DOCTORS have issued an update on the condition of injured amateur jockey JT McNamara, stating that while vertebral damage remains serious he has not suffered a brain injury.
McNamara has been in an induced coma since a fall at the Cheltenham Festival last week since when messages of support have flooded in for the 37-year-old father of three.
The statement was issued jointly by Dr Adrian McGoldrick, senior medical officer at the Turf Club, and Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund on behalf of the McNamara Family.
It read: “JT McNamara remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol. He is in a stable condition and his level of sedation is being reduced.
“Whilst his vertebral damage remains serious, he has not suffered a brain injury. His wife Caroline and family very much appreciate all the messages, cards and letters that have been received. There will be no further update this week. McNamara, a winner four times at the festival, was hurt when his mount Galaxy Rock fell at the first fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. Racing was delayed for 30 minutes as McNamara was airlifted to Frenchay
Downpatrick falls to weather
Yesterdays meeting at Downpatrick had to be called off due to a waterlogged track. The fixture was set to feature the Toals Bookmakers Ulster Grand National EBF Handicap Chase, but heavy rain meant the track was not fit for action.
Horse Racing Ireland tweeted: “Following a mid-morning inspection after very extensive rain Downpatrick on Sunday 24th March has now been cancelled.”
A replacement meeting will be staged at Downpatrick on Wednesday, April 3. The new fixture will close for entries on March 27, with declarations to run to be made by 10am on April 2. The time of the first race will be 3.35pm. Full details of the programme of races will be announced early next week.
Tofino enters National picture
Dessie Hughes is keen to run Cheltenham Festival runner-up Tofino Bay in the John Smith’s Grand National next month. The improving 10-year-old novice was headed close home and went down by half a length to Back In Focus in the National Hunt Chase last week and Aintree is now under consideration.
Hughes told At The Races: “I’ll have to speak to Mr (Michael) O’Leary (owner). I’d be anxious to run in the English National.”
A decision has yet to be made over the future of three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Albertas Run, but he will not be running in the National. There was talk among his connections after he was pulled up in the Ryanair Chase that he may have run his last race.
The 12-year-old, twice a winner of the Ryanair and also the 2008 RSA Chase for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner Trevor Hemmings, was making his first start of the campaign.
Hemmings’ racing manager Mick Meagher said: “There’s no point rushing into anything, but what I can tell you is that he has been taken out of the National.” Another who will not be running in the showpiece event is the Charlie Longsdon-trained Frisco Depot, who fell in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.
“He’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with him, but he’s not running in the National this year,” said Longsdon.
“He’s not had a good preparation for a race like that but I hope he’ll go there next year. I can’t understand how he’s fallen twice this year because he’s a brilliant jumper at home. For some reason in a race he just has a habit of making a mistake.”
Warne lined up for Aintree run
Northern Ireland trainer Brian Hamilton is hoping Warne can bowl his rivals over in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintreeon April 4. Hamilton believes his nine-year-old has plenty going for him when he tackles the unique fences over two miles five and a half furlongs.
Warne showed he was ready for this test when beating Tammys Hill at Fairyhouse last month. “The plan is to run Warne. He has been in very good form since his win at Fairyhouse and we decided straight after to let him take his chance at Aintree,” said Hamilton.
“The reason we did not go to Cheltenham with him is because three miles two and a half furlongs is too far for him. He is quite trip dependent and that is why we planned to go to Aintree - we never even thought about going to Cheltenham.
“The three miles at Leopardstown was too far for him. He travelled as well as Salsify and Tammys Hill, but jumped the second-last and fell in a hole. An extended two and a half miles is his ideal trip.
“He has plenty of pace and travels well through his races, and better ground will definitely benefit him as well. He is a very good jumper - quick and accurate - and I am hoping he gives a good account of himself. If he jumps round, he would have to have a good chance.”
Last year’s winner Cloudy Lane, trained by Donald McCain, is among 35 entries for this year’s renewal. Other potential runners with winning course form include 2008 Topham Chase hero Gwanako and Silver Adonis, who was the shock 50-1 winner of this prize in 2010. Willie Mullins’ Boxer Georg may bid to go one better than in 2011, when he was narrowly denied by Baby Run.
Aintree back on Sprinter radar
Sprinter Sacre could step up in trip at Aintree for his next race after routing the opposition in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Trainer Nicky Henderson has revealed connections have discussed the possibility of the John Smith’s Melling Chase on April 5 being the next race for the brilliant two-miler.
The Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown over two miles on April 23, which was named as his likely next target after his Cheltenham romp, still remains an option, as does the Celebration Chase at Sandown on April 27.
“We have given this quite a lot of consideration over the last few days as to where we go from here. Aintree is that week quicker this year than it was last year, but consequently we have sort of not ruled out going to Aintree,” the Seven Barrows handler told At The Races.
“We might try him over two and a half (miles), which would open up a few extra avenues for next year. He has got this hugely high cruising speed and the faster he goes, the better he probably jumps.
“When you are holding him up behind horses you are just containing his enthusiasm and his natural talent, which is to go and bowl and jump and attack.
“I’d think it might be a good idea. We’ve discussed it at length this week. We haven’t said definitely it’s what we are going to do. We were thinking of Punchestown and there’s also the Celebration Chase at Sandown on the final day (of the season). So we have got three options.
“You’d imagine he would only take up one, but he may do two. He’s only had three races this season and you’d have to conclude, without being too complacent, that he hasn’t had too many hard races. Therefore we would like to appear again.
“He looks great. His coat was fantastic going into Cheltenham. We’ve still got another fortnight to go before Aintree and we’ll monitor it, but our thoughts at the moment are leaning towards that.”
Punchestown anticipate top Festival
Officials at Punchestown are relishing the prospect of what could be the best ever staging of the Festival in terms of the quality of horses expected to line up over the five days. Connections of eight of the 12 Cheltenham Grade One winners (including at least three of the four championship scorers) and nine of the runners-up are considering a trip to Punchestown.
And at least 14 of the overall 27 Cheltenham winners could be heading to Ireland’s top jumps meeting, among them the brilliant Sprinter Sacre, who trainer Nicky Henderson is aiming at theBoylesports.com Champion Chase on April 23.
Punchestown general manager Dick O’Sullivan said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that we’re gearing up to what promises to be one of the best ever Punchestown Festivals.
“Not in living memory have we known so many of the star names from the Cheltenham Festival due to come on to Punchestown and we are building up to any number of mouthwatering clashes throughout the five days.
“Things can change in the coming weeks but at the moment it looks like we could have the successful horses from over half of the 27 races at Cheltenham coming to Punchestown and, remarkably, as many as eight of the 12 Grade One winners.
“I am sure jump racing fans from across Ireland and the UK will want to come and watch such established stars as Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly and Quevega, as well as some of the big names of the future like Our Conor.”
Camelot given Tattersalls entry
As we welcome the new flat season last year’s dual Derby hero Camelot features among 35 horses entered for the Tattersalls Gold Cup at Leopardstown on May 26. Aidan O’Brien’s four-year-old also landed the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before his Triple Crown bid came unstuck when a three-quarter-length second to Encke in the St Leger.
Camelot is one of a clutch of entries for the Ballydoyle team along with the likes of Declaration Of War, Oaks winner Was, Imperial Monarch, St Nicholas Abbey and recent recruit Most Improved. Godolphin have plenty of contenders including Dubai World Cup hope Hunter’s Light, reigning World Cup champion Monterosso, Masterstroke and multiple Dubai winner Sajjhaa.
Jim Bolger’s Parish Hall is on the list after missing all of last season, while Ed Dunlop has Hong Kong hero Red Cadeaux and new American recruit Unbridled Command in the reckoning at this stage. Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem, the Dermot Weld-trained Sapphire and Tommy Carmody’s Ursa Major are also entered.