WITH anticipation building nicely ahead of next week’s Cheltenham Festival, a new five-part documentary series, The Irish Road to Cheltenham, airs on RTE this Thursday night and features county Limerick jockey, Andrew McNamara.
The observational documentary follows Andrew from Croom, along with four other well-known jump jockeys throughout the 2012/2013 National Hunt season.
Their ultimate objective is to compete at the Cheltenham Festival – the ‘Olympics’ of National Hunt racing.
“I’m riding in three races. I don’t think any of my rides are going to be favourites so there isn’t a huge amount of pressure on. You are hoping something will click!” Andrew told the Leader this week.
The 29-year-old will ride South South West at the famous festival on Wednesday – the horse is owned by a syndicate from South’s Bar in Limerick city.
“I’m looking forward to him. He is in a handicap so it will be a big competitive race. There will be plenty in it with chances but hopefully he can put up a good show and be in with a chance,” he said.
Andrew who is known as Andy Mc in the weigh room, will feature on the documentary with jockeys Davy Russell (current National Hunt champion jockey), Nina Carberry, Andrew Lynch and Robert ‘Puppy’ Power.
The programme will give a unique insight into their lives and a glimpse into the physical and mental lengths they go to for their profession.
“They called out to Croom one day. I live in Clane in Kildare so they were watching me trying to lose a bit of weight. They went into trainers’ yards and to race meetings as well,” Andrew explained.
Andrew McNamara doesn’t fit the obvious profile of a jockey, standing at six feet tall, but he looked a natural in the saddle from the off.
His first winner was on La Captive for his father, Andrew Snr, in July 2002 and it was the 11 winners he had totalled by the end of the 2004 season that convinced him to turn his back on a promising career in the financial sector.
Over the years, Andrew has flourished through association with a number of trainers including Michael Hourigan and Edward O’Grady and he has enjoyed huge success at Cheltenham, the Irish Grand National, Lepordstown and Punchestown.
The Irish Road to Cheltenham in association with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) airs on RTÉ One this Thursday at 8.30pm.