CONSIDERING he missed over two months of the UAE season followinga nasty fall at Wolverhampton in early November when he fractured a collarbone, Paul Hanagan has done well to partner 20 winners so far.
That was at the end of the season when he had won the Oaks at Epsom aboard Taghrooda, on whom he also landed the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, as well as winning the Eclipse on Mukhadram, runner-up in last year’s Dubai World Cup.
Both are owned by his main employer, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Hanagan timed his return to the saddle to coincide with the opening meeting of the Dubai World Cup Carnival and half of his seasonal tally has been achieved on the big nights at Meydan.
Jockey Paul Hanagan will renew his association with Almoonqith in Saturday’s Gr2 Dubai Gold Cup. (Andrew Watkins)
His ten winners at the international extravaganza was bettered only by James Doyle’s 13, while in the domestic championship Hanagan was sixth, registering victories at a healthy 15% strike rate.
He was in double form at Jebel Ali last Friday and has helped Sheikh Hamdan win the local owners’ championship for a tenth consecutive season.
The jockey has six booked rides on Saturday and would appear to hold serious claims on at least half of them.
“The Dubai World Cup Carnival gave me a real focus after the fall,” said Hanagan. “I was determined to get back in the saddle to take my place in the big Meydan meetings and things have gone well.”
Some may consider that last observation as something of an understatement; a Super Saturday double on horses he will ride again on the big night, having also won the prep for the Dubai Gold Cup, sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, the previous week, is not a bad big race haul.
On Saturday, he starts off in the Dubai Kahayla Classic, empowered by IPIC and the Purebred Arabian equivalent of the Dubai World Cup, aboard Versac Py. The pair combined to win the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, sponsored by Emirates Skycargo, over the same 2000m dirt course and distance, on Super Saturday, for Sheikh Hamdan and Erwan Charpy.
“The horse really deserved that win in a race he was second in last year and in 2013,” said Hanagan. “He was also second in the Kahayla Classic in 2013 and should run another solid race but it looks a strong renewal.”
Hanagan’s other Super Saturday winner was Sheikh Hamdan’s Tamarkuz, impressive winner of the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, sponsored by Emirates Holidays and over the same 1600m dirt trip as Saturday’s Group 2 Godolphin Mile, sponsored by Meydan Sobha.
“He has been a revelation,” said Hanagan. “Hopefully he is over the stalls issues which had affected him and he has won well on his last three starts.
“The 1600m on dirt really suits him and we have a nice low draw.”
The previous week, the Mike de Kock-trained Almoonqith appeared revitalised when stepped up in trip to 2810m (turf) for the Nad Al Sheba Trophy empowered by IPIC.
Also owned by Sheikh Hamdan and a 1600m winner in January, he relished the extra distance on that occasion and Saturday’s 3200m in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, should suit him.
“We knew he would stay,” said Hanagan. “It was just a case of if he was good enough stepped up in class. He clearly was and should go well on Saturday.”
He won the UAE 2000 Guineas, sponsored by Al Tayer Motors, on Godolphin’s Maftool and maintains the association in the UAE Derby, sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Sheikh Hamdan duo Farmah (Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, empowered by IPIC) and Muarrab (Group 1 Golden Shaheen, sponsored by Gulf News) complete his book of rides.
“I am really looking forward to Saturday and have a few decent chances,” said Hanagan. “I am very lucky to have such a good job and grateful to Sheikh Hamdan for this amazing opportunity.”