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Published: 08:48 | 26/7/16

JT McNamara passes away

Amateur jockey was 41

Former amateur jockey JT McNamara has died at the age of 41.

McNamara, who was widely regarded as one of the best amateur jockeys the sport has known, was left paralysed from the neck down when he fractured two vertebrae in his neck after being thrown from his horse Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.

It is understood he experienced complications on Friday night and was transferred to University Hospital Limerick before being discharged to spend his final days at home.

In a statement Adrian McGoldrick, senior medical officer for the Irish Turf Club said: "On behalf of the Irish Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, I wish to confirm the death of John Thomas McNamara. I would like to offer our sincerest sympathy to his wife Caroline and their children Dylan, Harry and Olivia on their sad loss. Our prayers and thoughts are with them and with John Thomas and Caroline’s extended families at this time."

During his career McNamara rode over 600 winners and was a four-time Cheltenham Festival winner, partnering Rith Dubh and Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase in 2002 and 2012 respectively. He also guided Spot Thedifference to victory in the 2005 Cross-County Chase and Drombea to the 2007 Fox Hunter Chase.

McNamara partnered the Enda Bolger-trained Spot Thedifference to 11 of his 14 victories under Rules, including seven races at Cheltenham and the trainer has paid tribute to his fried.

"It's a sad day. He fought a great battle," Bolger told Press Association Sport.

"He was one of those guys who only ever said three words but none would do. He was very unassuming and just a great person to have anything to do with.

"We had a lot of great days together and those are what I'll remember him for.

"He was an incredible horseman. I would say he was more of a horseman than a jockey."

The trainer added: "I remember him winning the big amateur riders' race on the Flat in Galway and that was a great feather in his cap as riding over fences was really his forte.

"He rode some very good horses in bumpers as well, including Like-A-Butterfly, who went on to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

"He had an unbelievable record in Cheltenham. I think the Kim Muir was the only amateur race he didn't manage to win.

"He was a great guy and a great jockey and he'll be sorely missed.

"I know the last three years have been hell for him and his family and if there is a heaven, he'll be the first one in, that's for sure."

Tributes have poured in for McNamara with many jockeys and training expressing their condolences through social media.

Jonjo O'Neill said: "We're devastated at Jackdaws to hear of the passing of JT, the greatest horseman I've ever known. Our thoughts are with Caroline and family."

Trainer David Pipe tweeted: "Terribly sad news. Sincerest condolences to friends and family."

Jockey Aidan Coleman wrote on Twitter: "Very sad to hear the news about JT great jockey and great man. Thoughts with he's family at this time #RIPJT #inspiration #courage"

Speaking to At The Races, Mick Fitzgerald said: "The only thing I can say about him is he was a real fighter. That fall that he had, many people thought he would never recover from it, but he defied everybody.

"He's a real inspiration to a lot of people. He always had a smile and a wicked sense of humour.

"Every time I think about him, it makes me smile and I think that's the greatest thing you can say about anybody.

"It makes me realise how lucky I am.

"All he ever wanted was to be there for his family and he just loved being home. The greatest thing of all is he was able to do that for the last few years of his life.

"I can't speak highly enough of him and there's not a single person who will have a bad word to say about the man.

"It breaks my heart to think of his family, as this will be a tough time for them.

"I'm just privileged to have known him."

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