Racing: McNamara has the right form to fill Fitzgerald role

For ambitious jump jockeys, the long goodbye of Mick Fitzgerald has turned this winter into the most exhaustive job interview imaginable. Fitzgerald's announcement last summer that this season would be his last has given Nicky Henderson ample opportunity to mull over a successor - and few candidates will have made a deeper impression than Andrew McNamara, a young Irishman who reminds admirers of Fitzgerald himself.

Still just 23, McNamara turned professional only two years ago, but even the present, golden generation of riders have been unable to contain his ascent. Last spring he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase with a fearless display on Newmill, whose trainer acclaimed him as "a top-class jockey and future champion".

McNamara's Grade One success on Hi Cloy at Aintree the following month was their third of the season and his trainer, Michael Hourigan, has since rewarded him with the mount on Beef Or Salmon - the flawed jewel who defends a cherished place in Irish hearts at Leopardstown next week.

Last winter Shane Donohoe brought six horses over to Musselburgh from his yard in Co Cavan. McNamara won on four of them at combined odds of 556-1. "Andrew's very like his father, who's a man I know well," Donohoe said yesterday. "He's a deep thinker, thinks through everything, things that wouldn't occur to you. He lets a race unfold, gets into a rhythm. You won't see him flapping, second one minute and fifth the next, inside one minute and outside the next. He has an excellent eye for a stride, and plenty of bottle."

McNamara's father, also Andrew, trained Boreen Prince to finish second in the 1983 Champion Hurdle and win the Arkle Trophy two years later. He still trains over 30 horses, and the clan is well known in the south west of Ireland. McNamara's cousin, John Thomas, is a record-breaking amateur and it was in point-to-points that he first made his own name. Hourigan, also based in Co Limerick, soon noticed him and the endorsement of such a wily, tough operator is not lost on anyone.

Beef Or Salmon, after all, is one of the most coveted mounts in Ireland. "To you in England maybe he's a bit of a failure, but here he's a hero," McNamara said. "After he won over hurdles at Fairyhouse last weekend everyone was getting very excited about the Lexus Chase. He has won nine Grade Ones already and sometimes doesn't seem to get enough credit for that, just because of his record in the Gold Cup. But the Lexus is our biggest chase of the winter, and he has won it three times already. It would be an amazing achievement to win it again."

Beef Or Salmon has beaten the past three Gold Cup winners, including War Of Attrition at Down Royal in November. McNamara considers the rematch next week very much a home game for Beef Or Salmon.

"He has been mixing up hurdles and chases so that he didn't get hard races in between his big targets," he said. "If there is a reason for the way he has sometimes run in England, it might not be the travelling but the different style of racing. When he was second to Kauto Star at Haydock he was struggling for rhythm from flagfall. Even at Fairyhouse he needed a slap three out and then suddenly came there very easy.

"But we know he loves Leopardstown, and I thought War Of Attrition had a hard enough race at Punchestown the other day."

McNamara witnessed that finish from fifth on Hi Cloy, a possible for the Stan James King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. "He needed the run but we knew that going there, so were happy enough," McNamara said. "Unfortunately, he has since had this problem with a bruise and so missed a couple of days he could hardly afford. If he does run, I can definitely see him being suited by the easy three miles at Kempton. He's a quick jumper and really took to the flat track at Aintree."

* Today's Fakenham card was abandoned due to frost.

newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn