top APPRENTICE Adam McNamara knows what it takes to win one of York’s historic handicaps – he rode Heartbreak City to a memorable victory in last summer’s Ebor.
Now the 20-year-old is looking forward to the ride on Master Carpenter in today’s £200,000 John Smith’s Cup as the course specialist looks to replicate his famous success of 2015 under Phil Makin.
Two years ago, he had not even ridden his first race when Master Carpenter, trained in Devon by Rod Milman who enjoyed so much success with the legendary Sergeant Cecil, won a 10-furlong handicap that dates back to 1960.
Yet, thanks to his burgeoning association with Richard Fahey’s all-conquering Malton yard, the quietly-spoken Irishman is one of the ‘go-to’ apprentices in the county – particularly when it comes to big races at York.
Like the Tony Martin-trained Heartbreak City whose life came to a tragic end earlier this year when breaking a leg in a freak gallops accident, the first that the modest McNamara knew about today’s ride was when he saw his name ‘jocked up’.
“I couldn’t tell you how it came about,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “It came through my agent Richard Hale. He’s doing a great job and keeping me busy.”
However, on Flat racing’s ‘Super Saturday’ in which there are six significant cards vying for attention, it’s a plum ride on a durable horse that also won at York’s Dante meeting this May.
“I’d say he has a decent enough chance,” says McNamara. “He won the race two years ago and is two from two at York. He clearly likes the course which is a big plus.
“The ground is good to firm, maybe a bit on the sharp side and a couple of showers would help, and he’s a high draw (15 out of the 20 runners), but he’s a tough old horse and will be competitive. I would expect him to have every chance.
“Ten furlongs, plenty of pace, it’s a great test of a horse and rider.”
This was always going to be a season of transition for McNamara who made such a rapid impression last year that he didn’t even have time to learn to drive, and pass his driving test, until the winter.
After making a conscious decision not to ride on the all-weather from November to March in order to preserve his apprentice rider’s three pound weight allowance for big races like this, it’s taken time to renew contacts and connections. He’s the first to cite the “out of sight, out of mind” adage.
However, while two four-day suspensions for riding misdemeanours came at an inopportune time, McNamara is certainly more comfortable handling his weight thanks to a diet that involves “plenty of chicken”.
His bottom weight is 8st 9lb and he’s very confident that he won’t have to put up overweight this year because of his increased discipline and maturity as he becomes accustomed to a Flat rider’s life and the sacrifices entailed.
There’s no chance, however, of him switching to jumps, even though his girlfriend Megan is the daughter of top National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls. “Defintely not,” he says emphatically.
Nevertheless, he’s grateful for the opportunities being afforded to him by Fahey and speaks fondly about how the whole yard is basking in the success of stable star Ribchester who was an imperious winner of Royal Ascot’s Group One Queen Anne Stakes.
Now regarded as the best miler in Britain, possibly Europe, the champion is reportedly thriving on the attention and affection of staff, like McNamara, who are always giving him “extra pats”.
And while Paul Hanagan’s decision to return to Yorkshire and become number one jockey means less opportunities for riders down the pecking order at Fahey’s Musley Bank stables, McNamara welcomes the presence of the two-time champion jockey.
“That’s a big help,” says the young protégé who rides Gabrial’s Star and Jedi Master in two of York’s support races.
“Having a former champion jockey in the yard, and so willing to help the apprentices, is a bonus”, he added.
“It can only help moving forward.”
Favourite for the 58th John Smith’s Cup is Sixties Groove whose sire, Sixties Icon, won the 2006 St Leger at York when Doncaster – the traditional venue for Yorkshire’s Classic race – was being redeveloped.
Top French jockey Gerald Mosse will take the ride and trainer Jeremy Noseda reported last night: “The track, trip and likely fast-ish ground all should be suitable. He goes there with a very solid chance.”
Tim Easterby reports Snoano in good heart following his Royal meeting triumph at odds of 25-1 in the Wolferton Handicap as the Great Habton trainer attempts to get on the John Smith’s Cup roll of honour for the first time.
“He’s in great form and he should run well,” said Easterby. “Everything’s been good since Ascot, so it’s fingers crossed.”
On a competitive card, Roger Varian feels the John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes represents an excellent opportunity for Hardwicke Stakes runner-up Barsanti.
Having turned in a career-best effort when chasing home Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho in the Group Two at Royal Ascot, the Newmarket handler now hopes his charge can back that effort up in the Listed prize under Andrea Atzeni.
“Barsanti is in great form. He ran well at Ascot and he loves York as he has run well there previously. The ground will suit him as enjoys a sound surface,” said Varian.