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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

An Interview with Ex-Jockey Paddy Brennan

Updated: Jun 30

In National Hunt racing, Cheltenham Racecourse is the biggest stage and, after winning there in April on Manothepeople, Paddy Brennan hung up his boots, bringing an end to his career that spanned over twenty-five years. It was a worthy ending at the place that gave him many great days, including six Cheltenham Festival winners – the biggest ones being the 2006 World Hurdle on Inglis Drever and the 2010 Gold Cup on Imperial Commander.

Paddy, 43, struck up a successful partnership with Imperial Commander, which started when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in ’08. They soon chalked up a Ryanair Chase in ’09 when beating Voy Por Ustedes, and a Betfair Chase six months after their scintillating Gold Cup victory. Imperial Commander’s trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paddy shared several prosperous years, notably when Paddy rode a personal best of 106 winners in the 2007-8 season. These big winners included the Charlie Hall on Ollie Magern, a Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase on Mahogany Blaze, a Cotswold Chase and Old Roan on Knowhere and the Pertemps Final on BallyFitz. The following years, the duo won a Topham Chase with Irish Raptor and Scottish Grand National with Hello Bud, a Greatwood Hurdle and an International Hurdle on Khyber Kim and a Racing Post Chase with Razor Royal.

Also stricking up a successful partnership with another Gloucestershire trainer in Tom George, Paddy had big victories with Tartak, Nacarat, Parsnip Pete, God’s Own and Module. Teaming up with Colin Tizzard and Cue Card gave Paddy a further six big wins, including the ‘15 Charlie Hall, two Betfair Chases, a King George and a Betfred Bowl. The Grand National meeting was always rich pickings for Paddy, who scored eleven victories there in total.

Paddy supported the then-rookie trainer Fergal O’Brien, riding his first winner in Horsham Lad in October 2011, and they worked together for thirteen years. Thus, it was fitting that Fergal was the trainer of Manothepeople. They shared a big Aintree success with Dysart Enos, a Grade 1 victory in the Challow Hurdle with Poetic Rhythm and a Midland Grand National in Chase The Spud – amongst many other big winners.

The lad from Galway came along way from riding his first winner at Gowran Park on Ivory Isle in August 1998… The hair is now salt and pepper compared to those Imperial Commander days and maybe, when the likes of Dysart Enos win again, Paddy may feel the stab of regret that he wasn’t on board – but maybe not, because what a career he can look back on. Racecourses, especially on those big days, will be emptier without Paddy Brennan.            

Paddy is married to Lindsey, a nurse, and their three children are Jack, Oliver and Chloe. They live in Willersley, Gloucestershire, alongside Indie the dog.


Did you have a horsey childhood? No, I didn’t – not until I was about twelve, anyway. Then, I rode the neighbours’ ponies and just fell in love with riding straight away.


Growing up, did you have a racing hero? When I first started watching racing, I used to watch every jockey but the first person I properly latched onto was AP McCoy.

How did you get into racing? One Sunday morning, I was on one of the ponies and my neighbour, who knew Gerry Stack who had a racing yard in Kildare, asked if I’d like to try riding racehorses. When my mum asked me about going there, I said ‘Absolutely’ and I couldn’t wait.


What trainers have you worked for? I started with Gerry Stack as a groom. I went to Jim Bolger’s as an apprentice, staying for five years. I went to Paul Nicholls as a conditional and was there for three years; then I went to Philip Hobbs’, again as conditional and also stayed there for three years. I went to Howard Johnson’s, where I was retained by owner Grham Wylie but I got sacked after a year. I went to Nigel Twiston-Davies’ for about five years, after which I was sort of freelance but was mostly at Tom George’s. I then joined Fergal O’Brien.


Favourite racecourse: There was always two tracks that I always loved: Cheltenham was my favourite. Yet, I always enjoyed Exeter too. The Haldon Gold Cup meeting at Exeter was always special to me as it’s start of the big season with a good, happy racing environment and always pulls in a big crowd of people loving their racing, and who aren’t there only there for punting or gambling. When you win the Haldon Gold Cup, the record of that horse for the rest of the season was impressive. So, it was a great race to win and you’ve got a great horse to look forward to for the rest of the season.

Favourite meeting: That one at Exeter and the Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby wouldn’t be far behind it.


Favourite racehorse: Pigeon Island. I’ve ridden some great horses but I became personally attached to him. We even had him in his retirement.


Was there an underdog racehorse you also liked? I loved a horse called Accidental Legend. He was never rated over 105 but I loved his attitude. He literally was a legend and won his race every season.

What were your best days in racing? Obviously winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup was my best day. My next one was winning the King George at Kempton on Cue Card.


What do you remember about winning the Gold Cup? In big races, I just wanted to hit the line. That day, when I had pulled up, that first person I saw was Richard ‘Sparky’ Bevis (Twiston-Davies’ head lad and Imperial Commander’s daily rider) and that’s when it really hit me that something really amazing had happened. I can still remember it right now.


What did race riding mean to you? Growing up, I suppose, I was a little bit boisterous and naughty but I always felt free when I was race riding. Whenever I was let go by the person who led me up, I was totally free for the next five minutes; no one could touch me and I loved that feeling.

Winning the Ryanair Chase, the Gold Cup and Betfair Chase on the fabulous Imperial Commander

What do you miss the most about retiring? I will miss trying to find the next Imperial Commander, the next Gold Cup horse. I kept going for so long trying to find other good horses – as a jockey, that keeps you going and keeps you getting up in the morning. Cue Card came at a good time but it went too quickly – when I was riding him, it felt like weeks, not years. I then spent the last few years of my career looking for the next one but one never came along.


Is there anything you won’t miss about race riding? The travelling, the fear of getting beaten and a lot of the pressure. For over twenty years, I sacrificed a lot and now it’s time for me. This year, I really looked forward going to Punchestown – not that I didn’t look forward going as a jockey but it’s different now.

Best racing party you attended: Every time I remember parties, I think of Henry Oliver’s 21st in Worcester. It was one of the best nights of my life. I had my eyebrow shaved and my clothes thrown out of a top window because I took someone else’s bed. It was an experience – a welcoming to the real world that I’ll never forget.


Favourite meal: Sirloin steak.

Favourite drink: Lager.

Favourite snack: A ham and cheese sandwich.

Favourite holiday destination: Vilamoura in Portugal.

Favourite music: I love all music but especially Coldplay and Mumford & Sons.

Favourite film: Jerry Maguire is an unbelievable film. I watch it at least every year.

Favourite book: I’ve never read a book but, now, my aims are to have the time to, hopefully, read books and write letters.

Other hobbies: I love golf. I also love youngstock – if I hadn’t been a jockey, I would’ve loved to have been involved in young horses. I enjoy supporting horses and get as much satisfaction from their success as much as I did my own.

Hopes and dreams for the future: Just to live in the moment and enjoy today.

A rose between two thorns: Paddy with Fergal O'Brien and Liam Harrison

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Jun 14
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A great interview with a true legend of the sport


Jun 12
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.


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