Adam McNamara's meteoric rise in the saddle

Adam McNamara's meteoric rise in the saddle

AFTER the race, winning trainer Tony Martin said the winning ride was one of the legendary Lester Piggott would have been proud of.

High praise indeed for teenage Limerick apprentice jockey Adam McNamara.

The 19-year-old from Meanus has been busy accumulating winners and enhancing his status as one of the discoveries of the racing year in England.

McNamara enjoyed the biggest day of his career last month when partnering Heartbreak City to triumph in Europe’s richest Flat handicap, the stg£280,000 Betfred Ebor at York.

McNamara oozed confidence on the Martin-trained gelding before letting the 15/2 shot loose inside the final two furlongs, with the winner then going on score by four lengths.

Afterwards winning trainer Martin gushed over McNamara’s performance: ”The young man on him was sheer brilliance. Two down, Lester Piggott wouldn't have been as good. It was a brilliant performance by the lad.

“I was screaming at him to hold on to him, but he must have the patience of Lester Piggott to do that at his age."

Winning jockey McNamara, son of Martin and Rachel, is based with top leading handler Richard Fahey in Yorkshire. The Limerick teenager only rode his first winner in January, on Summerinthecity at Chelmsford.

McNamara, who has ridden 40 winners in his breakout season in Britain after moving over from Ireland is 5’ 7” tall and can do 8st 7lb.

 So how did his love affir with horses begin for the articulate Limerickman?

“I started playing polocrosse in Athlacca aged about 13. There is a club there. I fell in love with horses really. Before I knew it I was in a point-to-point yard riding out a couple of racehorses. It stuck with me then.

“That was for John Gleeson. I just rode out for him. Any time I wasn't in school I was in his yard.”

Trainer Gleeson knew McNamara had the potential to be a top class horseman from the time he arrived in his yard.

“Adam was going to school when he came to me, probably in his Junior Cert year. He was very clever on a horse.

“He was tidy in the saddle, had something about him, something you cannot buy.”

After spending time with in John Gleeson’s yard, McNamara moved to John Murtagh’s stables in Kildare.

McNamara said: “I was apprentice with Johnny Murtagh for a year from 2014 until the end of 2015. I had nine rides and I didn't have a winner.

“I gained a lot of experience at Johnny Murtagh's yard and the rides I had for him set me up for a move over here to England.

“I went to Richard Fahey's yard for the school holidays in 2013. It was for the summer. John Gleeson sent me over. It was my plan to come back after I got some experience at home.”

Fahey’s stables in North Yorkshire is one of the best nurseries in England for Flat jockeys – it was from there that Paul Hanagan rose through the ranks to become a two-time champion jockey.

McNamara settled in quickly to his new surrounds just outside Malton town.

“It is nearly 50% staff over here at Richard Fahey’s yard. There are a lot of Irish lads there working here.

“At the end of last year I moved full-time to Richard Fahey's yard. Being there before I knew all the lads that were there. It is like a second home, I feel I have fitted in very well. 

“All the lads I am living with there are more or less like my family at this stage.

“I ride out every morning. We start at 6.30am. Depending on what time I am going racing, I would ride out three or four horses every morning, maybe more.

“I don't drive at the minute, so I am hitching lifts, trains and horse boxes and anyway I can manage. 

“My first winner was at the end of January (January 21) at Chelmsford on a horse called Summer in the City for Richard. It was unbelievable.

“My only goal at the start of the year really was to ride my first winner. It happened very quickly, a lot quicker than I expected. It was brilliant.  

“I have had something like just over 40 winners now at this stage. It has all happened very quick.

McNamara’s win in the Ebor at York propelled him to a whole new level in terms of jockeys.

“I only found out I had the ride for Tony Martin in the Ebor two days before the race when the declarations came out. What I heard was one of the owners was quite keen to get me up. Mr Martin rang Mr Fahy and they had a conversation about it and I got the ride.

“I was very happy to get the ride, delighted about it and very excited. Thankfully it all worked out well.

“It was my first ride in a big race with a good chance and Mr Martin said if everything went to plan the horse would win and he is very rarely wrong, so that added a bit of pressure and a few nerves, but I was looking forward to it.

“Mr Martin gave me the plan. I more or less did what he said. It is very easy to be confident when you are riding a horse with that sort of ability and he is travelling that well into a race for you.

“The feeling after I passed the post was probably the best feeling I have had in my life so far. 

“When I first came over to Mr Fahey in 2013, myself and my dad went to the Ebor festival in York. It was the first racing festival we had been to. It was a great experience. We have been there every year since.

“Having my family there and John Gleeson as well made it extra special.” 

McNamara told reporters on Ebor day: “When I turned in I was tracking Seamour and when I got to the two-furlong pole I knew I was going to win.

“He travelled there brilliantly, I was scared to look around - I was looking up at the big screen but they weren't showing the race so I panicked a little bit then. When I crossed the line it was such a relief.

“If I could tell you one race I wanted to win, this is it. After coming here with my family for the last three years. I was with Johnny Murtagh when Mutual Regard won it - it means so much to me, I can't explain it."

Unsurprisingly after such a big success, McNamara’s race rising career has continued on an upward spiral. 

“My profile has been given a boost since I rode the winner. I have had a couple of more rides every day and a few more winners. People have been congratulating me and stuff like that. It has worked out really well.”

McNamara didn’t have much time for celebrating in the immediate aftermath of his Ebor success. He was quickly back on the road for a lengthy trip to Brighton.

McNamara’s meteoric rise has continued since the Ebor and the winners have continued to flow.

The talented young Limerick horseman currently sits in third place in the Apprentice Jockeys Championships behind pacesetter Tom Marquand who also claimed the title in 2015.

McNamara boasts a better strike rate than Marquand, his tally of winners coming from 100 less rides than the champions apprentice jockey.

The Limerick jockey admits Marquand will be difficult to catch in the Apprentice Jockeys Championship with just one month of the season remaining. 

“In the apprentice title race, I think I am nine winners behind Tom Marquand who won it last year as well. It will be very difficult to catch him.

“At the minute I am just focusing on myself and riding as well as I can, keep on improving, really.

“I love being busy. I love riding every day. It keeps you fit, keeps your eye in. You learn every day.”

So what does the future hold for the rising star of English racing?

“I will cease being an apprentice when I have ridden 95 winners. I am a bit off that now. Longterm my aim is to keep on improving. I want to best the jockey I can be and hopefully be successful when I turn professional. Turning professional is definitely the aim. 

“At the minute I see myself staying in England long term. That is that much more racing and more opportunities over here. I have made this place my home now.”