I didn’t know JT McNamara, but I respect what he did. He jumped fences at speed on tons of straining horse flesh in the most fervent of arenas. He made horses win that others couldn’t. And by all accounts, he was one of the good guys. And that makes it harder.
For the record – the ghastly, horrible, remorseless goddamn record – Galaxy Rock fell at the first fence of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival in 2013. JT was speared into the turf and sustained life-threatening injuries, including fractures to his C3 and C4 vertebrae. That he fought so valiantly for over three years, when everything was telling him and possibly others around him to stop, is nothing short of astonishing. He died on Monday night at the age of 41.
I remember a telephone call to my bookmaker the day after his accident to say that I didn’t want the money from Salsify’s absurd victory in the Foxhunters, and that if they paid it to the Injured Jockeys Fund would they match it themselves? I couldn’t square my outrageous fortune with JT’s misfortune; the winnings seemed somehow tainted and ugly. They kindly agreed, but it didn’t help. My guilt was not written off by a small financial gesture, and more importantly, it didn’t help JT recover.
I used to think that the price my soul would pay for watching horse racing was that some horses die. Sure, I lost money, but that was nothing compared to the bigger issues. Horses die when and because I watch horse racing. God I feel bad about that, and I’m not religious. But of course some jockeys die too, and now JT McNamara has died because I watch horse racing. It really is as simple as that. I don’t know what else to say. I am so sorry to his family and friends.
I know he didn’t ride horses in my name or colours. But I feel responsible because I perpetuate, in some small part, the industry in which he thrived, and died. I feel shit tonight, but nowhere near as much as those that knew and loved him. Rest in peace, John Thomas McNamara.