The world of horseracing has been plunged into mourning with the tragic news of the death of former jockey John Thomas McNamara with former champion AP McCoy leading the tributes.
He was 41 years of age.
McNamara, who made his name as one of the finest amateur jockeys in the history of national hunt racing, fractured two vertebrae in his neck after being thrown from his horse Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup on March14 , 2013 at the Cheltenham festival and was paralysed from the neck down.
McNamara was initially treated in Britain following the Cheltenham fall before being transferred to the spinal unit of the Mater Hospital, Dublin and eventually moving to the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport.
We're devastated at Jackdaws to hear of the passing of JT, the greatest horseman I've ever known. Our thoughts are with Caroline and family.— Jonjo O'Neill (@JonjoONeill) July 26, 2016
Horse Racing Ireland extends deepest sympathies to the family of John Thomas McNamara, who passed away overnight. pic.twitter.com/NNg1d4sCQL— Horse Racing Ireland (@GoRacing) July 26, 2016
Our thoughts are with the friends & family of JT McNamara this morning after the news that he has sadly passed away pic.twitter.com/VnHGGKdgQj— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) July 26, 2016
He eventually returned to his County Limerick home last June and had begun to establish a training operation at his Croom yard, although he required constant care.
Racing pundit and trainer, Ted Walsh said JT was a “hard, tough man made of steel”.
He said the Cheltenham fall was “shocking”.
“He was riding a great horse and he caught the top of the fence and turned over and never moved and he never moved. For a moment, you thought it was an ordinary fall but then a hush came over the place as JT was serious injured and a helicopter came in. It was absolutely dreadful. I’ll never forget it,” Walsh said on RTE Radio One.
“I’m only on the outskirts but I knew him well. There was no weak side to him. He was a great fella who will be sadly missed. He was an inspiration to anyone who knew him,” Walsh said.
“We don’t appreciate our good heath every morning when we get up – every day you should think of that,” he added.
Retired jockey and world renowned sports figure AP McCoy said it was “a sad day for everyone in racing” and JT’s family.
“He was a brilliant rider,” McCoy said.
He recalled that on the day of JT’s fall, he looked over at JT’s spot in the Cheltenham weighing room.
“I remember looking over at his peg and seeing his clothes hanging up and to this day I can picture it in my head thinking ‘he’s never going to be back in here’. That’s something I’ll never forget,” McCoy said.
"JT brought a lot of people together.
“We’ll think of the positive things he brought. It is such a sad thing that happened – it is a sad day but John Thomas would like us to be positive about it and like us to think that he has done a lot of good and he has done that.”
McCoy acknowledged the death would cast a shadow over this week’s Galway Festival.
“I’ll think of him smiling each day and thinking about all those rides he gave horses. He was king of a lot of things,” McCoy said.
Andrew Coonan, secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association and a former amateur himself, paid tribute to McNamara's bravery in the face of such serious injury.
He said: "JT had battled very bravely for the last few years of his life. It was a very, very tough time for him and his family and to have lost him at this stage is shocking.