Dublin born and Wicklow raised, Joe Fanning spent a lot of his childhood attending summer evening race meets with his father at Leopardstown and that is where he developed a passion for the sport.
Growing up around ponies helped keep that passion alive and Fanning went on to enrol at the Irish Racing Academy, from where he graduated in 1986. He spent time riding under the tutelage of The Curragh’s Mick Connelly, where he developed his own riding style and learned the techniques that would lead to him becoming one of the most consistent flat jockeys in the sport.
In 1990, he moved to Britain to take on the role as apprentice jockey to Tommy ‘Squeak’ Fairhurst. His first winner in England was on June 6th 1990 at Yarmouth, aboard ‘Henry Will’. After a decent apprenticeship with Fairhurst, Fanning went on to ride for Mark Johnston and formed a successful and long-term partnership.
For Fanning, success wasn’t immediate or easy to come by and he has had a career blighted by several injuries. The worst of those injuries came in 2007 when he suffered a serious back injury after a fall at Glorious Goodwood.
Another one of his serious injuries came in 2011, when he was thrown from a horse during a six-furlong race at Wolverhampton. What at first appeared to be just a bit of bruising on his foot turned out to actually be a broken heel, meaning that Fanning would have to miss two-months in the saddle in order to recover. He seemed to come back invigorated and determined to prove a point after that, with him riding more winners and accumulating more prize money in every season since.
The first decade of Fanning’s time in Great Britain saw quite a low strike rate of winners, with him not having more than 50 in a single season until 1999. He kept at a similar level over the next few years, before exceeding £1million in overall prize money for a season and riding 97 winners in 2004.
Two years later, in 2006, he rode over 100 winners in a season for the first time (108) and exceeded the million-pound mark for the second time. 2006/07 would also see him finish runner-up in the race for the all-weather jockey’s title. He has won the all-weather title twice in his career, the first in 2009/10 and again in 2011/12. He then finished third in 2012/13.
From 2009 onwards, Fanning has ridden over 100 winners on the flat in Britain every season with his best being 188 in 2012. He has also amassed total prize money of over £1million five times since then, with over £2million coming in the 2014 season. He has accumulated win prize money of over £1million twice in his career as well, 2013 and 2014.
Joe Fanning is an experienced and highly respected jockey that seems to be improving with age. His biggest wins to date have come over the past few seasons, with perhaps his most successful season being 2014.
During that year he rode several big race winners, including ‘Bow Creek’ in both the Clipper Boomerang Mile and the Doom Bar Celebration Mile. The biggest win of the year for him had to be the £500,000 Tattersalls Millions 2YO Trophy on ‘Secret Brief’.
His most recent big race victory came in September 2015, when he won the Group 3 Baden-Badener Zukunftsrennen in Germany aboard ‘Dessertoflife’.
2016 has already seen him ride 43 winners from 316 runs, with 38 second places and 47 thirds, which sees him on target to reach the magical 100 mark for the eighth consecutive season.
Fanning may not have set the racing world on fire by winning several jockey championships or riding numerous Group One winners, but he has made his mark as a solid and reliable flat jockey. His partnership with Mark Johnston has been one built out of friendship and loyalty, with hundreds of winners coming from it, that will be remembered for years to come.
Gentleman Joe Fanning, known as “The quiet man of British racing”, has stayed consistent throughout his career. His perseverance despite several injury set-backs has shown his strength of character and determination and although he may never be crowned champion jockey, he will always be highly respected in the sport of horse racing.