Given the kind of start he has made, Paul Hanagan looks set to enjoy a marvelous campaign in the UAE as retained jockey to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
Ever since he first began to don the famous blue and white silks in April, Hanagan, the back-to-back champion jockey on the flat in Britain during the 2010-2011 season, has emerged as a big favourite with race fans in the county.
No doubt he in a stellar position, getting to ride the best of the best of Shaikh Hamdan-owned horses, but it all comes at a high price — expectations.
So far, Hanagan has delivered. What little we have seen of the 32-year-old marvel, he seems to have the right attitude which, as we all known, is without doubt one of the most important qualities you need to have to being successful. Having the right attitude also means believing in your objective as a sportsman, and Hanagan appears to have the right focus and intent in his new position as principal pilot to one of the most influential men in contemporary horse racing.
Interestingly, we may never have been fortunte enough to see the silken skills of the British jockey had he pursued his passion for football as a youngster. Thankfully someone told him he was too small and light for football and this opened the doors for his introduction to horse racing.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Hanagan may have only ridden three winners to Richard Mullen’s 11, but should we want to make comparisons there are several ways to do so. And that is not the intention of this column. We are just happy to see someone like Hanagan fill the shoes that Richard Hills wore for over 15 years as first jockey to Shaikh Hamdan.
In a recent interview Hanagan, who rode his first pattern race winner for Shaikh Hamdan in July when partnering Alhebayeb to victory in the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket, made an honest confession when he said that riding for Shaikh Hamdan was more important to him at this stage in his career, than winning the jockey’s championship back home in the UK.
What caught my attention was the comment that he made about knowing this was the chance to take his career to the next level.
Every sportsman want to do better. The want to win better quality races, to score more runs, more goals or to run faster and jump higher.
Take the legendary Russian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka who broke the world record, a record 35 times.
I wonder what it is that drives a man to want to scale his own peak time and time again. What makes him stand apart? What is so special about him when compared to his peers? Hunger perhaps. An insatiable hunger to do better and even better.
Like The Who’s Roger Daltrey sang ‘You better you better you bet’, Hanagan is clearly fuelled by the desire to break out of the mould and to reach for the stars.
And as first jockey to Shaikh Hamdan he finds himself in a better position to propel himself higher than ever.
It’s time for take-off.