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€800k raised at charity day for JT and Jonjo


 The jockeys at Limerick Racecourse. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

The jockeys at Limerick Racecourse. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

The jockeys at Limerick Racecourse. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

A CROWD of more than 10,500 people helped raise in the region of €800,000 yesterday alone at the hugely successful Charity Raceday at Limerick Racecourse in aid of the Injured Jockeys Emergency Fund.

Headlined by some of the top jockeys around at the moment in both Britain and Ireland over jumps and on the flat, the afternoon in aid of amateur jockeys John Thomas McNamara and Jonjo Bright was an overwhelming success.

Indeed, it would be fair to say that the action on the racecourse was almost secondary to everything else that was going on with the likes of Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Johnny Murtagh, Kieren Fallon and many more taking time out to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans young and old.

But on the track, Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud won the opening race of the day with Devil's Bride for Willie Mullins, and O'Leary set a tone that was widely followed by donating his winning prize-money to the fund.

There were a number of particularly fitting winning connections on the day and after the opener, Patrick Mullins, who rode alongside JT and Jonjo on many occasions, commented: "It's great to have a winner here today. He was the only horse that really suited the races on the card but it was important to have a runner."

JP McManus had a winner courtesy of the Ron O'Leary-trained One Fine Morning at a meeting that would have been very close to his heart, and afterwards the owner said: "It's a wonderful day and wonderful to be here.

"Everyone has played their part at some level. A lot of people have put a lot of work into the day and there are thousands of people who wouldn't normally be here on a Monday who've made the effort to be here – JT is not here but he's not forgotten."

Both Gordon Elliott and Denis Cullen, who would have soldiered alongside and against JT and become very good friends with him over many years, both enjoyed winners on the card courtesy of Goal and Sebadee respectively.

Elliott said: "It's been a great turn-out and a great day and I'm glad for the people who put it together. I would have known JT and we'd have been friends since I was very young."

Cullen was one of JT's last visitors at the Mater Hospital over the weekend before he was moved across to Merseyside and he revealed that the Limerick native was "in tremendous form".

"I was in to see him on Sunday and he was in tremendous form and was looking forward to getting moved. There is a gang of us going over in November so hopefully we will get to see him then.

"JT is tough and he will stay at it and things will go well for him hopefully."

The massive crowd that made the trip to Limerick and those who watched at home were treated to a finish worthy of any stage at Cheltenham or Punchestown as Tony McCoy and Barry Geraghty fought out the finish of the 2m6f handicap hurdle. The thriller was edged by McCoy aboard Mick Winters' Jansboy, who defied top weight and the challenge of locally trained Friendly Society who was denied by a short head.

McCoy said: "Obviously this day is for a great cause and it feels special to be able to ride a winner on a day like today because it's going to the two lads – Jonjo and John Thomas."