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Some reflections from Adam McNamara

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Some reflections from Adam McNamara

On Monday 19th December I announced that I was ending my riding career to begin working for the PJA, the Professional Jockeys Association. 

Hanging up my boots is something I’ve considered for a while now and believe me, it wasn’t a decision that was made haphazardly. Being a jockey was my passion, my dream and my reason to get out of bed in the morning since I was fifteen. I’d dedicated every waking hour to pursuing a vocation that I had been completely absorbed in from the day I watched Frankel conquer Cirrus des Aigles and cement his name in history. 

There have been many wonderful moments, incredible experiences, and unforgettable memories. There have also been some of the most difficult days, hopeless times and memories I wish I could forget. That’s horse racing. George Baker told me not so long ago, ”this game would tame lions”. I’m inclined to agree. I felt like I’d been chasing my tail for the last few years. Injuries haven’t helped and each step forward I’ve taken I feel as though I’ve been knocked back another two. It’s quite simply time to move on and I’m really looking forward to the next chapter.

There are endless people to whom I owe thanks and far too many to fit in a single blog. That being said there are a few who I feel shaped my career along the way and without whom I wouldn’t have had the chances and opportunities that I did. John Gleeson took a young man with minimal riding ability into his yard in 2014 and somehow managed to turn me into something resembling a potential jockey. It wasn’t without what I can only describe as classic Irish agricultural abuse, and it was a rare morning that I left Knockainey without being told in no uncertain terms that I was utterly useless. I loathed it at the time but in hindsight I learned a hell of a lot quicker that way. John gave me a hard time, but he also gave me every possible equine experience he could, from schooling and hunting to pony racing. The dream would have remained only a dream without him. 

Richard Fahey took me on in late 2015. I remember calling him whilst riding out on the Curragh for Johnny Murtagh that year to ask if he would be willing to take me on. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told Paul Hanagan, Tony Hamilton and all the rest, come over and we’ll see what we can do for you.” That was enough for me, and I was on a plane within the fortnight. Richard threw me right in at the deep end and supplied me with more rides then I could have dreamed of in 2016. I was one of many young jockeys to thrive at Musley Bank, and I will always be grateful for the chance that was taken on me. 

I also met Tom O’Ryan at Musley Bank. Tom was one of the most influential people in not just my career, but in the careers of practically every young jockey that set foot in the north for the last few decades. He was the hand on my shoulder during my first year in the UK, guiding me at every turn. His guidance was invaluable and his friendship even more so. Tom passed in late 2016 and I was truly heartbroken. He was one of those rare people that brought a sense of calm and comfort everywhere he went. I unfortunately never got to say goodbye to Tom as his illness didn’t allow it. I rang his brother Robyn, assistant to Richard Fahey, after I won the Ebor. I had rang to get instructions for the apprentice race I was riding in later in the day. Tom was quite ill at the time and Robyn was by his side. He told me, “that’s put a smile on Toms face.” I hope that I made him proud.

Last but not least I have to thank my family. My dad must have driven me up the length and breadth of Ireland and the UK to help me pursue my career. He’s been at the end of the phone with counsel and comfort day and night for the past seven years. He’s pushed me when I needed pushing and picked me back up every time I fell down. His belief in my ability has never wavered, not once. It’s a remarkable thing to have someone like that in your corner. My dad has recently ventured into a career in horse racing after over 25 years in electronic engineering. It’s incredibly fitting that on what would turn out to be my last winner, he was the person who lead me up. You couldn’t write it.

My mother's most commonly recycled statement for the past few years has been, “I don’t know how you haven’t given me a heart attack yet.” I think she’s watched most of my races through the cracks of her fingers with her hands over her eyes. She’s never quite managed to stomach me travelling at 40mph on horseback around a racecourse, but her support has been there every step of the way nonetheless. The level of support I have received has sustained me through difficult times and it gives me a lot of confidence to know I will have their continued support in the next chapter of my life.

Harrowells offers specialist legal support to trainers, breeders, racecourses, owners and jockeys. We first came into contact with Adam in 2016 when we sponsored him under the apprentice jockey scheme we were running at that time. In the same year, he went on to win the prestigious Ebor Race at York and posted a number of well received blogs on horse racing. We have asked him to return in 2022 as a regular guest commentator and to offer up some insights into racing life.

Adam is not an employee of Harrowells Limited. The views he expresses in his blogs and on his social media accounts are his own.

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