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An Interview with Racing Broadcaster Jane Mangan

There’s little wonder that Jane Mangan has carved her career in the solid rock that is horseracing. She’s following on from the solid foundations of the Mangan name. Racehorses are a rich history on both sides of her family but most notably, grandfather Paddy Mangan trained as did her father Jimmy Mangan, who sent out the 2003 Aintree Grand National victor, Monty’s Pass. Last season, Jimmy had many successes with Spillane's Tower, including a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse and a novice chase at the Punchestown Festival. Brothers Bryan and Patrick are very much involved in racing too.

Jane is a self-professed ‘Cork woman’ and ‘very much a home bird’. Home is in rural County Cork, ten minutes from Fermoy. She grew up on the family farm where National Hunt horses are still bred and trained.


Beginning her race riding journey whilst still at school, Jane won on her first ride on Jamie’s Darling in 2011. This set the precedence that, in a satisfying career, saw Jane ride many winners as an amateur. Amongst the best were the Grade 1 Champion Bumper for David Pipe on The Liquidator at Punchestown, a handicap at the Galway Festival for Dermot Weld on Midnight Music and shared the Champion Lady title in ’13-14 with Nina Carberry. Yet, Jane did not dwell in the saddle and found a new niche in broadcasting.

Her unfathomed knowledge goes further than a lifetime immersed in racing but one garnered from living and breathing the sport from paddock to sales ring, gallops to racecourse. Jane is articulate in a way that not a word is ever wasted. She has eloquently spoken about the loss of people and horses – passionately putting many people’s jumble of feelings into words. Even as a fledgling, she kept pace with veteran broadcaster Ted Walsh and has since held her own with Nick Luck.


How horsey was your childhood? Growing up, it would’ve been boring if we didn’t have horses because we didn’t have bicycles, only ponies, which was the total logic of my parents. Fortunately, both of my brothers and myself are interested in different aspects of racing.


What’s your earliest racing memory? I remember sitting on the arm of the couch, like all kids when they’re pretending to be jockeys. I was three and it was the 1997 Galway Plate, when my dad trained the winner, Stroll Home. My mum was shouting at the television. You know when you’re that age and your parents are shouting, it’s because you’re doing something wrong so I was thinking what I was doing wrong. But, Mum was actually shouting at the very tight finish. Paul Carberry beat Charlie Swan and Stroll Home was owned by Mum and trained by Dad.

A third consecutive win for Don't Tell Pa for the

father-daughter combination of Jimmy and Jane Mangan.

Photo Credit: Healy Racing


What roles have you had in racing? I’m a broadcaster for RTE and Racing TV at home. I’m also a keen pedigree nerd and I love the sales, supporting both National Hunt and the Flat. So, as well as going to the races and taking about it, I’m very much interested in the bloodstock side of the game.

I rode as an amateur through school and college for around five years. I had a good level of success, riding a Grade 1 winner for David Pipe and rode the winner of a big handicap at the Galway Festival for Dermot Weld. I enjoyed my time as an amateur and I think it matured me quickly and it also gave me the connections that helped me get started in the broadcasting world. In hindsight, it was important I did that but at the time, I didn’t realise it – riding pieced together all the wires that connected me to where I am now.


Favourite racecourse in Ireland: Punchestown was very good to me; as a rider I had a lot of luck there. It’s probably where the best National Hunt horses meet – that and Leopardstown in February.

It’s actually a far more undulating track than people give it credit for. I would implore anyone who visits Punchestown to walk the track. The camber down the back straight, depth of the hill as you gallop away from the stands and the fact it’s a downhill finish – all of those things make Punchestown more unusual than your average flatter track.


Favourite racecourse in the UK: If I’m honest, I don’t have a special relationship or an affiliation with any track in the UK. I’ve been to a lot of tracks there but I don’t have a lasting memory at any. Away from the Ascots and the Newmarkets, I like the smaller tracks that have a little bit of character. For instance, Yarmouth has lovely character, it’s over by the sea and that’s lovely on a nice day.


Favourite meeting: The best National Hunt meeting is Leopardstown during the February Dublin Racing Festival. If anyone wants to come to Ireland for a meeting that isn’t Punchestown or Fairyhouse or another major one, come there.


Favourite jockey: I loved watching Paul Carberry. When he was on song and at his best, he was Hollywood in the saddle.


What memories do you have about your Dad winning the Grand National? Monty’s Pass only died last year at twenty-nine. We were sad we didn’t get him to thirty, which would’ve been an amazing feat. He was here all my life because we were born in the same year and he’s still here, because he’s buried in the garden.

In those few minutes at Aintree, he made all the work my parents did worthwhile – a magic horse who gave a lot of people round here a lot of pleasure – the fact that we could have a horse like him. Like all of our horses here, he was to be sold but he failed the vet, which goes to show that vets should be used as guides but they’re not gospel. I think that’s very important for anyone to remember – you can have all the due diligence done but you have to remember that horses are animal like yourself. Where we’re not perfect, we’re still able to do things very well.

Monty was really, really genuine, tough, took a lot of racing and loved firm ground. He won the National on firm ground, not good to firm ground – so, the type of that isn’t possible today due to safety and he was much better over fences than hurdles. he was one of those horses that was way inferior over hurdles, he didn’t respect hurdles enough and he loved chasing. He loved Aintree and he loved the cameras. When the cameras appeared, he pricked his ears; he was very intelligent.


Generally, what does racing do well? In racing, you can see the best and the worst of people. The best in terms of community, care, sport… You can go racing and make friends from literally any walk of life.

The worst is when people get into competition, they turn into different people but that’s sport in general.

When people go racing, they’re on a level playing field – you can race against the King of England and beat him. I do think that when we go racing, you can go to Cheltenham with your five to ten grand horse and compete with a horse that cost half a million, and have a chance. As a rider, especially an amateur, you can go into the weighing room and sit on the same bench as AP McCoy.

Racing levels everyone out because a fence or a hurdle or a furlong can make all the different. That’s what I love about racing: everyone has a chance.


Where can improvements be made? That’s a question a lot of people are asking. I don’t pretend to know a lot about the betting side of the industry – that’s obviously a huge discussion point with the affordability checks. In Ireland, with this upcoming gambling regulation, it’s a subject that is beyond my level of knowledge because betting isn’t something I do.

A little bit like in society, the government has to assist in terms of health care, building hospitals and roads, the government have to subsidise all the wrongs. In racing, that’s the owner so the owner seems to have to make up the expense all the time – training fees are going up, this is going up, that is going up and it all falls back onto the owner and I think that is wrong. I think our funding infrastructure in Ireland is wrong – if you look at Pau in France then that I the standard bearer in European racing. We need to do better but I don’t see it changing any time soon.

In your opinion, how secure is the future of racing in view of the animal rights movement? I do believe racing is very good at caring for its animals. There's always the exception to the rule but we have very strong regulations, both in the UK and Ireland, for our standard of care. So, I put a lot of faith in the regulator and believe in the care of our animals and in the sport.

I prefer to focus on the positive, the law of attraction and I believe in the greater things rather than the minority who think we are wrong.

A very long time ago as a broadcaster, I had to learn an important lesson. Social media critics were making their voices heard so I learnt it’s no possible to please everyone in this world and to concentrate on the ones who matter. The ones who matter to me are the ones who are involved in the sport, admire the sport and are fans of the sport.

If we can do what’s right by the animals then those people will be satisfies and enjoy the product, we bring them and the entertainment value that hopefully at home they enjoy.


How did you get into TV broadcasting? I was obviously an amateur for a number of years and I had a lot of coverage doing interviews post-race or pre-race. A guy in RTE thought that I could talk even better than I rode so I started doing some work there alongside my riding. So, I did that on the radio for a number of years and that went down well so when I stopped riding, I had more time on my hands to do television work.

It all began on RTE, purely by chance. It was never something I studied or ever dreamt that was possible.


What do you think the racing coverage does successfully? There are four racing channels with two specialist programs: Sky Sports Racing and Racing TV, and RTE in Ireland and ITV Racing in the UK. All four of them have four very different styles of broadcasting but all four brings the person at home really close to the racehorse and that’s important because our product. Without the horse, there is no racing – we show that very well and don’t forget to. If there’s a story to be harnessed, told or shared then that’s done very well on the national broadcasting. Whereas the specialist channels are geared towards punditry and the intricate detail that an informed viewer would appreciate.

The big thing is with the different channels to break them into two specialist channels and two national broadcast channels. Both know their own audiences of one who’s a broader audience and one that is very informed. Catering for both is a very good thing.


Where could improvements be made? We can continuously work on camera work – not every track is the same, some are big or small. Wider camera views, drone shots have been a mass enhancement to the racing coverage. I always look at America and Australia to see how they do things. I think channels are all the time asking themselves that question but I can see not every track is the same. Whether it’s Chester or Cheltenham, Ascot or Newton Abbot, you have to treat each course as an individual course; not every camera view will suit each track.


Which racing broadcaster do you admire? I admire an awful lot of them, probably too many to mention. I will highlight Robert Hall because he and Ted Walsh were the two that I grew up watching. I never aspired to be like them because I never dreamt that would be realistic and I got to work alongside Robert with Ted. Robert retired the day Faugheen won his Grade 1 at Leopardstown and I never saw him on a rally good day or on a day something really terrible happened. He was such a steady hand and a little bit like Albus Dumbledore, the standard bearer in terms of presenters. He was there for forty years and not once did anyone say anything scandalous or derogatory towards Robert Hall. That is testament how good he was.


Favourite meal: On a winter’s day, a Sunday roast.

Favourite drink: Anything with elderflower.

Favourite holiday destination: I don’t really have a favourite one but the best holiday I’ve been on is anywhere round Croatia – the water is clear and the weather is very kind.

Favourite book: I’m currently reading a Dan Brown; my favourite author is Jeffrey Archer and the best book I’ve read is Angels And Demons by Dan Brown.

Favourite film: Titanic. I heard the soundtrack as a child as my mother was a huge fan of Celine Dion and it’s one of James Cameron’s masterpieces.

Other hobbies: It’s sad to say but I don’t really have any!

Favourite music: I’m probably Taylor Swift’s biggest fan – unapologetically so and have been since I was fourteen. I’ve seen her twice in concert and I thought her last one was the best concert I’ve ever been to.


*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture

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