HORSE riding and horse breeding are in Jane Mangan’s DNA, as she was born into an equestrian family.
“Both my parents have a long history in horse-racing,” says Jane. “And both their parents did too.”
Jane, who enjoyed a successful career as a jockey and whose role in the thoroughbred racing industry has transformed in recent years, working as a bloodstock consultant at the famed Coolmore breeding operation in Fethard, Tipperary, is keeping a close eye on the Cheltenham Festival for us.
“Cheltenham is the harvest time of the year for everybody connected with horse-racing,” says Jane, who will be giving daily Cheltenham tips onsports pages and EchoLive.ie
Will her eagle eye and expertise land us a winner?
“No more than anybody else,” says Jane.
Does she enjoy a flutter?
“No. I don’t bet,” says Jane, who was raised in Conna, East Cork, where her parents, Jimmy and Mary run a Grand National-winning operation.
“We were very much raised with ponies,” says Jane, 26. “For Christmas, me and my two brothers, Brian and Patrick, didn’t get bicycles, we got ponies! Riding horses was natural and familiar to us from a very young age.”
Thundering down the track on horse-back sporting colourful silks, the Conna girl was always destined for success. She prepared for the struggle and sacrifice 52 weeks of the year that is essential to become a top professional Irish jockey.
“There is a long history of horse racing in both my dad’s family and in my mother’s family,” says Jane, who never dreamed of doing anything else only race horses.
“My grandfather, Paddy, owned and trained June’s Friend, the horse that won the Aintree Grand National 29 years before Monty’s Pass.
“Monty’s Pass was trained by my father and he won the same race in 2003. I was only nine years old then,” says Jane.
Ever before that, an even younger Jane Mangan would sit aboard a pony in her garden at home.
“I remember being shipped off to my grandparents’ house that day, knowing the Grand National was a very big deal. We all cheered on dad’s charge and we cheered him home.”
Winning the Grand National is the pinnacle of success every trainer and jockey dream of. The Conna stable in East Cork, situated near the River Bride, synonymous with producing Grand National winners, fuelled Jane’s passion to fly the colours and race first past the winner’s post.
“My parents instilled in me to be the best I could be, regardless of gender,” says Jane.
“I started off riding out at home aged 10. Discovering a love of horses, it wasn’t long before I applied for an amateur jockey’s licence.
“When I was around 14, I started riding out racehorses. I really got a taste for it then and I had my first ride at age 17.”
What was her first track rider?
“I had my first track ride, which was my first track winner, Jamie’s Darling, in a bumper in 2011 in Cork.”
Does she have a favourite horse?
“Conna Castle, a really talented horse, was one of my favourites,” says Jane. “I had four or five point-to point wins on Conna Castle. He minded me and he taught me a lot about race-riding.
“To have the ideal horse to learn the trade from is instrumental in anybody’s career. Anybody who is racing for the long term will be in it for the love of horses.”
What stands out as one of the biggest high-lights of her racing career?
“Winning the Carlton Hotel Galway City Handicap on Midnight Magic in 2012,” says Jane. “It was a spectacular race.”
It was a spectacular win for the grade-one winning rider.
What does it take to be a winner?
“Being a female jockey is not unusual any more,” says Jane. “It is now a 50/50 ratio.
“Like any athlete, male or female, you must put the hard work and the effort in to get results.”
You must want it.
“Yes. I it was always my dream to go and do it and make horse-racing a viable career. I like racing,” says Jane.
She put in the hard graft to be in with a winning chance, taking part in the Sport of Kings.
“I’m lucky, my weight remains stable. I’m naturally quite light. I go early to bed and rise at 6am,” says Jane.
“I don’t drink or smoke, but I do enjoy a bar of chocolate! I love walking in the beautiful surroundings of East Cork for exercise. It is the best place to live, a special place.
“When I’m home from Tipperary at the weekends, I still ride out every morning. I like to check out the future stars of the track. And I lend a helping hand to my parents. It is a great start to the day.”
During her racing career, did she worry about the potential danger of injury?
“Horse-racing is no different from playing on a pitch or in a sports arena, performing at a high level and at a high speed,” says Jane.
“You learn with time and practice how to operate properly, reducing the risk of falls or injury.”
Horse racing is in the Mangan genes.
“Yes, my love and passion for horses is genetic in my case. I’m totally immersed in what I do,” says Jane.
“There’s no time for anything else. But, like any sport, like GAA, you have to promote your own talent to be good enough.
“In any walk of life, if you’re good enough; a good writer, you’ll sell books; a good singer; you’ll sell songs. Anybody who has natural talent should work at it constantly and promote it. Confidence is the key.”
If you’re a talented jockey you’ll win races.
“Yes, I was fortunate to enjoy success on the race track. And I loved travelling all over Ireland, to the UK and abroad,” says Jane.
“When I was in college studying Marketing in CIT, my whole focus was on the weekends and getting to the race meetings all over the country. I don’t think any of my fellow students knew what I was at!
“Even going to school in Loreto, Fermoy, I was taking half-days off to go to Gowran Park. In my Leaving Cert Year, I was going to Fairyhouse to ride for Tom Taffe.”
How did she travel to the horse-racing events?
“My brother, Patrick, met me on the road halfway and I jumped in the car with him.”
She won the bumper for Tom.
“I arrived into school the next day with no homework done! Like, when was I going to get to do it!”
She got on to bigger things with drive and determination.
“I achieved a first top-level victory, when I rode David Pipes’ The Liquidator to success in the Grade One Betdaq Champion INH Flat Race at the Punchestown Festival.”
Jane, totally au fait with the racing world since she was a little girl, contributes toand is a regular horse-racing pundit on radio and TV.
“I have an open mind and I learned to say yes to everything!” says Jane, smiling.
“I think it is a very positive thing to say yes. When I left college, I had no job at the end of it. But if you’re positive it can lead to bigger things and to more success. I said yes to a radio interview and I began broadcasting from there.”
She’s positive about her colleagues.
“Tracey Piggott was very good to me,” says Jane.
“I was sad when RTÉ let her go. Both Tracey and Robert Hall are stalwarts; they are icons in the racing world.”
A racing icon still lives at home with the Mangan family in Conna.
“Monty’s Pass is a first class resident,” says Jane.
“He gets the royal treatment. We’ll never see the likes of him again.”
The 2020 Cheltenham Festival gets underway on March 10. You can read Jane’s tips in The Echo and on EchoLive.ie daily.