit following a back injury he suffered in February, said: “I’m lost for words.

“It was a long road back to fitness, so this is a special winner. I owe the comeback to so many people.

“I don’t think you’ll see many Cambridgeshires won like that. He was just very happy. We got the rail, he was a little bit keen, so I took him away from the others then he relaxed.

“After that, I just pointed him.”

Paul Hanagan secures 100th Ayr win in style

Paul Hanagan enjoyed his biggest success since his return from injury with a hard-fought triumph on Exceptional in the Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

The two-time champion jockey was sidelined for six months after fracturing his T6 vertebra in a fall at Newcastle in February.

It was fitting Hanagan picked up this Listed prize as it provided him with a 100th career win at the Scottish track.

There were plenty in with chances inside the final quarter-mile but Exceptional (11-2) knuckled down to her task to score by a length and a length and a quarter from the Kevin Ryan-trained pair of Last Empire and Dandy’s Beano.

Hanagan told Racing TV: “I’ve been trying to get it for a while. Obviously I was off injured for a good time. It’s just nice to get 100 winners at Ayr – it’s been good to me over the years.

“The easier ground helped this filly as she was on her head most of the way and I just had to sit and suffer. I think she’ll probably get further.

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“She’s a very good filly. She was going away at the end and has a very good attitude.”

Fahey was pleased to see Exceptional gain some valuable black type for her future career as a broodmare for owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“She’s a sweet filly, she’s not had a lot of racing. It’s just nice to see her win a Listed race for Cheveley,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“There is one more race but we’ll speak to Chris (Richardson) and see.

“It was a good winner to get. They are definitely keeping her for stud so I’m delighted to get that bracket done and she did it well.”

Fahey was completing a double after the victory of Outrun The Storm (18-1) in the EBF Nursery Handicap under Paddy Mathers.

Winter Power showed a terrific turn of foot to take the Listed honours in the Shadwell Stud/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes.

The Tim Easterby-trained filly put up a career-best effort on her eighth start to win for a third time as she bounced back from being well-beaten in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster a week ago.

David Allan had Winter Power (7-1) well-placed as Rebel At Dawn took the field along before asking her to go and in the race over a furlong out.

She quickly put the race to bed and enjoyed a cosy half-a-length success over Nomadic Empire (5-1). First Company, the 250-1 complete outsider of the party, three-quarters of a length back in third.

Winter Power was a winner at Ayr
Winter Power was a winner at Ayr (Tony Knapton/PA)

“She’s a very good filly. She’s plenty of speed and loved the ground, which we weren’t sure about. She enjoyed it and travelled well through the race,” said Easterby.

“It was a hot race she ran in at Doncaster last week, but she’s got a fantastic attitude. You can back her up and run her quick. It’s not very often you can do that with a filly.

“She’s very fast. She’s in the race at Redcar (Two Year Old Trophy), but we maybe wouldn’t go there and stick to five.”

Jockey Joe Fanning was in fine form, landing an 865-1 treble on Fairmac (10-1), Mondain (11-4 favourite) and Bringitonboris (20-1).

Paul Hanagan sets sights on 100th win at Ayr

For Paul Hanagan just to be riding at this year’s Ayr Western Meeting is an achievement in itself, but he is also on the verge of a landmark winner at the Scottish track.

The two-time champion jockey was out of action for six months earlier this year after fracturing his T6 vertebra in a fall at Newcastle in February, and some even doubted if the 40-year-old would return.

But return he has, and after a slow start he is now back among the winners, with one more victory at Ayr required for a century at the venue – while he is also approaching 2,000 career winners.

In typically self-effacing style, though, he deflects plenty of the praise on to trainer Richard Fahey, with whom he has had a long and successful partnership.

Fonthill Road (far side) won the Ayr Gold Cup for Hanagan and Fahey
Fonthill Road (far side) won the Ayr Gold Cup for Hanagan and Fahey (Chris Clark/PA)

“It’s always a week we look forward to, we’ve had a lot of success there. Richard fires a lot of bullets at it, but you’ve still got to win the races and we’ve managed to have a bit of luck,” said Hanagan.

“It seems like yesterday, winning the Ayr Gold Cup on Fonthill Road – it’s startling to think it was back in 2006. Winning it is one of my career highlights, there’s no doubt about it, up the north it’s like winning the Derby.

“It’s a really classy race now, you’ve almost got to be a Group horse to win it and if anything, it’s getting stronger every year.

“It’s nearly at the end of a long season for a lot of horses when you think in a normal year it begins in March, so it’s a good training feat to get your horse to Ayr still in top form – that’s why I hold Richard in such regard, his seem fresh when they get there.

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“I think the fact I’ve done so well at Ayr comes down to the fact I’m riding for Richard and I just go out full of confidence, which is a massive thing. I know the track well as I’ve been riding there so long.

“I love going up there, the crowd are so knowledgeable and they don’t talk from their pocket – it’s a different feel up there. That’s why it’s going to be so strange this year. Because of my injury, I’m still not really used to the empty stands – it’s very strange.

“Jockeys, like footballers, feed off an atmosphere and energy. I noticed it most at Chester where they are normally on top of you. We need to get the crowds back soon.”

Hanagan’s injury was serious enough to give him time to reflect on what he has achieved in his career to date and there was plenty to look back on, not least being champion in 2010 and 2011 and his spell as retained rider for owner Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Taghrooda won the Oaks and King George for Hanagan
Taghrooda won the Oaks and King George for Hanagan (Adam Davy/PA)

He said: “In the time I was off, I had plenty of time to reflect. I’ve got two boys who are 10 and 14 now and it was nice to reminisce a little with them because as they get older, they understand and take a bit more of an interest, so it was nice to tell them I wasn’t so bad!

“I thought about a lot while I was off. It was nearly six months and it was touch and go whether I would make it back at all, so I did have a look back at what I’d achieved.

“I had people telling me if I didn’t make it back, I should be proud of what I’d achieved and that was nice to hear.

“I suppose I’ve had the best of both worlds in quantity and quality. Being champion a second time was tough, I gave it everything, racing around the country. I loved the buzz, but it was really 24/7.

“You’ve got to take into account how much racing there is these days and the constant travelling and the amount of traffic. You’d get to the races with minutes to spare, give a horse a bad ride and be kicking yourself.

“It’s mentally challenging, so the Hamdan job came at the perfect time really. Riding the likes Taghrooda, Mukhadram and Muhaarar was brilliant.

“Wootton Bassett, who was my first Group One winner, was a great horse for Richard, unbeaten at two and to see that Coolmore have bought him as a stallion now, he could go right to the top given the mares he’ll be getting.

“Unfortunately for me, Muhaarar was retired at the end of his three-year-old season as Shadwell had no real stallions to speak of, so he went to stud at the same time as Mukhadram, which meant we had nothing for the big races the following season!

Paul Hanagan with Richard Fahey and Wootton Bassett
Paul Hanagan with Richard Fahey and Wootton Bassett (John Giles/PA)

“I enjoyed going out to Dubai as well. I took my family out, the kids went to school out there and I think I went out for about five years (during the Carnival). It was amazing.

“I won some of the biggest races at the Carnival and had a four-timer one night – I loved it.”

When the sun does eventually set on Hanagan’s career, it will be for his relationship with Fahey that he will be mostly remembered.

“I’d like to think my partnership with Richard has been one of the great ones,” said Hanagan.

“I’m not one for patting myself on the back, but I’m not from a racing background. My dad had a brief flirtation, but I’ve had to do it the hard way.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without Richard, but I also owe a lot to Malcolm Jefferson, God rest his soul, who gave me my first job when unbelievably I wanted to be a jump jockey. Thankfully my weight stayed low and he passed me on to Richard.”