Founder of charity race to compete at Punchestown
Amateur jockey James Nolan will once again ride to raise funds for kidney research
Punchestown Racecourse during its annual racing festival. Amateur jockey and kidney transplant patient James Nolan will compete at this year’s event in the charity race he set up in 1990 to raise funds for kidney research. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
It is not the first time Mr Nolan, of Co Kildare, has ridden at Punchestown. The 48-year-old, who received a kidney from his sister Catherine when he was just 20, set up the charity race in 1990 - and won it in 2002, at odds of 50-to-one.
Proceeds from the race go to the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund, which has so far raised more than €1.3 million for services for kidney patients.
This year, the fund will contribute €275,000 towards projects that include a new renal unit at Temple Street Children’s Hospital.
Supporting Mr Nolan at Punchestown on Saturday will be 150 heart, lung, liver, kidney, bone marrow and dialysis patients.
In the past, riders in the charity race have included Frank Berry, Tommy Carberry, John Joe O’Neill, Oliver Sherwood, Arthur Moore and Robert Hall.
The equestrian world has also been well-represented, with Jessica and Kate Harrington, Jessica Chessney, and Edward Doyle all having taken part.
Actor and comedian Jon Kenny, best known for D’Unbelievables, took part in 1998 and 1999.
It is traditionally the last race on the final day of the racing festival, and riders undertake to raise a minimum of €1,000 in sponsorship in order to enter it.
Mr Nolan, who has also ridden at Ascot, said the kidney transplant has changed his life. As a result of the transplant, he has gone from being very ill to becoming an athlete, getting married and having a son.
Mr Nolan said his donor sister, Catherine Doyle, also married, and “has a perfectly normal life and family”.
The amateur jockey said that carrying a donor card was essentially the “greatest gift anyone can give, the gift of life”.