LEGENDARY jockey Sir AP McCoy has led the tributes to leading amateur rider JT McNamara who has died three years after being left paralysed by a fall at the Cheltenham Festival.
McNamara, who was 41, fractured two vertebrae in his neck when Galaxy Rock came down at the first fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the showcase meeting in March 2013.
Renowned as one of the best amateur riders the sport has ever seen, McNamara partnered over 600 winners during his career, including four winners at the National Hunt Festival.
McNamara, who is survived by his wife Caroline and children Dylan, Harry and Olivia, passed away during Monday night at his family’s home in Ireland.
He spent more than a year in hospital after his fall and McCoy, the now retired 20-times champion, was a regular visitor to his bedside.
He recalled being in the weighing room at Cheltenham when news of McNamara’s accident emerged. “I remember looking over and seeing his clothes hanging up and thinking ‘he’ll never be back in here’, and that’s not something I’ll ever forget,” said McCoy.
“It’s a very sad day for everyone in racing. He was a remarkable man. He was a little bit like me - he could be grumpy enough at times, but was very good humoured.
“He was fantastic, a brilliant rider. I said this morning that watching his ride on Rith Dubh at the Cheltenham Festival was as good as you’ll ever see.”
Former leading jockey Mick Fitzgerald was forced to retire from the saddle after suffering a serious neck injuries when suffering a fall from L’Ami in the 2008 Grand National.
He said: “The only thing I can say about him is he was a real fighter. That fall that he had, many people thought he would never recover from it, but he defied everybody. Every time I think about him, it makes me smile and I think that’s the greatest thing you can say about anybody. It makes me realise how lucky I am.”