The thoughts of many at Cheltenham today will be with leading amateur jockey JT McNamara, who remains in hospital in a coma after suffering a serious neck injury when his horse fell.
McNamara, 37, fell at the first fence while riding Galaxy Rock for trainer Jonjo O’Neill in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup yesterday afternoon.
Medical staff were quickly on hand to treat him after the fall, and he was airlifted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol by air ambulance from the Gloucestershire course.
McNamara’s uncle, the trainer Andrew McNamara, said: “I’ve been told that JT is in an induced coma at the moment.”
Dr Adrian McGoldrick, chief medical officer for the Irish Turf Club, said: “JT has suffered a serious neck injury. He is being looked after at the regional spinal unit but as yet he is still waiting for a scan.
“So what we know so far is that he has a neck injury, but we will know far more in the morning when hopefully he will have had his scan.”
Dr McGoldrick told The Times: “He was conscious after the fall but having difficulty breathing. As his injuries could not be determined, he was put into a coma and a spinal board used.”
Champion jockey AP McCoy told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s a dangerous sport and it’s a sight that you see that unfortunately crops up; we’re very lucky we have excellent medical care. We just hope he’s going to be OK.”
Racing presenter Clare Balding later tweeted: “Thoughts are with JT McNamara, who has a serious neck injury (C3 and C4). Further assessment in the morning.”
Fellow Irish jockey Davy Russell also spent the night in hospital after suffering a punctured lung, The Times said. He was kicked after falling from Un Beau Matin on Wednesday and had his lung drained yesterday.
Meanwhile, racing pundit John McCririck’s condition was yesterday described as “improving” after he was treated in Cheltenham General Hospital.
McCririck complained of feeling unwell during the first day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
The climax of the Cheltenham Festival will be the Gold Cup today, with favourite Bobs Worth heading an 11-strong field.
More than 200,000 people are expected to attend the four-day race meeting, which is one of the highlights of the national hunt season.
Gate receipts are estimated to reach £7m and bookmakers are anticipating a record-breaking year with industry turnover tipped to surpass the £600m barrier.