Northern Ireland

JT McNamara: Paralysed jockey 'planned to retire'

JT McNamara was left paralysed following a fall at the Cheltenham Festival
Image caption JT McNamara was left paralysed following a fall at the Cheltenham Festival

JT McNamara, the Irish jockey paralysed after a fall at Cheltenham, was planning to retire from racing this summer, the BBC has learned.

The 37-year-old amateur fractured two vertebrae when his horse fell in a race at the festival last month.

Barry Potts, a trainer from Strabane in County Tyrone, was the jockey's best man at his wedding:

"I believe he was going to give up after the April meeting at Punchestown, unfortunately this happened," he said.

The annual Punchestown Festival will take place from 23 to 27 April.

"He's ridden over 600 point to point winners, I think he's ridden about 100 on the track as well - he's ridden in a lot of races.

"He got an awful slap on the ground. The horse hit the fence and drove him into the ground. You knew whenever he hit the ground and didn't move, which wasn't like him.

"I saw him taking plenty of falls and he would be hardy, but it was a dead slap he got.

"It is dangerous, there aren't many jobs where an ambulance follows you around. It makes you sick to your stomach, even now thinking about it makes you sick to your stomach."

The amateur jockey remains in hospital after suffering the fall during the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Mr Potts said his friend loved riding horses.

"He would ride horses all day - loved it, wouldn't matter how many horses he had to ride out, he would keep going, he was always very fit," he said.

"All through the summer he would be breaking horses as well."

Mr McNamara has been now told he is paralysed from the neck down.

"Hopefully that's just the worst case scenario that they've given him," Mr Potts said.

"Fingers crossed he'll get something moving. He's pretty strong-minded, he'll be determined."

Meanwhile, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has donated 200,000 euros to a fund for the jockey.

Mr O'Leary announced the gift after his horse Akorakor won a race at the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

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