Not only was he so far clear that he had time to savour this runaway success in this 27-runner race, one of the most competitive of the entire Flat season, but he could reflect on his own miraculous comeback.
“I actually was smiling crossing the line,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
One of the stories of the 2020 campaign, even Malton-based Hanagan feared for his health – never mind his future as a jockey – after fracturing his back in a fall at Newcastle in February.
Now, thanks to Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre at Malton, he’s closing in on his 2,000th career winner after returning to action just last month. And he’s eternally grateful for the support shown by Richard Fahey, his main trainer, and the likes of Paul and Oliver Cole who put him up on Majestic Dawn in Newmarket’s cavalry charge.
Hanagan said: “That fall was the most difficult time of my life. You just know when it’s a bad one. The scariest moment for me was I couldn’t get up. I struggled to breathe and that’s when I knew it was serious.
“I’m not one for getting emotional, but when I was being interviewed on television after winning, I thought ‘oh no, I’m going to go here in a minute’, which I shouldn’t be ashamed of, but it was a massive thing in my life, that fall.
“It was very special. I was six months out with the injury and I didn’t think I was going to make it back at all. To bag one like that (Cambridgeshire) is quite special. I’m absolutely delighted.”
Recovery was a slow process but Hanagan drew inspiration from his close friend and former rider Freddy Tylicki who was left paralysed by a horror fall at Kempton in 2016.
He said: “I’m best mates with Freddy and it kind of hits home how lucky I am, as he wasn’t so lucky after a life-changing fall. It’s people like him that have given me inspiration. The likes of Freddy have been amazing.
“I was in so much pain and just constantly struggling to get out of bed and because of Covid and the lockdown, I couldn’t get any help. Jack Berry House was brilliant doing a video link, but it is not the same as seeing people in person.
“What it really came down to was the operation. The specialist was amazing and it was a flick of the switch after that. It was then a case of do I really want it? But the hunger was there more than ever.”
Hanagan is also grateful to several people who helped get his career back on track. “The support I’ve had has been amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of Jack Berry House. Without the support of them, I don’t think I would have made it,” he ventured.
“My agent Richard Hale never gets a mention, but I’ve been with him since I was 16 or 17 and I turned 40 last week, so it speaks volumes for the guy as he has been there from day one. I think the sport we are in is a great sport and everyone comes together when you have a bad time.”
Hanagan also hopes his return to the saddle can act as an inspiration to others that may be struggling for confidence or fighting injury. He added: “The first couple of weeks were hard, just getting that race and match fitness back again. To win a race like this maybe shows people who are going through a hard time you have the support out there to get back, and if you really want something, you can do it.”
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