Just over two years ago, fate dealt him a cruel blow when a fall at Wexford left him wheelchair-bound.
But, the 28-year-old has refused to be beaten, and quickly and impressively switched his focus to training.
His first winners came in July of last year, and his career as a trainer promises many more to come. In his years in the saddle, McNamara’s was inextricably linked to Dermot Weld and so it was fitting that one of his former boss’s old charges should help him make the breakthrough at the venue where they enjoyed so much success together.
Having his first run since October, Cascavelle once more proved McNamara’s ability to ready one after a break as, under a fine ride from Billy Lee, the 9-1 chance dug deep to fend off the challenge of High Altitude.
“We’ve always thought a lot of him — we have a couple of okay handicappers and he’s always made light work of them,” said McNamara. “I’d say he’s only 85% fit, but I said before the race that he’d take a lot of beating.
“Everything he does is very, very easy, he has plenty of class, and will stay a bit further. He’s one to look forward to. He’s in my colours, but if somebody wants to take him I’ll gladly slip him on — to stay in the yard.”
Asked what he made of the reception, from an appreciative crowd, he joked: “I remember it this time. A few of the times I would have been a bit hazy coming in, a bit bleary-eyed.”
While winners haven’t been free-flowing over the past 12 months, the horses have been acquitting themselves well, and McNamara is hopeful the floodgates may now open.
“I was on the cold trainers’ list before today, but the horses have been running really well, but have been hitting the post,” he added. “I have 16 horses in the yard, and 15 have been placed, but we could just do with a few winners, so hopefully that’s the start of a few of them now.”
Asked whether he preferred riding a winner or saddling one, he responded: “Probably riding a winner as you have more control, but I enjoy the daily life of being a trainer an awful lot more than being a jockey. The buzz of riding a winner is a bit better, but training one is good, and I’ll enjoy that a lot longer than I would after riding a winner.”
Possessor of a sharp tongue and wicked sense of humour, when it was pointed out that he had recorded a winner at the meeting before his old boss he quipped: “I was saying before the race, I was hoping the horse didn’t think DK was still training him!”
The feature on day two was the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap and, after enduring a difficult path through the race, the Willie Mullins-trained Riven Light had to survive a lengthy stewards’ enquiry before being confirmed winner of the €70,800 first prize.
Despite the horse being dropped back to a mile for the first time since his racing debut, in March 2015, jockey Declan McDonogh rode him for speed and the horse responded with a display which showed dexterity to match his determination and ability.
After forcing his way through a gap in the straight, for which the rider received a four-day ban, the heavily backed 9-2 chance readily asserted and is sure to be in for a hefty rise in the handicap.
Despite the mid-race palpitations for punters, McDonogh admitted to being confident throughout: “He was a bit slow away and coming back to a mile might have been a bit of a shock to the system, but I had plenty of horse left under me in the dip and he quickened up well to run out a very easy winner.
“I just had to sit and suffer for a little bit but it’s typical Galway, getting a little bit messy with horses getting tired, but he has a lot of class.
“In my opinion, the gaps were there, the outside horses were pushing in a bit and there was plenty of room for me to go.”
Yesterday’s card began as Monday’s had, with Joseph O’Brien, owner JP McManus, and jockey Barry Geraghty combining to make the perfect start to the day.
Housesofparliament was the horse in question this time, and he earned his stripes over hurdles at the third time of asking, in the Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle.
Rated 113 the last time he raced on the Flat, he was a little keen this time, but used his speed to poach a lead racing up the hill for the final time.
The well-backed Law Girl raced keenly and was unable to pick up well enough to land a blow, and it was Morgan who filled the runner-up behind the winner, who has the potential to take high rank over hurdles.
Owner Annette Mee’s colours are a familiar sight at this festival, and the emerald green and mauve halved silks earned another trip to the winner’s enclosure when Three Wise Men took the Latin Quarter Chase for Henry De Bromhead.
The half-brother to recent two-time chase winner The West’s Awake gave a bold display of jumping, and found plenty for jockey Noel Fehily’s urgings, to see off favourite Bamako Moriviere.
Joe Murphy was out of luck in Monday’s feature when Swamp Fox found one too good, but the Fethard trainer was back amongst the winners when the promising Shekiba took the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies’ Maiden under Gary Carroll.
A half-sister to listed winner Law And Order, she made her debut just a fortnight ago, and showed the benefit of the experience and a step up in trip when staying on late to grab victory from Moghamarah, with Sizzling making remarkable late progress into third spot.
Murphy has high hopes for the winner: “She is a very tough, genuine filly and it looked a good race. I entered her in the (Group 2) Debutante Stakes later this month, and that’s where she’ll go next. She’ll probably be a miler as a three-year-old, and is definitely a Group-class filly.”
Billy Lee, earlier successful on Cascavelle, completed a 49-1 double when delivering the Peter Fahey-trained Serefeli late to land the Caulfield Industrial Handicap, while Gordon Elliott was on the mark in the finale when Knockmaole Boy converted his good recent run over hurdles to the Flat, to score under Leigh Roche.
The attendance of 17,480 was considerably up on the same day last year (15,030), and that was reflected on the Tote (€932,069, up from €852,933) and in the ring, where bookies turned over €1,081,068, compared with €947,245 in 2016.