THERE were heartwarming scenes at Limerick Racecourse this week when jockey JT McNamara attended his first race meeting since sustaining serious injuries in a horrific fall at Cheltenham in 2013.
The popular Croom man enjoyed the action from the hospitality suite of Greenmount Park on Monday when the Enda Bolger-trained My Hometown romped to victory in the opening maiden hurdle.
It was a special moment for all involved as the horse was named after a Bruce Springsteen song, which the singer dedicated to JT during his unforgettable concert at Thomond Park in July 2013.
“JT was in great spirits – all his friends and jockeys called to see him. It was a major milestone for him and for everyone. It was a great day at the races,” said Enda this week.
“It’s not often when you name these horses that they work out the way he [My Hometown] has done.” JP McManus, the horse’s owner, was at the concert when the moving tribute was made by Springsteen (a video can still be watched on the Limerick Leader website). JP decided there and then that he wanted to name a horse after the song title.
There was a huge outpouring of support in Limerick for JT, a father-of-three, his wife Caroline and his extended family after he received a serious neck injury during the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
According to JT’s uncle, Andrew McNamara Snr, he thoroughly enjoyed his day out at Limerick Races this week and is in great spirits.
“Most of the jockeys went to see him. He loved his day out. He is doing great. He loves the racing – he watches it all. He is out at his stables nearly every day now,” he explained.
“He was in a hospitality suite for the races and had a steady stream of visitors. He had 30 or 40 visitors up to see him.”
JT returned home to County Limerick for the first time since the accident last June after receiving intensive treatment at the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport, Merseyside.
The uplifting news of how JT and My Hometown are progressing so well has even reached Bruce Springsteen himself.
“Bruce knows about My Hometown. We keep him posted about all the horses that are running,” said Enda Bolger who is good friends with The Boss.
The Bruree-based trainer enjoyed great success at the four-day Limerick festival which began on St Stephen’s Day when his exciting prospect Gilgamboa enhanced his reputation with a terrific display in the featured Grade 2 Shannon Airport Novice Chase.
“He put up a great performance and we were over the moon with him. He may go for the Arkle Chase at Leopardstown,” said Enda of the horse which is named after Bruce Springsteen’s security detail.
Meanwhile, another one of his charges, Federici, which again has a Springsteen connection - it’s named after the late Danny Federici who played keyboard for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band - narrowly missed out in the Memorial Handicap Chase on Saturday.
“Federici just hit a fence at the wrong time - it may or may not have cost him but we were delighted with him. He won’t be seen now until later on in the spring time when the ground dries out a bit better.”
Over 30,000 people enjoyed “four fantastic days of racing” at Limerick Racecourse over the Christmas holidays. “It was certainly a success,” said Conor O’Neill, general manager of the course.