Brennan bows out in style with Cheltenham success

Paddy Brennan announced his immediate retirement from the saddle after steering Manothepeople to victory in the penultimate race at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old has enjoyed a hugely successful career, with his victory aboard Imperial Commander in an epic renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup being the obvious highlight.

Success in the 2007 World Hurdle on the hugely popular Inglis Drever and the 2015 King George VI Chase triumph of Cue Card also feature on a long list of big-race triumphs, while a double at Catterick in December saw him pass the 1,500-winner mark.

After that landmark, Brennan said: “It’s been a dream – it’s been like a holiday destination that’s lasted for so long. Hopefully I haven’t booked a flight home yet, but maybe it’s not too far away.”

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Brennan was denied a fairytale final victory at the Cheltenham Festival, but fittingly got his chance to sign off with a win at the home of National Hunt racing a month later, as the Fergal O’Brien-trained Manothepeople (9-1) galloped to a clear-cut win in the Weatherite Air Conditioning Handicap Chase.

The veteran jockey, who was crowned champion conditional at the end of 2004/05 season, stood up in the stirrups and saluted the crowd as he passed the post in front, before being congratulated by fellow riders in the pull-up area and returning to emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure.

Brennan told Racing TV: “This country, I’ve probably been here 27 years in all, I’ve been so lucky. It’s been a rollercoaster, so many ups, so many downs, but I feel like I’ve got to the end of the ocean and walked onto the beach.

“It’s been on my mind a few weeks, I’ve been asking opinions but I went for a coffee with my wife this morning and I felt certain. It’s time for the next generation of jockeys.

“I’ve worked with the best in the game, there are young lads in the weighing room now but I’ve worked with them all. It’s a tough gig, it’s constant.

“It’s special. If I hadn’t had a winner today, there was tomorrow. I thought my ace card today was Kamsinas but you want to go out here and to go out on a winner is extra special.

“I’ve left my mark in the weighing room, I’ve been a strict kind of lad, done plenty of shouting, but I love them all. Being a jockey is 95 per cent disappointment. I’ve had some enjoyment but I’m ready for the next chapter.

“Imperial Commander has to be the highlight, winning a Gold Cup, but I’ll never forget Cue Card winning the King George, beating Ruby Walsh on Vautour, you’re taking on the best and getting him up that day was something I was really proud of.

“I’ve never had a proper break, as even when you go away, you are always thinking of the next ride – I just want a break from all that. I’ve a couple of things lined up but I’ve had a good day today.

“I often think sometimes I wave to the stand here there might be nobody in it, but when you just drive past here to go shopping, you get tingles, it’s that kind of place, the people make it extra special but even when it’s empty it is unique. It’s home from home.”

Cue Card’s trainer Tizzard paid tribute to his old colleague and said he had already passed on his congratulations on his stellar career.

Tizzard said: “I’m not great at texting, but I’ve just texted Paddy to say it was an absolute pleasure working with him and Cue Card.

“I’m sure Paddy remembers the Gold Cup (fall) more than anything, but that’s racing and he was fantastic on him for the time he rode him. He was a brilliant horse and Paddy was brilliant on him.

“I remember watching the King George and I was stood on the lawn there at Kempton in a crowd of people and they were all taller than me! I couldn’t see whether he got up or not, but as soon as I walked round, everyone was patting me on the back.

“We had some brilliant times and Paddy is a good man.”

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Paddy Brennan (left) on Knight Salute Davy Russell on Pied Piper after dead-heating in a Grade One at Aintree
Paddy Brennan (left) on Knight Salute Davy Russell on Pied Piper after dead-heating in a Grade One at Aintree (Steven Paston/PA)

O’Brien was understandably full of praise for his old pal and said: “We loaded today up for this reason and it was important that Paddy got that winner.

“He’s been a phenomenal ally for me. I remember listening to Philip Hobbs when Richard Johnson retired and he said they’d never had a cross word – the same can’t be said for me and Paddy!

“It’s always been done in the best of interests though and he’ll be a huge loss, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the end of Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan. I’m very proud to call him a friend.

“At the start of the season, we decided to spread the horses around a bit just to give Paddy a little bit more freedom to not have to travel so many miles.

“I still think he’s riding as well as ever, it’s just the hours away from home in the car is probably what’s told in the end, so it’s great that he can come down the road to Cheltenham and do it here.

“We’ve had so many highlights, we’ve had so many great days, from things like Accidental Legend winning at Uttoxeter, which was a 0-100, to some great days here, like Bonttay and The Govaness.

“We’ve had some fantastic times, he rode my very first winner under rules up at Carlisle, so there’s so many highlights and I’m so grateful that he was on our team, he’s been a great servant to us.”

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