Cheltenham honours JT McNamara on Tuesday

Colm Kinsella

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Colm Kinsella

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Cheltenham honours JT McNamara on Tuesday

The late JT McNamara wins The National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002 aboard Rith Dubh

THE National Hunt Chase will be run in honour of the late JT McNamara on Tuesday’s opening day of the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.

The four-mile contest for novice chasers is a prized race for amateur jockeys.

Croom jockey JT McNamara died at the age of 41 on July 26 last year and is survived by his wife Caroline and their three children.

McNamara partnered more than 700 winners under Rules and in point-to-points during his long career and was especially at home at Cheltenham and The Festival.

His total winning tally at Cheltenham came to 16, four of which were at The Festival in March.

He enjoyed many of his big-race successes in the colours of top owner JP McManus, including riding Rith Dubh to victory in the 2002 National Hunt Chase and partnering Spot Thedifference in the 2005 Cross Country Chase.

McNamara also wore the McManus silks on Drombeag when they were successful in the 2007 Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham. His fourth victory at The Festival came on Teaforthree in the 2012 National Hunt Chase.

His career as a leading amateur rider ended following a fall while riding Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase for amateurs in 2013, which left him paralysed.

Caroline McNamara commented: "We are humbled and overwhelmed by the continued support we receive from everyone.

"John Thomas was never one for the limelight during his career, but I am sure that he would want his life remembered for his achievements and success, especially those 16 wins at Cheltenham.

"The race being run in his name at The Festival is a huge honour in his memory."

Ian Renton, Regional Director, Jockey Club Racecourses South West, said: "We are delighted that Caroline has agreed that Cheltenham will remember J T McNamara.

"It seems fitting that his name will be associated with the National Hunt Chase, which he won twice during his career as well as 14 other races here at Cheltenham.

"JT was very much known as the 'King of the Banks' from his Cross Country performances at Cheltenham and in Ireland.

"He continues to be much missed within the whole racing community."

First staged in 1860, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times - 146 - than any other race at The Festival.

Until the 1930s, only the Grand National was more important than the National Hunt Chase in the Jump calendar.

The race took place at a number of venues until it became a part of the new two-day National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham in 1911. Two earlier renewals were run at Cheltenham, in 1904 and 1905.