Limerick and Cheltenham lead fundraising efforts to help JT McNamara

O'Neill, McCoy, McManus

O'Neill, McCoy, McManus

With no National Hunt racing in Britain scheduled for Monday 14 October, officials at Limerick Racecourse are hopeful of support from British racing for a special fundraising fixture in aid of the Jockeys’ Emergency Fund. Horse racing Ireland (HRI) gave its blessing to the event recently, and it will form the second day of the Munster National meeting.

HRI has said that it will pledge entry fees and sponsorship for the meeting, and the racecourse will put in all gate receipts and money from media rights. The driver behind the additional meeting was the horrific injury locally born jockey JT McNamara suffered in a fall from Galaxy Rock at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year. He remains paralysed from the neck down.

Northern Ireland jockey Jonjo Bright suffered a similar injury around the same time as McNamara in a fall during a point-to-point race. Fortunately, he has regained some movement in his arms, but how much more improvement he will make only time will tell.

Limerick racecourse manager Russell Ferris hopes the meeting will be well supported. Perhaps Ladbrokes, who sponsor the Munster National, will put in a decent sum of money. Ferris said, “It is hoped that a very significant amount of money can be raised for the Jockeys Emergency Fund to support the rehabilitation efforts for both JT McNamara and Jonjo Bright. There is a fantastic camaraderie within the horse racing fraternity and recent events have once again brought this bond to the fore. As Limerick Racecourse is JT’s local track, with many of his relations and closest friends plying their trade here on a regular basis, we are most grateful to HRI for granting us this fixture, providing the opportunity to stage this fundraising event here at Greenmount.”

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI was full of praise for the initiative, and it was he who flagged up the possibility of support from Britain, saying, “Horse Racing Ireland applauds this initiative by Limerick Racecourse and I would encourage everyone in the wider racing, breeding and point-to-point community to get behind it. Recent serious injuries suffered by Limerick jockey JT McNamara and Northern Ireland jockey Jonjo Bright have highlighted the vital need for the Jockeys Emergency Fund. There is no National Hunt racing in Britain on the selected date of Monday October 14 and I know that Limerick plan to enlist the support of British trainers and riders for this fundraiser.”

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The Limerick meeting is not the only way in which racing is remembering the plight of McNamara. Just over a week ago, 430 people filled the Gold Cup room at Cheltenham for an auction that raised close on £100,000. Jonjo O’Neill, who trained Galaxy Rock, and his team, hosted the event, all dressed in racing silks, along with staff from the racecourse.

An oil on canvas of McNamara on board one of JP McManus’ horses painted by a cousin of the jockey fetched £20,000. That went back to Ireland with JP. The brochure for the event included a message from the jockey and his wife, Caroline, which included an update on his condition. It read:

“I would like to thank everyone who put such a lot of time and effort into organising this great event, especially Cheltenham Racecourse and all the team at Jackdaws Castle. I would also like to thank everybody for taking the time to come out this evening to support John (JT). It means so much to John and I to know you are all rooting for him to get well.

John is currently in the spinal unit of the Mater Hospital in Dublin where his main goal is to wean himself off ventilation. John is very determined to achieve this goal. For those of you who know John personally, you will know that his determination is unparalleled. It’s been a long road to date and there’s a long road ahead but knowing that we have so much love and support from all our family, friends and everyone in the racing community and beyond will no doubt continue to keep John’s spirits high during these difficult times and will help him tremendously on his road to recovery. The immense support that John has received since his accident is overwhelming and has truly touched our hearts and we want to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone for their kind words and warm wishes.”

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