Paul Hanagan, the former dual champion jockey in Britain, has announced that he will retire from the saddle at York on Friday. The 42-year-old will take one ride at the track in the first race for Richard Fahey, the trainer with whom he has enjoyed a significant portion of his success.
Hanagan was crowned champion apprentice in 2002 and eight years later gained the first of his two consecutive championships in the senior ranks, becoming the only jockey based in the north of England to have landed the title more than once. He notched his first Group 1 victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on the Fahey-trained Wootton Bassett (GB), who is now one of the most sought-after stallions in Europe.
In 2012, Hanagan was named as first jockey for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum on the retirement of Richard Hills and was retained to ride the Shadwell horses for five years. During that period he won his first British Classic on Taghrooda (GB) in the Oaks as well as a trio of Group 1 sprints on Muhaarar (GB). Simultaneously maintaining his association with Fahey's Musley Bank Stables, he also partnered Mayson (GB) in the July Cup to post a first Group 1 in Britain for both himself and the trainer, and later Sands Of Mali (Fr) in the G1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint.
Speaking on Racing TV during the first day of York's Ebor meeting, Hanagan said, “As you can imagine it's quite emotional. It's difficult, I think any professional sportsperson will tell you, especially doing it as long as I've been doing it for.
“There are a few things involved in making my decision, I had a pretty bad fall about two years ago and I've never quite been the same after it, I fractured my back in three places. It's not so much painful riding, but it's getting to the level of fitness you need to be at to be a professional jockey and I don't think I was getting to that standard.”
He added, “Looking back, I was very proud of myself for getting where I have [after the fall]. I managed to ride a couple of Royal Ascot winners after coming back, but keeping the fitness right was causing me a bit of pain and retiring here at the Ebor meeting feels right.
“I was two-times champion jockey as a kid from Warrington without a lot of racing experience, so I keep telling kids it can be done.”
Reflecting on his career highlights, Hanagan continued, “I've been blessed to ride some beautiful horses for some wonderful people. To win a Classic on Taghrooda was special – I don't think I'll ever forget my family's faces that day.
“Muhaarar is probably one of the best sprinters I rode and I was honoured to have a five-year association with Sheikh Hamdan and I had an even longer career with Richard Fahey, who I owe a lot to.”
One of an elite band of jockeys to have ridden more than 2,000 winners, a landmark he reached in November 2020, he has had two winners in the last week, including on Macarone (GB) at Beverley for Rob Burrow, the rugby league star who is battling Motor Neurone Disease.
Hanagan will take up a new role with the Good Racing Company in the near future.
He said, “I'm really looking forward to working with The Good Racing Company, a charity that raises funds for different charities, namely working with Rob Burrow, and I'm going to be guiding them on which horses to buy.
“I rode Rob Burrow's first winner at Beverley the other day and that was very special. I've been riding for 26 years and it would be criminal of me not to do something more in racing.”