Friday 18 February 2022

Geoffrey Freer Stakes

Inaugurated, as the Oxfordshire Stakes, in 1949 by Geoffrey Freer, who was Clerk of the Course at Newbury Racecourse at the time, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes was renamed in honour of Freer following his death, in 1969. Run over an advertised distance of 1 mile 5½ furlongs and open to horses aged three years and upwards, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes is staged annually in August.

Nowadays, the Geoffrey Freer Stakes is a Group 3 contest, having been downgraded from Group 2 status in 2006. However, it has typically proved a strong race for the grade, with several recent winners – Mount Athos (2012), Royal Empire (2013) and Seismos (2014) – going on to contest the Melbourne Cup at Flemington, Australia, albeit without distinction, later the same season.

Just one horse, Mubtaker, trained by Marcus Tregoning, has won the Geoffrey Free Stakes three times; he recorded his unprecedented hat-trick in 2002, 2003 and 2004 to become the most successful horse in the history of the race. Other notable winners include Ardross, trained by Henry Cecil, who recorded back-to-back victories under Lester Piggott in 1981 and 1982, Drum Taps, trained by Lord Huntingdon, in 1991 and Silver Patriarch, trained by John Dunlop, in 1999. Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery and Frankie Dettori are jointly the leading jockeys in the history of the Geoffrey Freer Stakes with four wins apiece. Sir Noel Murless remains the leading trainer, with five wins between 1949 and 1973.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Paul Hanagan

Born on the 8th September 1980 and hailing from Cheshire, Paul Hanagan is a ex champion jockey of great acclaim in the flat racing world.

Having never been in the saddle until the late age of 14 and having had his eyes firmly fixed on a career on the green grass of a football field rather than a racetrack, Paul Hanagan was a graduate of the British Racing School after great encouragement from his father, Geoff Hanagan. Deemed ‘too small’ for professional football, he helped out as a weekend work experience stable hand for trainer Terry Caldwell, based in Warrington, which ultimately led to the pivotal moment when Hanagan realised that racing had gotten under his skin and into his blood.

Captivated by what he saw at Caldwell’s yard, Hanagan would get his first taste of being a jockey, being allowed to ride out at the age of 14 and begin training the British Racing School, graduating in 1997.


Hanagan got his first taste of senior racing on Stone Beck 4 days shy of his 18th birthday , racing to a creditable 4th place under the stewardship of Malcolm Jefferson, who was better known for his work in National Hunt training. Jefferson knew his onions and he saw a promising flat jockey in Hanagan, guiding the young man to join Richard Fahey as an apprentice flat jockey just a year later.

Over the next four years, the apprentice jockey saw his promise turn into results, improving each season and gaining the title of Champion Apprentice in 2002. He did this by riding a highly impressive 87 winners, the 2nd most since the end of WWII, which included a win on Vintage Premium in the John Smith’s Cup.

Richard Fahey foretold a big future for Paul Hanagan and he wasn’t wrong. Having matured over the next few years, he won his first senior Champion Jockey title in 2010 with a brilliant 191 winners and then backing that up by winning it again in 2011, beating Silvestre De Sousa from Brazil on the very last day of the season.

After this great achievement, Hanagan took a brief sabbatical and stated that he need a break after all his efforts. He did return the next year, but he never again hit the heights of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. To this day, he attributes much of his success to Richard Fahey who he spent 14 years with and he will forever be included in the pantheon of great flat jockeys.