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Hanagan ready to go flat out for second Champion Flat Jockey title

Paul Hanagan will begin the defence of his Champion Flat Jockey title tomorrow with a double shift.

Champion michael staying focused on retaining his crownReady to go: Champion jockey Paul Hanagan checks on the fitness of Our Joe Mac, who he is due to ride at Doncaster on Saturday

Hanagan — who could face challenges for his title from the likes of Kieren Fallon, Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore — will ride at Lingfield in the afternoon before moving on to Wolverhampton in the evening.

That sort of demanding schedule on day one suggests the 30-year-old will go all out to win the jockeys' championship for a second consecutive year.

The alternative for Hanagan is a more selective stance now that he has the connections to give him good rides across the country.

“If it happens, it happens, but I don't like making bold claims about wanting to win the championship again because that's a dangerous game,” he said.

“If I start as well as last year, I'd have thought I'd be thereabouts and will give it another shot.

“All I know is that I'm focused and ready to give it everything again and I guess that's all you can do in life.”

Hanagan lived by his mantra last year when emerging a heroic champion following a gripping duel with Richard Hughes.

Although written off as a 50-1 no-hoper at the start of the season, a four-timer on the first day of the campaign at Doncaster served as a warning to his weighing-room colleagues.

Not once did he relinquish his position at the head of affairs, even when Hughes arrived with a late run of form.

But in a finish which evoked nostalgic memories of the legendary tussle between Seb Sanders and Jamie Spencer in 2007, there was still everything to play for back at Doncaster on the final day of the season.

With Hughes unable to claw back the deficit, it was Hanagan, propped joyfully upon the shoulders of his northern riding compatriots in the Yorkshire gloom, who was crowned the champ with 191 victories.

To put into context his achievements, he is only the third northern-based champion jockey for more than a century following Elijah Wheatley (1905) and Kevin Darley (2000).

“I'll never forget that afternoon as long as I live,” said Hanagan.

“I was unconscious with tiredness the day after Doncaster and it must have taken a couple of months to get over it.

“It was the travelling that really killed me, up and down the country like a yo-yo, day in, day out.

“It's still crazy to think I covered all those miles and rode all those winners, but I'm so unbelievably proud to have the words 'champion jockey' on my CV.”

Perhaps even prouder than Hanagan on that memorable afternoon on Town Moor was Richard Fahey.

Hanagan joined Fahey's Malton operation when he was 17 and has remained at Musley Bank ever since.

Indeed, from the jockey's winning haul in 2010, 101 triumphs were claimed for his friend and inspiration.

“The boss is just a legend and I can't really add to that,” he said.

His superlatives are worthy, especially in light of Fahey's potentially rich source of winners this year.

Pick of the litter is obviously Wootton Bassett, the Guineas-bound colt who provided both jockey and trainer with their first Group One success on Arc weekend last October.

A little farther down the food chain, Fahey and Hanagan also have at their disposal a dazzling array of star handicappers and flashy juveniles.

Little wonder, then, that Hanagan is determined to get off to a flying start when the season begins.

“We're really excited about the babies. I've not sat on a bad one and they all look A1,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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