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Robbie McNamara goes pro after solving weight issues

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In March Robbie McNamara enjoyed a whirlwind two days at the Cheltenham Festival, sporting the Dr Ronan Lambe colours of Majestic Concorde and Lord Windermere to victory on Weld's Silver Concorde in the Champion Bumper. Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

In March Robbie McNamara enjoyed a whirlwind two days at the Cheltenham Festival, sporting the Dr Ronan Lambe colours of Majestic Concorde and Lord Windermere to victory on Weld's Silver Concorde in the Champion Bumper. Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

In March Robbie McNamara enjoyed a whirlwind two days at the Cheltenham Festival, sporting the Dr Ronan Lambe colours of Majestic Concorde and Lord Windermere to victory on Weld's Silver Concorde in the Champion Bumper. Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Dual Cheltenham Festival-winning amateur rider Robbie McNamara will fulfil a long-held ambition to turn professional this weekend.

McNamara, who is most closely associated with the Dermot Weld stable, has been one of the leading practitioners in the unpaid ranks over the past 10 years, riding nearly 150 winners.

At 6ft 3in tall, the distinctly composed 26-year-old's opportunities have in general been limited to horses carrying 11st 7lb or more, yet he is recognised as a fantastic talent with a panache that belies his long figure.

"I applied for the licence during the week and just got the go-ahead for this weekend - I'm looking forward to it," McNamara told Racing FM yesterday.

"I'd have turned professional four or five years ago if my weight would have allowed. I worked hard on it the last year and got the weight down, and that's the main reason that has allowed me to turn professional."

In 2010, McNamara, brother of leading professional Andrew and the Limerick trainer of the same name, rode Weld's Majestic Concorde to victory in Leopardstown's Paddy Power Chase.

He nearly took the plunge to go pro this time last year, only for a fall that left him with a broken collarbone to put the notion on ice. The injury also denied him the mount on Jim Culloty's subsequent Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

In March, though, McNamara enjoyed a whirlwind two days at the Cheltenham Festival, sporting the Dr Ronan Lambe colours of Majestic Concorde and Lord Windermere to victory on Weld's Silver Concorde in the Champion Bumper.

A day later, he rode a peach of a race from the front to double-up on Culloty's Lambe-owned Spring Heeled in the Kim Muir Chase.

It was in the 2013 Kim Muir that JT McNamara suffered the fall that left him paralysed from the neck down, and Robbie McNamara admitted that his cousin's plight ultimately led him to reassess his commitment to the chore of managing his weight.

After matters came to a head when he missed a win on Notable Graduate at the 2013 Galway Festival when he would have had to do 4lbs over on 11st 12lb, McNamara eventually quashed talk of retirement by resolving to make the most of what he had.

He has stabilised his weight and rode at 11st 7lb for a second time this year at Naas recently, while he did 11st 5lb for Silver Concorde at Cheltenham.

However, he incurred a five-day ban for doing two pounds over his allotted 11st 6lb on Spring Heeled the next day, which serves to illustrate the daily battle that he faces with the scales.

A busier schedule will help in that regard, and he is undoubtedly another massively exciting addition to the paid ranks after recent switches by Mikey Fogarty and Johnny Burke.

Given McNamara's links with Lambe, Weld and Culloty, it will be fascinating to see how that particular scenario unfolds, as Weld is understood to have arranged for dual champion Davy Russell to ride his jumpers this term.

Life as a professional can be notoriously fickle, a point emphasised by Jamie Spencer's admission that his decision to retire at the end of the year only came about after Qatar Racing's Sheikh Fahad informed him that his contract would not be renewed.

Meanwhile, AP McCoy, the benchmark for every aspiring professional, has pencilled in next Wednesday for his return after taking time off to recover from a couple of heavy falls.

More Of That will be among his mounts at Newbury's Hennessy meeting in the days that follow. Barry Geraghty, who rode Jonjo O'Neill's charge to World Hurdle glory in March, has again been booked by O'Neill to deputise for McCoy tomorrow, when he rides Taquin Du Seuil against the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Dynaste and Menorah in Haydock's Betfair Chase.

Irish Independent