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Henry Brooke – “I’ll never forget that day, as that was the moment I decided that I wanted to become a jockey.”

Our racing ambassador Henry Brooke opens up on his early influences that inspired him to become a National Hunt jockey.

Family Inspiration

Whenever I look back to the people that have inspired me, I don’t have to look too far away from my family.  

Both of my parents have had careers in or around racing and have played a big part in influencing me to follow my dream of being a National Hunt jockey. My dad, Glenn, was a well-respected blacksmith and farrier who was well known for making horseshoes. His career highlight came when he shod the first five home for Michael Dickinson in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

My mum, Julia, has also played a huge part. She has always been involved with horses. She rode in point-to-points in her younger days and went on to get an amateur licence on the Flat when racing was a male-dominated sport. She has also done a great deal of pre-training for horses as well as working with horses that have been injured and gone through rehabilitation.

In 2015, she became a trainer in her own right, with a small bunch of horses, but my brother, Danny, has taken over the licence in recent years. It’s been great being involved with the family’s yard, and I very much enjoy having an input there as well as riding out for them when I can.

Early Memories

One of my earliest and fondest memories of growing up was being close to a horse in a box rest at ours called Winchester. He was trained by Kevin Ryan, and I remember going to watch him run at Wetherby when my racing idol Graham Lee won on him. I got a real kick from the way Graham rode him, attacking the fences and making all. I’ll never forget that day, as that was the moment I decided that I wanted to become a jockey.

Graham is someone I’ve always looked up to and had so much respect for. He was the first jockey I really sat up and took notice of. I think he is a very cool rider, who is kind to horses, and someone who has a lot of patience. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, especially with the feedback he gives. He’s an ultra-gentleman who has had a good association with my family.

The Path to Racing

Education was never for me, and I left school at the age of 16 with the intention of working in racing. My first full-time job in the sport was working for Kevin Ryan. It was a great experience being involved with a top Flat stable and getting used to a different style of riding, but my heart was always with the Jumps.

After a year at Kevin’s, I went on to be based with Kate Walton. Kate was great to me, as she gave me a place to keep my pointer in her yard. It was at Kate’s that I was taken under the wing of jockey Richie McGrath. He was always a miserable bugger, but his heart was always in the right place. He would bollock me for stuff all the time and get me doing different things to keep me on the right lines. Richie would get me schooling down at Ferdy Murphy’s yard once a week, which was also a great learning curve for me. Sometimes you need someone to give you a bit of tough love to bring out the best in you.

Influential Figures in Racing

The other person that had an influence on me in the early years of my career was Jason Maguire, when I was a conditional at Donald McCain’s. I think Jason is the most stylish jockey I’ve ever seen over jumps, I always wanted to look like him, but I look a long way from it. He was very strong and ultra-positive. He would win on plenty of horses that you wouldn’t see someone winning on. He is someone that I’ve always admired and it was a great privilege being around him during my time at Donald’s. 

Without these experiences and being in or around some of these people, I don’t think I would have achieved what I’ve done in my career as a jockey.

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Our racing ambassador Henry Brooke opens up on his early influences that inspired him to become a National Hunt jockey.
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