Garda James in the hunt for glory at Cheltenham
NEXT week's Cheltenham Festival will feature a garda amongst the runners and riders competing at the biggest meeting in national hunt racing.
Father-of-two Garda James Fenton (37), from Fermoy, Co Cork, will achieve a lifetime's ambition when he competes during the world famous national hunt festival.
Garda Fenton hopes to raise thousands of euro for cancer research when he takes part in the St Patrick's Day Derby, a charity race on March 14.
"It would have been a dream of mine (to race at Cheltenham). I was always sporty as a child," he explained.
"I wanted to play in Croke Park and to ride at Cheltenham. I never got to Croke Park but I'll give Cheltenham a fair crack."
The garda has been slotting in a strict training regime including hours of running, cycling and riding out point-to-point horses for his trainer uncle David Fenton and trainer Pat Flynn in addition to his work at Dungarvan station in Co Waterford.
His family and wife Joanne encouraged him to enter the race to raise money for Cancer Research UK after she lost her aunt to cancer.
He admitted the strenuous fitness schedule has meant he has not had time to consider his nerves. He has been travelling to the Curragh to use the racehorse simulator there twice a week and has missed spending time with his children, Sarah (2) and six-week-old Noelle.
"I was about 12 stone two pounds when I started. I'm down to 11 stone one pound now. I'm not putting myself under pressure . . . I'm not crash dieting, just eating healthy and proper workouts."
The charity race jockey will ride a mare – Rosie's Lady known as the 'Charity Horse' – trained in the UK by his friend David O'Meara, originally from Fermoy.
The mare is owned by a syndicate, Postracing Limited, who have donated the monies from her two winnings so far to good causes. "It is the chance of a lifetime – first or last I don't care and I'll get to experience it," he added.
"People have been so good – there is such a recession and people haven't that much money but when it comes to something like this they'll support you."
The garda is just one of 12 riders taking part in the St Patrick's Day Derby – which has raised €750,000 (£650,000) so far for Cancer Research. Other riders in the race include Navan-born solicitor Grainne Loughnane and Irish-born presenter for a French racing channel Sally Ann Grassick.
More information on donating can be found at www.justgiving.com/ James-B-Fenton.