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Gold Cup star Fanning proves he's no ordinary Joe

·3-min read
Jockey Joe Fanning smiles after riding Subjectivist to victory in the Gold Cup on Ladies Day at Royal Ascot
Jockey Joe Fanning smiles after riding Subjectivist to victory in the Gold Cup on Ladies Day at Royal Ascot

By James Toney at Ascot

It seems life really does begin at 50. Frankie Dettori, Kevin Manning and now Joe Fanning are proving that racing's biggest stage is just the place for the oldest stagers.

Born in Dublin, raised in County Wicklow, there are few more popular jockeys in the weighing room than Fanning, who it's fair to say is a man of actions, rather than words.

Every year he burns up the roads from Musselborough to Lingfield and all stops in between, in the last decade he's been through three cars and 750,000 miles.

Sometimes in sport journeyman is used as a term of contempt, rather than - as it should be - used to describe a career of noteworthy longevity.

Alongside Dettori, Fanning is the only active jockey with 2,500 winners but while Frankie has won virtually every prize to become the most famous man on a horse since John Wayne, Fanning's successes have earned rather less acclaim.

Which makes his win on Subjectivist in Royal Ascot's showpiece Gold Cup - denying hot favourite Dettori a chance to equal four-time winner Yeats on Stradivarius - all the more special.

It's proof that nice guys really can come first.

"That was very nice," he said, to redefine understatement.

"That was a lovely reception from all the other lads, just lovely. I was very surprised but it was very appreciated.

"He's a very straightforward horse and so uncomplicated, he did all the hard work.

"Every race he seems to be getting better and better. There were a lot of good horses in it but I knew it would take a very good one to beat mine. I was confident but also cautious."

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Dettori has just released his second autobiography but you'd struggle to fill many pages with Fanning's career recollections. He lets the horse do the talking and sometimes you think you'd probably get more words from it too.

And that's precisely why he's so admired, going about his business with maximum effort and minimum fuss. He's the jockey's jockey, humble, hard-working and unassuming.

He rode his first winner for Scottish trainer Mark Johnston 30 years ago but three decades on this must have been the best day of that long relationship, replacing The Last Lion's win at Newmarket on his 46th birthday, amazing his first career Group 1.

Fanning could look back on his career and wonder what might have been, the times he's been jocked off a decent horse for another jockey and then seeing that man take the prize.

But just because he doesn't complain, don't think it doesn't bother him.

"Joe is just the master of it, he gave him the perfect ride," said Johnston.

"He's ridden a huge number of winners for us over the years but this one is special."

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