Taghrooda dazzles in Oaks

Paul Hanagan received rich praise from those associated with Taghrooda as he showed the assurance to match the athleticism of the filly beneath him to secure a first Classic winner in the Investec Oaks at Epsom yesterday.

Taghrooda  dazzles in Oaks

Epsom is a treacherous course to navigate and the modest dual champion jockey overcame one sticky moment before sweeping right away and leading home Tarfasha in a one-two for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who has retained Hanagan to ride in his familiar blue and white colours for the last two seasons.

Taghrooda was proving why market confidence has no guaranteed bearing on success, as she had been available at less than half her starting price of 5-1 after landing the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket a month ago, but the form had not worked out well.

As well as being 33-year-old Hanagan’s Oaks debut, it was a first victory in the race for trainer John Gosden, who will have taken pleasure in avenging the unlucky defeat 2012 defeat of The Fugue.

Taghrooda, who is still unbeaten, also represents a maiden Classic and Group One win for her burgeoning sire, the exceptional 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars.

While she was officially recorded as an easy three-and-three-quarter-length winner, Gosden was best-placed to explain how impressive Hanagan had been in the saddle.

“He was very clever, we had the position we wanted but at the latter part of the bend at Tattenham Corner, she got a bump and it threw her on her off-fore and he was very quick to get back on the near-fore. Full marks to Paul.”

Hanagan said: “It went like clockwork really. You kind of plan for the race to go like that, I’d been planning it for the last month I think. She did get a bit of a bump and she changed legs, it took a while to get her organised again, but I was always happy from then.

“I’m just more delighted to give something back to Sheikh Hamdan and all the team. They’ve put a lot of faith in me, and John’s team have done a marvellous job. I just pointed her today.”

A big fish when with Richard Fahey in the smaller pond of the northern circuit, Hanagan admitted it had not been straightforward to adapt to life in Newmarket in such a high-profile role.

“I’d ridden one Group winner before I got the job, that’s why I keep saying it’s nice to give something back,” he said.

“I’d not had a lot of rides in Classics, but you have to start somewhere. That was my first ride in the Oaks and it means everything.

“I found it very difficult at first to take the family away, we were very settled in Yorkshire and if it wasn’t for everyone around me, I would have struggled.”

Gosden went on: “Paul’s being very modest, he’s a good team man and a pleasure to work with.

“We had wanted to get two trials in, but it went soft at Sandown and the trials go bang, bang, bang, so we came here for a look last week at Breakfast with the Stars. She was pretty chilled and seen it all before.

“It’s great to win any Classic, it’s great for the owner to win with a home-bred, beating the one he bought, that’s the right way round.

“She’s in the Irish Oaks (at the Curragh), that’s the logical place to go. It’s a good, honest galloping track, we’ll go there and then take a look.”

The owner himself said: “The Guineas and the Oaks are the races that I really want to win as an owner.

“She was the most beautiful yearling, last year I kept asking John when she was going to see the course and he just kept saying wait.

“When she won, she only won by a head which to me is not enough but this year she is more mature. I was satisfied with (Hanagan) from the beginning. He used to wait, so we told him to change his way of riding a bit and be a little bit aggressive from the beginning. He rode a marvellous race today.”

The 4-1 favourite was Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Marvellous, who was never really a threat in sixth. Jockey Joseph O’Brien said: “I was flat out at the top of the hill. With six or seven to go I was struggling. She’d have had a hard enough race in the Irish Guineas, on testing enough ground at the Curragh.”

Volume and Richard Hughes dictated the pace and Luca Cumani’s filly hung on to the bitter end and she was only a nose off finishing runner-up.

Dermot Weld’s Irish raider Tarfasha had been the subject of plenty of support and the trainer’s son, Mark, said: “You always want to win, but we’re very happy with her.”

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