Classic-winning jockey Paul Hanagan has announced he will retire from the saddle after riding at York on Friday.
The 42-year-old enjoyed Epsom glory when steering Taghrooda to victory in the 2014 Oaks, before the duo went on to land the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and finish third to Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Hanagan was the leading apprentice in 2002 and was crowned champion jockey twice – first winning the title in 2010 when he rode 205 winners in a calendar year and successfully defending his crown in 2011, when he partnered 177 winners over the 12 months.
Recent seasons have proved more difficult, suffering a serious fall in February 2020 that resulted in three fractured vertebrae and a prolonged period on the sidelines, eventually returning to action in August that year and steering Majestic Dawn to a popular victory in the Cambridgeshire the following month.
Hanagan has ridden 14 winners so far this year and feels it is the right time to depart the weighing room, with his final ride due to come aboard the Richard Fahey-trained Wootton’Sun.
He 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’s 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 continued: “The fall a couple of years ago knocked me, just fitness wise getting that level again (has been difficult) and I just thought of all the meetings to do it, maybe it’s here, where I’ve had a lot of success.
“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 try to instil in my children that if you work hard, things can happen. I was champion apprentice in 2002 and I thought ‘why not just push yourself a little bit more?’.
“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.”
Hanagan had his first ride at Haydock in September 1998 – a fitting venue for a Warrington native – finishing fourth on Stone Beck for the late Malcolm Jefferson.
The then 17-year-old embarked on what would be a long association with Fahey the following year, with the Malton trainer supporting him during his apprentice championship-winning season, which also featured his first high-profile victory aboard Vintage Premium in the John Smith’s Cup at York.
The pair enjoyed countless big-race success, with Wootton Bassett providing a notable landmark when giving the pair a first Group One success in the 2010 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp.
Mayson, winner of the 2012 July Cup, proved another out of the top drawer for the team, while the likes of Anna Pavlova, Utmost Respect, Barefoot Lady and Fonthill Road were other headline-grabbing victors.
The partnership came to an end at the start of 2012 when the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum signed up Hanagan as his retained rider, a role he held until the end of 2016.
His association with the Shadwell team brought success on a different level, with Taghrooda one of the standout horses along with 2014 Eclipse victor Mukhadram and Muhaarar, who won three top-level sprint prizes in 2015.
After his split with Sheikh Hamdan, Hanagan gravitated back to Fahey and the pair once again racked up the winners in a period highlighted by the likes of 2018 British Champions Sprint winner Sands Of Mali and 2021 Norfolk Stakes hero Perfect Power.
However, Fahey announced in May 2022 that Hanagan would no longer have first pick of the stable’s rides, with Oisin Orr taking a prominent role at the North Yorkshire yard.
The old allies enjoyed one final Royal Ascot hurrah though, when 50-1 shot The Ridler won last year’s Norfolk Stakes in what proved to be Hanagan’s final Royal Ascot victory.
Reflecting on his career highlights, Hanagan said: “Taghrooda is right up there and 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.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of people along the way, one of the most important being Tom O’Ryan, who was such a big influence on my career, along with my parents.”
Hanagan rode upwards of 100 winners in no less than nine seasons and bows out with over 2,000 winners to his credit, having brought up that landmark in November 2020 to join an exclusive club to have completed the feat.
The rider already has a new position lined up with the Good Racing Company having ridden a notable winner for the owner earlier in the week.
He added: “There’s a few options being discussed – and I’m few open to suggestions!
“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.”