A grassroots special feature introducing James Brennan

Starting a new feature, the grassroots special feature. This is where we will introduce you to people from across the grassroots community covering all disciplines and everything from Happy Hackers to Irish equestrians abroad. Just a way for us to support the community, tell peoples stories and shine a light on the journey some of the grassroots equestrian community are on.

Today we are starting with on of our racing correspondent and the winner of the best newcomer award at The Grassroots Gala 2023, the one and only James Brennan.

Who are you and what do you do? I’m James Brennan, and I am a racing correspondent at The Grassroots Gazette. Horse racing is my passion, and has been since I was 15 years old.

How did you get into the racing industry? Tell us about your background?  It all happened by chance really when my dad brought me racing one day out to the Tramore Races. I just got the bug for it from day one. I attended RACE in Kildare at 16 years of age. I then took out my apprentice licence and was very fortunate to ride at racecourses such as The Curragh, Leopardstown, Punchestown, Fairyhouse to name a few, and was the last ten pound claimer to ride around my home track Tramore.

How was it riding out years ago? What did you like about it? I loved riding out years ago, and the one thing I really miss is sitting on a good horse that you know could be potentially a future star in racing. I loved being brought away to gallop horses on work mornings with other jockeys. I particularly liked riding a quirky horse and getting to the bottom of them. I also liked getting horses their stall certs before they could run at the track.

What is your earliest memory of horse racing? Watching the 1993 Aintree Grand National (Known as the race that never was) With a false start the 39 runners returned to the starting line, with a second attempt the tape was slow to rise and became entangled in the field, with the red flag signifying a false start was raised a second time, but many of the riders did not notice and continued with the race. This was the first time the Grand National had been declared void, with Esha Ness ridden by John White first past the post. Jockey John White was extremely disappointed as he thought he had won the race. 

If you could ride in one race… what would it be and why? The Epsom Derby, I always wanted to be a flat jockey, and watching the likes of Johnny Murtagh, Mick Kinane and Kieran Fallon riding winners of this historical race always stuck in the back of my mind, as I used to have the arm of the sofa worn to pieces with the whip, and commentating my name as they crossed the line in The Epsom Derby.

What is it like now being a racing correspondent? It’s brilliant, I love doing something that I am passionate about. 

What type of correspondent are you? What is important to you when you’re writing a piece? Racing Correspondent. I really enjoy when a young person rides their first winner, so I try to give them the recognition they deserve because it can be a very hard game to break through in, and any recognition is good recognition. 

What are you most excited about for Cheltenham this year? How will the Irish contingent do? I am looking forward to seeing Brighterdaysahead run in The Ryanair Mares Novices’ Hurdle, I was lucky to see her winning first time out in a bumper last February in Gowran Park, she looks to be very special. The Irish will do extremely well again this year at Cheltenham, and seem to be holding a lot of the aces. I will not be surprised to see Hewick there or thereabouts coming down to the last in The Boodles Gold Cup, providing the ground suits him. Can it be another fairytale for Shark Hanlon and team. 

How did it feel winning the best newcomer at The Grassroots GALA this year? Honestly wasn’t expecting to win an award, but when my picture came up on the screen and my name was announced I was genuinely stuck for words. I am already counting down the days to the next Gala night, it was a fantastic night and great to meet everyone involved in The Grassroots Gazette. 

What do you love most about horse racing? Everything from, the sound of the horses hooves walking around the parade ring before going out onto the track, the sound of birch from horses jumping a fence or hurdle, the sound of horses galloping past the grandstand, a grooms facial expression when they lead back in their horse after winning, you just know how proud they are of their horse and the hard work they have put in has paid off. Horse racing has it all, the excitement, the thrills and spills, and best of all the roar of the crowd as the horses battle it out to the finish line. 

If you could change or improve one thing in horse racing, what would it be? In my opinion I think there should be more racing broadcasted on National TV especially for the smaller tracks, as it is always only the bigger racing festivals shown, and if this was something that was regular, it brings more of the general public in the gates to their local tracks, and can entice people to go racing much more knowing its been broadcasted on National TV, and with more advertising in place it brings in more people to go racing.

Quick fire questions to get to know James: 

Favourite ever Horse?  Sea The Stars 

Favourite ever jockey? Johnny Murtagh 

The One race you’d like to be in the parade ring for? The Aintree Grand National 

If you were an owner what would your colours be?  Red cap with white stars & White with a red star on the front and back, with red sleeves

Greatest race you’ve ever watched? “Epsom Derby” Year 2000, with Sinndar winning for John Oxx and Johnny Murtagh

Favourite movie? Step Brothers 

Favourite song? You’ll Never Walk Alone 

Favourite Quote?  If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It 

Pineapple on Pizza? Yes


A grassroots special feature introducing James Brennan

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