Former leading amateur jockey JT McNamara dies aged 41

The Limerick jockey was paralysed from the neck down after Cheltenham fall in 2013

JT McNamara partnered Teaforthree to victory in the 2013 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Inpho

Irish racing is in mourning today after the death of renowned former amateur jockey John Thomas McNamara. He was just 41 and died at his home in Co. Limerick. He is survived by his wife Caroline and children, Dylan, Harry and Olivia.

Acclaimed as one of the leading amateur riders of his generation, McNamara was a multiple Cheltenham festival winner, often in the colours of his long-time supporter, owner, JP McManus, as well as being a champion on the point to point fields. He rode over 600 winners in total.

However it was at Cheltenham in 2013 that he sustained catastrophic injuries in a fall from Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir Chase.

Lucky to survive, McNamara was nevertheless left paralysed from the neck down and it took 15 months of long and often painful recovery for him to return home.


The courage he and his family showed since that fateful day at Cheltenham has proved an inspiration to many both within and outside racing.

The wider McNamara family also had to come to terms with another racing injury when a cousin of the man widely known as ‘JT,’ Robbie McNamara, was left paralysed from the waist down in a fall at Wexford last year. He has since begun a successful career as a trainer.

Horses continued to be a way of life for ‘JT’ despite his injuries but it is believed complications which necessitated him being admitted to University Hospital in Limerick on Friday ultimately led to his sad passing. He was reportedly discharged to spend his final days with family at home.

Memories of some of his greatest successes on the track are being shared today by friends, colleagues and racing fans, including of his long association with trainer Enda Bolger and their many victories over the famous banks course at Punchestown.

McNamara rode four Cheltenham festival winners, including on the McManus owned Spot Thedifference in the 2005 Cross-Country Chase.

However it was his victory on Rith Dubh in the 2002 National Hunt Chase which was widely acclaimed as a masterpiece of horsemanship and skill. He won the same race on the Rebecca Curtis trained Teaforthree in 2012 and in 2007 landed the Foxhunters on Drombeag.

JP McManus’s racing manager, Frank Berry, said: “It’s so sad and all our thoughts go out to Caroline and the rest of the family. A nicer fellow you couldn’t wish to meet. He was in great form up until maybe a week ago and he’s definitely been a fighter. He fought a great fight.

“The boss and him and myself had so many great days together. He was a great rider, but he also did a lot of pre-training of a lot of our younger horses and was a great man to tell you whether they were good or no good.”

Despite such successes on the racecourse, for many his greatest achievement was the fortitude and resolve he exhibited when faced with life-changing injuries.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column