Galway falls silent as jockeys and stable staff remember JT McNamara

The 41-year-old jockey remembered in Ballybrit as an “absolute gentleman”

Jockeys stand for a minutes silence in memory of JT McNamara. Photograph: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Thirty-one jockeys bowed their heads in the middle of the parade ring as Ballybrit fell silent at 5.35pm on Tuesday.

Day two of the Galway Races had a completely different feeling, as a sombre tone replaced the usual verve of the summer festival.

JT McNamara was remembered by all: a montage of the former leading amateur who died on Monday night was displayed on the big screen.

The 41-year-old native of Croom in Co Limerick was paralysed following a fall off Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham festival in 2013. One of the many people deeply affected by the accident was Niall “Bubba” Amond, travelling head lad in Jessica Harrington’s yard and a friend of McNamara’s.


Absolute gentleman Bubba’s brother Ian is a jockey

who, in the past, rode winners for Willie Mullins and Philip Rothwell, having survived a serious fall 15 years ago.

“They thought his back was broke but it turned out he was all right and he got up off the stretcher and walked away,” Bubba recalls.

“It was heart-stopping stuff, I was there with him [Ian] that day, and the doctor was telling me that this is not great. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for other people, especially people who would have been close to JT McNamara.

“He was such a well-liked fella and an absolute gentlemen. He was a quiet lad. It’s going to be tough around the yard here today. He’ll be badly missed and our condolences go the family,” he said.

Bubba has never been a jockey but, after six years as the travelling head lad in such a prominent yard, he has learned to deal with being kicked, stood on and having broken toes from horses.

The 39-year-old Ballygowan native – one of hundreds of stable staff who make the Galway Festival what it is – began his Tuesday by leaving Harrington's yard in Moone, Co Kildare at noon. He travelled with full-time stable lad Olena Sharhut and two horses – Billy's Hope and Princess Aloof.

They arrived in Ballybrit at 2.45pm and, from there, the hard work began but the horses finished fifth and 18th, respectively.

“We unload the horses, get them in and get them settled. We leave the colour bag up to weigh-room for the jockeys. We make sure everything is in order and go back and get the horses prepared. Get the tack ready, clean the horses, clean the tack.

Close-knit community “Go up and throw the saddle on them about 30 minutes before every race.

“We walk them around up there and hopefully they run well. I just stand in the middle of the parade ring and watch the race from there. There is a big screen there and we get to relax for about three minutes. We finish tonight and we will back on the road at 8pm.

“We will be back at the yard at about 10.45 pm.

“I haven’t sampled the Galway night life in six years, because you’re up and down.

“But it doesn’t bother me because this is our life and it’s such a closely-knit community.

“That’s what makes it all the more difficult when you hear about John Thomas.

“He was a great man and will be missed.”