Hailing from Limerick, Ireland amateur jockey JT McNamara was an incredibly National Hunt jockey amongst his peers and so it was devastating to everybody in the racing industry when a fall at Cheltenham in March 2013, when riding Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup resulted in life threatening injuries.
Having been put in an induced coma following the fall, it transpired that McNamara has suffered two fractured vertebrae resulting in paralysis from the neck down and since then the racing community and the general public have been doing their utmost to show their support and raise much needed funds for him.
Michael O'Leary, the head of Ryanair and a well known racing enthusiast donated 200,000 euros to a fund for McNamara when his horse won the Irish Grand National in April. This was then followed up by an extremely well co-ordinated auction at Jackdaws Castle in Cheltenham which took place in June of this year.
The auction was fronted by Jonjo O'Neill and organisers managed to rustle up some incredible lots including tours of Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O'Neill's and Willie Mullins yards as well as lunch and a rugby match with Zara Philips, executive seats at Old Trafford and even a walk of the Grand National course with lunch and passes for the Becher Chase at Aintree.
The lots were split into two categories – those that could be bid on on the night as well as those that could be bid on silently via email – and with a sell-out crowd of 430 packing themselves into the Gold Cup room at Cheltenham, the night was a roaring success, with JP McManus paying £20,000 for a painting of McNamara aboard one of his horses.
During the evening JT's wife spoke on his behalf saying “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.”
Huge credit goes to Sophia Upton at Jackdaws Castle for her incredible organisation skills and for getting the auction together with her colleagues. At the time she said final figures could approach £90,000 but I've spoken to her since and she's now thrilled to say that the figure has gone up and up and is now at nearly £115K.