McNamara to swap 'dream' job for new career in training
Cheltenham Festival-winning rider Andrew McNamara has announced that he will hang up his riding boots at Tramore this weekend.
The 32-year-old, whose 15 Grade One successes included a famous Queen Mother Champion Chase triumph aboard the John Murphy-trained Newmill in 2006, is to embark on a training career. A son of the Croom, Co Limerick trainer of the same name, McNamara's brother Robbie has been paralysed from the waist down since a fall over hurdles at Wexford in April.
Tragically, their cousin JT McNamara is paralysed from the neck down since a March 2013 fall at Cheltenham.
However, McNamara, who is 6ft tall, said of his decision: "People might think I am retiring due to (their) injuries but I have had back trouble plaguing me and between my height and keeping my weight right I am now moving on to what I always wanted to do - training. I wanted to go out winning the Galway Hurdle on Hidden Cyclone, but I couldn't do the weight."
McNamara is recognised as an intelligent and highly skilled horseman, not to mention a supremely stylish rider. He won the 2010 Irish Grand National aboard James Motherway's Bluesea Cracker, and also enjoyed big-race glory on Beef Or Salmon and Sizing Europe. "Newmill, on his day, was a great horse," McNamara reflected. "Winning a Champion Chase was a great thrill. I only got on Beef Or Salmon in the twilight of his career, but the days he beat War Of Attrition and The Listener he got a great reception walking back in.
"Sizing Europe was obviously an exceptional horse; winning the Irish Champion Hurdle on him was up there with a Queen Mother on Newmill. I've loved it. Growing up, I thought I'd be too big and heavy to be a jockey, but I've lived my dream."
McNamara began his career on the point-to-point circuit 15 years ago before turning professional in 2004. He has ridden almost 500 winners, although his ammunition hasn't been what it used to be, with last season's 25-winner tally his lowest yield since his first as a professional. He has had one win from 47 rides this term, while his polished performances in a new role as a roving reporter for RTé's televised racing production have been well received.
McNamara has one ride aboard John 'Shark' Hanlon's Most Honourable at Tramore tonight. He lives in Co Westmeath and will begin his new venture there. "I'm renting some stables at Dot Love's yard," he explained. "She is pre-training all the Gigginstown horses so the facilities are second to none. In that respect, I'll be better off than if I was starting off somewhere else."
Hanlon said of the development: "I kind of expected it, to be honest, and if it wasn't for Hidden Cyclone it might have been sooner. It has been a tough time for his family. He has got the brains, he's one of those that would be a success at whatever he does."
Meanwhile, Classic heroes Gleneagles and Golden Horn are among 10 left in Wednesday's International at York, while Gleneagles' trainer Aidan O'Brien is responsible for nine of the 13 entries for the same card's Great Voltigeur Stakes.