ROOKIE rider Adam McNamara’s horsemanship on Heartbreak City in the Betfred Ebor was likened to a teenage Lester Piggott by elated trainer Tony Martin after this fairytale win.
The 19-year-old Malton jockey was nerveless in Europe’s richest Flat handicap, taking a pull at the two-furlong mark because he did not want to hit the front too soon on this hold-up horse who has now won at successive Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festivals.
Having said beforehand he would follow others, like Brian Ellison’s Seamour, into the race before coming up the middle of the home straight, McNamara did not deviate one inch from this tactical masterpiece despite Heartbreak City galloping with free-flowing fluency.
It capped a remarkable rise to prominence for the talented teenager who only rode his first winner in January – and who always dreamt of winning the Ebor after spending family holidays on York’s hallowed Knavesmire.
His victory prompted some of the most raucous celebrations in the history of the illustrious race, the aptly-named Here For The Craic Partnership of owners jumping for joy with Olympic-like zest before announcing that their return to Ireland would be delayed to ensure the celebrations did justice to a win like no other.
Indeed it was an eagle-eyed Aidan Shiels, one of the co-owners, who had spotted the blessed McNamara’s blossoming talent earlier this year and persuaded the horse’s trainer to speak to Richard Fahey, the jockey’s Yorkshire trainer, to discuss the five-pound claimer’s availability.
“The young man on him was sheer brilliance. Two down, Lester Piggott wouldn’t have been as good. It was a brilliant performance by the lad,” said County Meath-based Martin, whose stablemate Quick Jack was third just behind the runner-up, Shrewd.
“I was screaming at him to hold on to him, but he must have the patience of Lester Piggott to do that at his age.
“The owners wanted him to ride in Chester (Chester Cup), so it’s been a long time in planning, but I never confirmed it until I spoke to Richard Fahey and he was so good.
“We have to give a lot of credit to Richard Fahey, I owe him a big one. Poor Quick Jack was slow coming out of the stalls, so credit to Oisin (Orr). He gave him a lovely ride.”
As for the winning rider, he is unlikely to let the emotion and adulation to go to his head. He later admitted that his quiet confidence masked big race nerves.
No wonder there was an emotional embrace with his tearful mother in the winner’s enclosure before McNamara credited the input of top jockey-cum-trainer Johnny Murtagh, who has become a role model and a guiding light.
“I was acting a little calmer than I was,” said McNamara.
“When I turned in I was tracking Seamour and when I got to the two-furlong pole I knew I was going to win.
“He travelled there brilliantly, I was scared to look around – I was looking up at the big screen but they weren’t showing the race so I panicked a little bit then.
“When I crossed the line it was such a relief. If I could tell you one race I wanted to win, this is it. After coming here with my family for the last three years, I was with Johnny Murtagh when Mutual Regard (2014) won it – it means so much to me, I can’t explain it – and I spoke to Johnny beforehand about what to do. He filled me with confidence.”
McNamara’s first ride at the Ebor festival was the 32nd and most significant of a burgeoning career.
The first winner since Peter Easterby’s legendary 1979 victor Sea Pigeon to be allotted more than 9st 4lb, the first three horses were all ridden by promising apprentices (Clifford Lee was on the runner-up, Shrewd).
The Betfred Cesarewitch is the next target for Heartbreak City, whose win came less than a month after a famous victory over hurdles at the Galway festival.
By the time of the Newmarket race on August 8, winning connections might just have their feet back on the ground.
The final day of the Ebor Festival was notable for jockey William Buick’s treble, the highlight being Blue Point’s emphatic win in the Gimcrack Stakes.
This Goldolphin two-year-old looks to be a star of the future, though he’s more likely to feature in Group One sprints rather than develop into a Guineas horse.
“That was a very good performance, he got a lead for a little bit but his cruising speed is so high it’s hard to get a lead for as long as you want. He’s one of the best two-year-olds I’ve ridden,” said Buick.
The one disappointment was the total attendance of 84,105 racegoers. Five per cent down on last year, bad weather was blamed.
However, this should not detract from Adam McNamara and this most heart-warming of successes.