IT was fitting that the first person to congratulate Yorkshire jockey George Chaloner after his breakthrough Royal Ascot winner was Paul Hanagan, the rider who has done so much to inspire his career.
For 22-year-old Chaloner is following the same career path which led to Hanagan becoming a two-time champion jockey and the winner of this month’s Epsom Oaks aboard Taghrooda – riding school, a stint with Malcolm Jefferson and then a switch to Richard Fahey’s powerful Malton yard in order to acquire greater race-riding experience.
Ironically, some of the last words of advice given to Chaloner before his victory on Sir Robert Ogden’s Baccarat in the six-furlong Wokingham Stakes cavalry charge, one of Flat racing’s most prestigious and competitive handicaps, came from Hanagan, who finished a close fourth on Fahey’s Alben Star.
“Just even being at Royal Ascot was special – it was only my second ride there,” a still elated Chaloner told The Yorkshire Post.
“I knew Baccarat would ride well, but never that well. Richard said to get plenty of cover, but it was Paul who said I went a bit too soon last time out at York. He said ‘just count to 10 before you kick’.
“As soon as I crossed the line to pull up Paul was the first rider to congratulate me. He said, ‘Well done kid, I’m proud of you’. I’ll definitely remember that.”
Born in Lincoln, Chaloner’s grandfather Trevor and his brother Colin were both jump jockeys.
“I have always been brought up with horses, When I was at secondary school, I got into pony racing and that was a big help,” explained the young jockey.
“To Grandad, it made a world of difference when I started riding. It did wonders for him and gave him a whole new lease of life – his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since my Ascot success.”
From pony racing, 16-year-old Chaloner then joined the Northern Racing College at Doncaster – the subject of Channel Four’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Jockey School which was broadcast on the eve of this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National.
The rider feels that the television portrayal did not show the NRC in the best possible light.
“They were just trying to make good television rather than showing the quality of the people learning to ride – and the expertise of the staff,” he ventured with characteristic conviction.
After a 12-week residential course, he then secured a placement at the Norton yard of the quietly successful Malcolm Jefferson, a predominantly National Hunt trainer.
Like Hanagan more than a decade earlier, Chaloner found this to be a life-changing experience.
“Malcolm is brilliant. He’s like a father figure to me and really looked after us,” he said.
“I had to really work, but he realised that I was more likely to succeed on the Flat and arranged for me to ride out at Fahey’s.
“I went into Malcolm’s first thing, mucked out my four horses, went on to Richard’s to ride out and then back to Malcolm’s for evening stables.
“One morning, Malcolm pulled me in out of the blue and said, ‘You start at Richard’s full-time on Monday’.
“Richard, he’s a legend. He’s a great boss and I couldn’t wish for a better boss. Robin O’Ryan, the assistant trainer, is good. And the other jockeys – Paul obviously, Tony Hamilton, Barry McHugh.
“I had my first ride at Doncaster on the day that Paul became champion for the first time in 2010, the day when the title race with Richard Hughes went to the final meeting of the season.
“I remember going to the weighing room and I hadn’t a clue where I was going. Paul was doing an interview about the title race, but he stopped the interview and showed me where to go. That’s the class of the man.”
Chaloner’s first winner came a month later when Mighty Clarets, now a hurdler with Welsh trainer Peter Bowen, won on the all-weather at Wolverhampton by a head.
His first big success came in August 2012 when he pounced late aboard Fahey’s stable stalwart Johannes to land the £30,000 Stewards’ Sprint Handicap at Glorious Goodwood – horse and rider scored by half a length from 27 rivals.
The win on Baccarat at Royal Ascot was certainly far more straight-forward – Chaloner’s mount travelled like the winner for most of the six furlongs – but it has certainly inspired the young rider, who still has a three-pound weight allowance, to take account of his inexperience.
His very next ride saw him partner the filly Bimbo, a horse bred by her owner Lady Halifax at Garrowby Hall, to victory at Pontefract on Sunday in front of a huge crowd.
The horse’s first career start, the jockey derived particular satisfaction from beating multiple champion jockeys Kieren Fallon and Ryan Moore in a tight finish.
It was also special because Lady Halifax is chairman of Pontefract.
Win No 16 of the campaign came at Beverley two days later aboard Fahey’s Miss Lucy Jane.
“It was straight back to work after Ascot,” added Chaloner, who is sponsored by Steve Clayton of site engineering company Morebrooke Ltd.
“I just want to keep my head down and see how far I can go in racing.
“I’m getting nice rides, too, from Richard Whitaker near Leeds. The great encouragement is that Paul Hanagan did exactly the same – and it hasn’t worked out badly for him.”