The past six months have seen the resources of the Irish Jockeys’ Emergency Fund drained substantially. Not that any one minded; in providing care for JT McNamara and Jonjo Bright following their dreadful falls earlier in the year, the Fund is doing exactly what it was set up to do.
Yesterday, racing put back into the fund, through an eight race card at Limerick put together in less than eight weeks. 10,500 people turned up to watch a challenge tournament between British and Irish based jockeys; past and present, professional and amateur, flat and jump, all with the shared aim of replenishing the coffers of the JEM.
The weather did its bet to wreck events, with most of the British jockeys stranded on the runway at Birmingham airport for a while, but they just made it in time. Everyone pulled together, with gate money, entry and declaration fees, jockeys’ fees, restaurant and sponsorship money all given up willingly.
Owners chipped in too, with several donating their prize money. Then Barry Connell, owner of Champion Hurdle favourite Our Conor pledged all winnings from the horse this season to the Fund. The money kept on coming, with an auction including a trip to Willie Mullins’ stable swelling the total raised on the day to close on €550,000.
Johnny Murtagh won the race for champion jockeys, which featured 13 jockeys with more than 22,000 winners between them in their various categories. There was a special reward for him. After a Formula 1 type celebration with several bottles of champagne, he was unceremoniously dumped in the horses’ water trough. All was in a good cause though.
Murtagh was delighted to have taken part, saying, “People keep saying ‘thanks for coming’ to me, but I want to say back, ‘thanks for asking me’. It’s a special day.” It certainly was.