paul hanagan can not wait to be reunited with Taghrooda when the fantastic filly puts her unbeaten record on the line in today’s Darley Yorkshire Oaks, the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’s day two centre-piece.
The former champion jockey, a long-time stalwart of Richard Fahey’s Malton yard, has good grounds for optimism.
This, after all, is the horse that provided Hanagan with a much-deserved first Classic win in the Epsom Oaks before beating all-comers in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
The emphatic nature of this win suggests that today’s six-runner race will be a regal procession for Taghrooda, who would not have been out of place in yesterday’s Juddmonte International.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Hanagan, who returned to action at Pontefract on Sunday after suffering a hairline fracture to his left arm when falling heavily at Goodwood recently.
“York is one of the best tracks, I had so much success there with Richard and to go with Taghrooda and show her off, it’s like giving something back to the crowd who’ve been so good to me over the years.
“You have to keep pinching yourself, how lucky I am to be associated with such a good filly. It’s down to Sheikh Hamdan if she goes to the Arc but it would be great to see her go there. She’s an unbeaten filly, she’s won the Oaks, the King George and, hopefully, the Yorkshire Oaks. It would be great for the game.”
The optimism of Hanagan, now in his third season as Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s retained rider, is shared by John Gosden, who is destined to become champion trainer thanks to the exploits of Taghrooda and his majestic miler Kingman.
After winning her maiden at Newmarket last season, Taghrooda won the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Suffolk track in May before landing the Oaks in scintillating style before taking advantage of the weight allowance afforded to fillies and three-year-old horses in the King George.
Taghrooda’s imperious display at Ascot was the first time a filly had triumphed in the summer showpiece since 1976 and even her trainer was surprised by the style in which she landed the prestigious prize.
“I was surprised that she came to those good older horses under a hand ride. To come to horses that had just won a Hardwicke and an Eclipse in the manner that she did was what surprised me. I knew she was a nice filly but that was impressive,” he said.
“And also the way she took the race in her stride. Many horses after running a race like that are quiet for a few days, but not her – she ate up and was soon trying to get rid of her rider.”
The Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe has long been voiced as Taghrooda’s end-of-season target and she is unlikely to be seen on a racecourse in between York and Longchamp on October 5.
“If she runs a nice race at York, we’ll aim for the Arc and I think we would go straight there,” added Gosden. “The Yorkshire Oaks was always the plan for her. After her win in the Oaks it was a race we had in our mind. In terms of herself, I am very happy with her. It should be good racing ground.”
Of the rest, Oaks third Volume should not be discounted while Aidan O’Brien will not be sending over Tapestry from Ballydoyle to make up the numbers.
However, this should be the day when Hanagan can celebrate his rise from humble beginnings to his role as Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider – a job that is a mark of greatness in its own right.