There was to be no fairytale ending for Paul Hanagan at York on Friday as the dual champion jockey bowed out aboard Wootton’Sun in the opening race on the penultimate afternoon of the Ebor Festival.
The 42-year-old announced on Wednesday he had decided to bring his distinguished riding career to an end and it was fitting his long-time ally Richard Fahey provided him with his farewell mount.
The crowds packed around the parade ring to give Hanagan a warm reception as he left the weighing room for the final time and he was clearly emotional as he received a guard of honour from his fellow riders.
Hopes were high the Warrington-born champion of 2010 and 2011 could go out on a high aboard Wootton’Sun, whose sire Wootton Bassett provided Hanagan with his first Group One winner in the 2010 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, but it was not to be.
The four-year-old brought strong form claims to the table in the Sky Bet Handicap, having won the Old Newton Cup at Haydock last month before being beaten a short head by Scampi in a similarly valuable handicap at Ascot a fortnight ago.
But while he travelled well for the first half of the mile-and-a-half contest, he was unable to pick up when asked for maximum effort and he was ultimately well beaten, finishing 12th of 14 runners.
Hanagan said: “Oh wow, it’s very surreal. I’m still in shock with the ovation I got off the crowd round the paddock. It was a ‘wow’ moment and a very, very proud moment for me.
“It wasn’t to be with the last ride, but we all know horse racing isn’t straightforward the whole time and it was just nice to go out like that, and for Richard as well – I owe him a lot.
“I’m going to celebrate with the family. I’m just a bit lost for words and very emotional.
“I’ve been crying my eyes out, I’m not going to lie. I walked the track earlier with my two boys and that was very emotional. They realised the whole magnitude of it all.
“I keep putting it into younger kids that you might be going through a bad time and it might be tough, but if you work really hard it can pay off. That’s certainly what happened to me.
“I think work ethic and a good attitude can get you a long way.”
Among the well wishers in the parade ring was Angus Gold, long-standing racing manager for the Shadwell operation.
Hanagan enjoyed a five-year association as retained rider for the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, a spell which saw him claim Classic glory aboard Taghrooda in the 2014 Oaks at Epsom before the duo went on to land the King George and finish third to Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the man,” said Gold. “A brilliant jockey and for me the best guy to work with – loyal, hard working, a great work rider and team member and a joy to work with, plus the biggest gentleman to ever step foot in the weighing room.
“I think he rode nearly 1,000 winners for Richard – extraordinary statistics.
“We were lucky enough to get him and he did a fabulous job for us, with probably Taghrooda and Muhaarar being the highlights, as well as Mukhadram in the Eclipse.
“For me, above everything else, he’s just the most decent man, a superstar and we wish him all the best.”
Ryan Moore was victorious aboard Marhaba The Champ in Hanagan’s farewell race, and told ITV Racing: “Paul started a couple of years before me and he’s had a wonderful career.
“He’s been champion jockey twice and he’s won Classics and had a great career. It will be sad to see him go, but it looks like he’s ready and I wish him well for the future.”