Emerging Talent » Jane Mangan

Jane Mangan

By Brian Sheerin

It’s a rainy afternoon in Kildare. Jane Mangan is looking out across the Punchestown parade ring from the balcony above the weighroom, watching the crowd flock through the gates for the opening day of the 2015 festival.

The young rider has mixed emotions. The season hasn’t been particularly kind to her in terms of winners –just two wins from 65 rides – but not being one to complain, the 21-year-old realises that her situation could be a lot worse.

“This week in particular would make you thankful for you own situation and really I have nothing to complain about,” she says, flicking through her race card with her fingers.

“When you read about Davy Condon being forced to retire, and of course what has happened to Robbie (McNamara), it makes you realise what having a bad season is all about, and I have been quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things.

“Looking back on the season it has been a bit disappointing numbers wise. I’m down on numbers from previous seasons, but having said that, I had no injuries throughout the year and no real disappointments so my outlook isn’t too bleak. I’d obviously prefer if I was that bit busier, and riding a better calibre of horse, but at the same time, I appreciate that I didn’t have a particularly bad season,” she adds.

Mangan rode her first bumper winner back in 2011, when guiding Jamie’s Darling to victory at Cork, her local racecourse, at odds of 20-1. It was a fantastic day, made even more special by the fact that the mare was trained by her father Jimmy, famed for his handling of 2003 Aintree Grand National winner Monty’s Pass.

In the four seasons that have followed that first win, Mangan has ridden 46 winners in total. There were big days in the maroon and white of Gigginstown House Stud and for Gordon Elliott, and there was that victory on the David Pipe-trained The Liquidator in the 2013 Punchestown Champion Bumper. A Grade One win at just 19 years of age.

Mangan also became the first female jockey to win the prestigious Amateur Handicap on the opening day of the 2012 Galway Summer Festival on a mare called Midnight Music for legendary trainer Dermot Weld.

“Jane is a 7lb claimer but rode like a professional. She rode the filly to absolute perfection. I tend to pick the right riders,” Weld said following that ice cool performance in the saddle.

During that golden period, Mangan had been hyped as the best young prospect in the amateur ranks. She was being compared to fellow gifted female riders such as Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh and was being tipped to cause the main headache to Patrick Mullins in the race to become Champion Amateur jockey in the seasons to come.

Driving to the races to ride fancied horses and steering them to victory became a staple for Mangan, winners were commonplace. That was until this year.

“If I could go back and give myself a bit of advice, I think I would have told myself to enjoy the winning more and not take myself too seriously,” says Mangan,

“I think if you take yourself too serious you’ll lose the run of yourself. Winning races is an amazing feeling and if you could bottle it, then it would be great.

“There was plenty of pressure in riding horses that were expected to win, and when they won, it was more of a relief than a cause for celebration. A winner should be brilliant and I know how to enjoy the winners that bit better now because they don’t come around very often.”

It’s race time now and Mangan slips away to get changed into the white and green silks of owner/trainer Peter Twomey, for whom she rides in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper and the concluding four-year-old bumper. Both horses are unconsidered 25-1 and 33-1 shots respectively in the market.

Policy Breach, a Kayf Tara gelding who has had the benefit of a racecourse appearance at Leopardstown back in February disputes the lead under Mangan during the early stages of the Land Rover bumper. When the pace quickens, it seems as though the four-year-old has been found wanting, but ends up staying on to finish second under a strong drive.

Next up, it’s Timeing’severything in the concluding bumper and the unraced son of Court Cave allows the young rider to put her words into action. This was the horse, the race and the ride her season needed and she was one happy girl when he delivered.

It could scarcely have looked any easier for Mangan and her able companion. Always travelling sweetly in the leading group of runners, Mangan pressed the button with two furlongs left to run. Seconds later she’s passed the post with her hand outstretched in the air pointing onwards and upwards.

“I have been waiting for a day like this for a while now,” she says, smiling from ear to ear.

“I thought coming here that the two of them had great chances and I didn’t want to go jinxing myself because this is Punchestown and the racing doesn’t get much more competitive than this.

“The first horse went well which was a huge positive for this lad. I give him a bit of a squeeze at the three furlong marker and he came alive in my hands so I let him go on a bit turning for home. He stayed all of the way to the line and for a horse racing first time out he was very tough.

“It’s very special and it’s great for Paddy – this is just his fourth ever bumper runner.”

An hour later and Punchestown is now a place of calm. The parade ring that resembled a rock concert earlier in the afternoon is now empty. Mangan is hauling a bag full of her riding gear equal to almost half the size of her body out to her car ahead of the long drive home to Conna before doing it all again tomorrow.

She’s got that winning feeling again and believes her week can get even better now. The Champion trainer Willie Mullins has snapped her up to ride one of his five entrants in Wednesday’s Grade One Champion Bumper, Pylonthepressure and she also has a nice ride in the mares’ bumper on Friday.

“It was definitely a surprise to get the call in the Champion. I was looking through the entries all weekend and I thought it was very unlikely that I’d be having a ride. Pylonthepressure is a great ride to have picked up and I will be keeping it in my head that Jamie Codd won this race 12 months ago on one of Willie’s lesser fancied horses for the race, Shaneshill.

Mangan’s finest hour in the saddle to date came when she and The Liquidator played with the Champion Bumper field. That was two seasons ago, and while some victories were lost in the ultra high standards the teenager had been setting for herself, this one didn’t slip away.

“I definitely savoured winning this race on The Liquidator two seasons ago. I wouldn’t say the tapes of the race a worn out or anything like that, but put it this way, I could walk you through the whole race with m eyes closed,” she laughs.

“I had the right people around me telling me not to take it for granted and I genuinely didn’t. Even to get the call to ride for a leading British trainer such as David Pipe was amazing.”

There has been a remarkable amount of success in quite a short space of time for Mangan. There have been times, when things were going exceptionally well, where the young jockey flirted with the idea of abandoning college life, where she is on course to completing a degree in marketing at the Cork Institute of Technology, to concentrate on a full time career in the saddle.

“There were definitely times where I thought, ‘things are going great here, what do I need college for,’ but I never really let myself entertain the idea of dropping out, or else I probably would have done. The juggling seems to be working so far and exams finish in just two weeks so I’ll be completely free for the summer,” she says.

Blookdstock sales have always fascinated her and it’s only natural that a career in sales and marketing is what she is pursuing. Getting the balance between college work and keeping your shoulder against the wheel of amateur race riding requires hard work and dedication, something Mangan has in abundance.

“Before college I ride out a couple of lots and when I come home I either go to the gym or go for long walks up the gallops and on the road. I don’t even bring my phone with me. It’s just me and the dog and it’s as much about getting the head clear as it is about keeping fit.

“I wouldn’t go making any wild predictions for the future, but I know that I’ll always have horses in my life, that’s for sure.”