So often in flat racing we see jockeys endure a cold spell after they lose their comfort-blanket claim in the early stages of their career. Some are never to be seen in the saddle again. But there are a few who never let go and fewer still who re-emerge from the wilderness with a second chance and a second wind, for whom success a little later in life must taste all the sweeter.
Rapid rise and fall
There is no-one who tells that tale better this season than John Fahy. Back in 2009, Fahy had arrived from Ireland with a tall reputation as an up-and-coming talent in the saddle. Winners started to flow here in the UK and, in 2010, he was tipped for the top of the apprentice table.
Trainer Clive Cox was an early supporter and, although the apprentice title didn't come Fahy's way, he rode a total of 38 winners, dropped his claim down to 5 lbs and continued to catch the attentions of trainers, owners and pundits.
In 2011 he established himself all the more and rode a further 43 winners in that calendar year, including the Cambridgeshire winner aboard Prince Of Johanne for Tom Tate. With his claim gone but his stock high, few would or could have predicted the diminishing returns in the following years for Fahy.
The following year, 2012, saw just 25 winners at a 6% strike rate from over 400 rides, still popular but less prolific, and that was broadly the case until 2017 when the situation went from bad to worse for Fahy.
Frankly, Fahy seemed out of fashion, and his yearly tally was down to single figures in 2017, 2018 and 2019, while 2020, admittedly a year affected by Covid, saw him draw a blank all together, from apprentice hero to literally zero.
In a decade, Fahy went from the next big thing to the metaphorical scrap heap, a life lesson that nothing is guaranteed.
When diving deeper into Fahy's statistics, the noteworthy human-interest angle is his relationship with Hungerford-based trainer Cox.
An early supporter of Fahy's for many years upon his arrival in Britain, using him with regularity from 2010 to 2017, Cox and Fahy then went their separate ways, coinciding with the rider's steady slump.
Cox connection is crucial
Yet in 2021, just when you would have forgiven Fahy for giving up, the Cox connection restarted, teaming up together only 36 times, but eight of them were winners.
All of sudden Fahy had gone from a strike-rate of 0% to 22%, all because of Cox's apparent faith in him, even after the coldest of spells.
This year, as many as 91 of Fahy's 98 rides have been for Cox, generating 15 wins. These include the likes of Benefit in the listed Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury and a recent success at a Festival fixture, in a nursery aboard Bonny Angel at the St Leger meeting.
This journey of an enduring partnership and persistence was highlighted in the post-race interviews at Ascot recently when Fahy, having just steered Lethal Nymph to victory, told Hayley Moore on Sky Sports Racing:
"Without that man [Cox] I would be in trouble, so it is great to repay him with getting the winners in."
If Fahy's career and numbers make for rollercoaster reading, Cox's career is one of class and consistency. His best ever year was 2021 with 79 winners and, so far in 2022, he has reached the 50 winner milestone for the seventh campaign in a row.
More Cox winners this Saturday?
This weekend at Newbury and Ayr could be a significant one with some of the stable's brighter lights holding entries at both ends of the country.
The once-raced Heroism is in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury, where he would need to take a step forward from his Salisbury novice win. But it's a race Cox has won before with Harry Angel who had also just had the one run prior to Newbury. Fast forward six years and the trainer has chosen a similar path with his latest potentially above-average juvenile.
Doncaster winner Bonny Angel, by the aforementioned Harry Angel, makes her Group debut in the Firth Of Clyde Fillies Stakes at Ayr following her two recent successes and, at the other end of the career spectrum, stable stalwarts Diligent Harry and Tis Marvellous both hold Group 3 entries.