paul hanagan returns to Doncaster today, scene of his last-gasp title triumphs in 2010 and 2011, buoyed by the first Classic win of his career after Taghrooda – sired by the great champion Sea The Stars – streaked clear to land the Investec Epsom Oaks in stunning style.
It was the allure of Group One prizes that led to Hanagan being prised away from the Malton yard of Richard Fahey, where he served his apprenticeship, to become retained rider to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose Tarfasha was second.
Surprisingly, this was top trainer John Gosden’s first victory in Flat racing’s elite contest for fillies – his stable star The Fugue endured wretched luck two years ago.
“It feels great, it’s what I’ve worked hard for,” said Hanagan as he savoured the occasion.
“I’m delighted for the team really, Sheikh Hamdan, Angus Gold, Richard (Hills), it’s a big team effort and John Gosden’s yard have done a fabulous job. We had really bad news with the death of John Hills, who was a big part of the team, and I’d just like to say this one is for him.”
Richard Hills, Hanagan’s predecessor as Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider and now part of the backroom staff, paid an emotional tribute to his brother who died on Sunday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 53. He said: “John said to me last week, ‘Rich, good luck’, and there’s no doubt he was there with us.”
Of the other runners, Malton trainer Tony Coyle’s Lily Rules was ninth under Barry McHugh – one place ahead of her Musidora conqueror Madame Chiang.
However, the unbeaten That Is The Spirit, the tip yesterday of The Yorkshire Post columnist Daniel Tudhope, landed the Surrey Stakes for Nawton trainer David O’Meara.
The post only just came in time for the three-year old who replicated the front-running tactics that had been deployed so successfully at Doncaster and York.
Royal Ascot’s Jersey Stakes is now an option. “I thought I’d won easier than I did but the second horse flashed home,” said Tudhope.
There was a further Yorkshire success when Almargo took the finale for Middleham’s Mark Johnston.