He was just 17 and had been urged to join Fahey’s stable by his then boss, the late Malcolm Jefferson, because of the likelihood of more opportunities.
It was, says Hanagan, a slightly inauspicious start. “Malcolm was there. He said I was a bit wet behind the ears and needed a bit of a wake-up call,” he told The Yorkshire Post ahead of the landmark.
“Richard said to Malcolm ‘Don’t worry about that. I will give him a wake-up call’. I’m shaking and thinking ‘Oh God, what I have I left myself in for?”
Little did the shy teenager know that this encounter – and the strength of Jefferson’s recommendation over 20 years ago – would lead to one of racing’s most successful and enduring partnerships.
Not only did Hanagan, 40, live up to his promise, and become champion jockey in 2010 and 2011 on the strength of this alliance, but he, himself, has over 2,000 winners to his name.
It is also a unique alliance that can be traced back to the trainer’s formative years at Butterwick after a moderate riding career that yielded just over 100 winners in 10 years in the saddle.
“I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t enjoying it and couldn’t see a future in it, so I gave it up before it gave me up,” said Fahey before saddling his first winner in 1993.
Here the facilities were primitive, and horses moderate, but the trainer’s work ethic – and eye for a bargain – were self-evident when a shy and nervous Hanagan joined in 1999.
They have not looked back with Fahey’s current stables at Musley Bank, just off the A64 on the outskirts of Malton, now amongst the most prolific in the country.
One of the most memorable wins, says Hanagan, was their breakthrough first Group One success when Wootton Bassett, now a top stallion, landed the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère in France. Other successes include a Darley July Cup with the mudlark Mayson in 2016 and Sands of Mali winning the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in 2018. Godolphin’s Ribchester has been another horse of note.
And, just last weekend, there was Fev Rover’s agonising third in the Qipco 1000 Guineas – Fahey and Hanagan’s initial disappointment soon replaced by pride at how the filly outran her odds. “To think how he started, it’s a fantastic achievement,” reflected Hanagan. “You couldn’t meet a more thoroughly nice guy. He started off with a few horses and, with all due respect, not good ones. I know how much hard work he has put in from humble beginnings.
“It was very, very basic but Richard, and the team just got on with it.”
Yet, while Hanagan says the Musley Bank staff will be proud of the milestone, Fahey, himself, will want little fuss. “The thing about Richard is he never looks back,” explained the jockey. “It’s always onwards and upwards and no doubt we will have a big team heading to York next week which will be his priority.”
Hanagan always attributes Fahey’s success to an uncomplicated approach.
“I can count on one hand the number of disagreements we have had about riding,” he said.
“I’ve had nearly 1,000 winners just for him and I don’t think that is bad going. He’s also a very good loser – his view is ‘that’s racing and onto the next’.”
That was certainly the mindset after Fev Rover’s agonising defeat – and when the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned Spirit Dancer was caught on the line at Chester this week shortly after Master Zoffany brought up Fahey’s 1,998th success under Hanagan. The jockey was disappointed – but Fahey was content and there was “no hairdryer treatment” from Ferguson who was simply thrilled with the run.
But the rider’s fondest memory is the moment he became champion jockey at Doncaster in 2010 after an epic battle with Richard Hughes which went down to the penultimate race of the season.
He was a spent force as Fahey approached, gave him a big hug and said simply ‘I’m proud of you’.
Now it is Paul Hanagan’s turn to return the compliment.
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