“I’LL never be a Frankie Dettori or a Ryan Moore, but I like to think I do fairly well for myself.” Clearly, Paul Mulrennan is a master of the understatement.

Sitting in the office at Michael Dods’ Denton Hall stables on the outskirts of Darlington, the 37-year-old is reflecting on the landmark achievement of recording 1,000 winners in UK racing.

It is a remarkable feat, elevating Mulrennan to a rarefied sphere inhabited by some of his heroes such as Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery. Yet unlike for some jockeys, who appear destined for a life in racing from the moment they can walk, it is not something that has ever felt preordained. It seems incredible now, but Mulrennan did not even sit on a horse until he was 16.

“I was brought up in Ealing, and right the way through school, my sport was Gaelic football,” said Mulrennan, who hit the 1,000-winner mark on Sunday when he partnered the Dods-trained Camacho Chief to victory at Doncaster. “My parents are both Irish, and that was my background.

“I wanted to be a football player, but I was always a bit on the short side so a few people said, ‘If you’re into sport, maybe you should think about becoming a jockey’. I’d never really thought about it before, but I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll give it a go’.

“I sat on a few ponies that summer, and by the autumn, I’d signed up for the British Racing School. It all really snowballed from there.”

Having graduated from the Racing School at Newmarket, Mulrennan headed north when he was offered an apprenticeship at Patrick Haslam’s yard in Middleham. He has not quite lost his London drawl, but Yorkshire has been his home for almost two decades – he is now based in Boroughbridge – and he has become an established part of the North Yorkshire racing scene.

He rode his first winner for Haslam in 2001 – Perchance, at Southwell – and forged a successful relationship with Mick Easterby before joining Dods’ yard eight years ago. He rides out at Denton Hall twice a week, and while he continues to ride for a number of different trainers, his tie-up with Dods has proved beneficial to both parties. Dods get to use one of the best jockeys around; Mulrennan gets to sit on the likes of Mecca’s Angel and Mabs Cross.

The Northern Echo: WINNING CHANCE: Jockey Paul Mulrennan

“I’ve been lucky that right through my career, some big horses have come along at just the right time to keep driving me on,” said Mulrennan. “There was Blue Spinnaker in the early days, and then Dandino was a really big horse for me too. He won at Royal Ascot.

“Since working with Michael, I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with his best horses. Mecca’s Angel was a wonderful sprinter – she took us to all the big races – and when she retired, you wonder if you’ll ever plug the gap. Then the very next season, Mabs Cross came along.”

Having partnered Mabs Cross to victory in the last two renewals of the Palace House Stakes, Mulrennan will be on board the sprinter tomorrow afternoon as she looks to land Group One honours in the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot.

The likes of Battaash and Blue Point will provide stiff competition, but Mabs Cross proved herself at the highest level when she landed the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp last autumn. Not, however, that Mulrennan was able to revel in that triumph.

Injury is a recurring job hazard for a jockey, and while Mabs Cross was starring in Paris, her usual rider was laid up after suffering a triple back fracture following a fall on the gallops.

“I’ve broken pretty much every bone in my body down the years,” said Mulrennan. “Last year’s injury was a bad one, but I’ve had falls before. Collarbones, wrists, fingers, ribs – you name it, I’ve broken it.

“The hardest thing last year was that I had to miss pretty much the whole season. It was a long time to be out, and you always wonder what you’ll be like when you get back.”

The Northern Echo: Jockey Paul Mulrennan celebrates as he rides Mecca's Angel to victory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes during day three of the 2016 Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York Racecourse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday August 19, 2016. See PA story

Having returned at the start of the year, Mulrennan employed the services of jockey coach John Reid, a former Classic winner, to help him regain his sharpness.

“You’re never too old to learn,” he said. “I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been thanks to help of everybody at Jack Berry House, and working with John has sharpened up a few things in the way I ride.

“I watch myself back now, and I think I’m riding better than ever, a million miles away from when I first started. I feel like I’m still coming to my peak, so hopefully there’s a fair few winners in the tank yet. Just because I’ve got to 1,000, I won’t be slowing down.”