The veteran rider kicked off the home bend to secure Royal Ascot’s showcase race for Middleham trainer Mark Johnston who said the horse nearly didn’t run after falling on a road.
Yet, while many racing fans will be disappointed that Frankie Dettori, another 50-year-old, could not secure a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup after a troubled passage, it was a measure of Fanning’s status as another of the sport’s elder statesmen that every jockey left the weighing room to greet the unassuming hero of the hour.
That’s the regard in which he is held. And it was a coming of age win for the Dr Jim Walker-owned Subjectivist, the staying division’s young pretender, who had come to prominence when winning a Group One race in France last October before winning in Dubai in March.
Prominent throughout the two-and-a-half-mile marathon in trademark tactics that have helped Johnston became the most successful trainer ever in Britain, Fanning’s experience came to the fore.
He instinctively knew when to press the accelerator button, just while Dettori and Stradviarius were trapped on the inner in the chasing pack.
By the time they had extricated themselves, the race was over – Subjectivist powering home from Princess Zoe with Spanish Mission third.
And even the traditionally taciturn Fanning, a rider with nearly 3,000 winners to his name, was left in awe of the horse. “He’s been a great horse this year, even last year,” said the rider who is the personification of loyalty and rarely, if ever, seems perturbed if overlooked for big race rides.
“He just keeps improving, he’s very good. I always thought it would take a very good one to get by him.
“In Dubai on that good ground (when winning the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March), he was always doing his best work near the end. I never thought that was an issue, he’d go on any ground.
“It’s great for the yard. Dr Jim (Walker) is a brilliant owner, he’s been with us for years, even when they run bad, he’s very good.”
Meanwhile Johnston, who had won the race previously with Double Trigger in 1995 and Royal Rebel in 2001 and 2002, was simply relieved that Subjectivist was sound after two injury scares.
“We had a scare just after the Dubai race, so he missed quite a bit of work after that,” he disclosed.
“Then he fell on the road in Middleham just the other day – you’ll see his knees and his hocks are skinned – so we’ve had a few scares along the way.
“Normally we’d have had a race in between, but we’ve gone in there and it’s probably good that the rain held off and the ground remained fast, you don’t see performances like that on soft ground.
“It’s a sad day for Stradivarius. I know what it feels like when a champion like that goes under, but it was going to happen one day and I’m just glad it was us who did it.”
On a landmark day for Yorkshire racing, few, if any, Royal Ascot wins have been harder earned, or more deserved than Perfect Power’s photo-finish success in the Norfolk Stakes for an emotional Paul Hanagan.
The former champion jockey’s career was in the balance last year after a horrific fall at Newcastle saw the Malton rider break his back in three places.
And, even though Hanagan’s determination is renowned, it stil took a superhuman effort to return to the saddle late last summer.
Now his comeback has been vindicated with this Group Two sprint success on the Richard Fahey-trained Perfect Power from Go Bears Go and Project Dante, trained at Hambleton by Bryan Smart, a very close third.
“I think this tops the lot. The accident I had last year was a pretty bad one and I just thought I’m lucky to be here at all, never mind riding winners,” said Hanagan.
“I think early on when I was laid in hospital, I thought I was in trouble.
“It was only through the rehab and genuine kindness of people that I’ve got back. You just appreciate it when you get a second chance.”
Hanagan’s inspiration remains Freddy Tylicki, a former champion apprentice from the Fahey yard who was subsequently left paralysed by a fall.
“I’ve got a second chance and it didn’t happen for Freddy. I just appreciate the chance that I have got,” he added.
Fahey has long been a close ally of Hanagan, with the pair enjoying many big days together.
“It took a while (to be announced) but anyway, we got there in the end. I was emotional for about two seconds, I must be getting emotional in my old age!” he joked.
Meanwhile, Yorkshire claimed at third victory of the day when Malton trainer John Quinn’s 18-1 shot, Highfield Princess, took the concluding Buckingham Palace Stakes under jockey Jason Hart.