With the domestic sport’s downtime between the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals exacerbated by cancellations, postponements and congealingly cold weather, there was at least one piece of warming news today. It concerned the improved condition of J T McNamara, the Irish amateur who fractured two neck vertebrae in a fall at Cheltenham 12 days ago.
The 37-year-old is now conscious and alert, out of the coma induced by doctors in the early stages of his recovery and, although still needing help with his breathing, is set to be transferred from Bristol to a Dublin hospital to be closer to his family.
A statement on behalf of the family by Dr Adrian McGoldrick, the Irish Turf Club senior medical officer and Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, said: “J T McNamara remains in a stable condition at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol. He is now fully alert but requires full-time ventilation at present. In due course he will be transferred to the National Spinal Unit at the Mater Hospital, Dublin. His wife, Caroline, and family very much appreciate everyone’s continued good wishes and prayers on JT’s behalf.”
McNamara’s plight puts much else in perspective, including the perils of betting in advance, which were highlighted for the second day in succession. After Aidan O’Brien had cast doubts on the participation of Kingsbarns in the 2,000 Guineas, William Haggas ruled the ante-post favourite Nine Realms out of Saturday’s re-arranged Lincoln. “He’s not going to run,” said the Newmarket trainer of the four-year-old, who had been as short as 6-1. “I can’t see the ground being anything other than horrible.”
Conditions for the mile contest, for which Captain Bertie and Lahaag are vying for favouritism at 7-1, are indeed likely to be demanding. At Doncaster today there was still some of the frozen snow that led to the Lincoln’s abandonment three days ago left on the track, with heavy ground predicted once it thaws.
The unseasonal weather has put paid to Friday’s charity Lambourn Open Day, which normally attracts crowds of up to 10,000 on one of the few days racing is not scheduled.
Looking ahead to Aintree, one of the meeting’s regulars, Oscar Whisky, is to return to his comfort zone of two and a half miles after flopping over three at Cheltenham. The Nicky Henderson eight-year-old will attempt to complete a hat-trick in the Aintree Hurdle, with a novice chasing campaign planned for next season.
Chris McGrath’s Nap: Bint Alzain (3.20 Lingfield)
Turns out after a close fourth on the track yesterdau, her first run after a break, staying on to get within a length of the winner.
Next best: Iron Butterfly (4.10 Fontwell)
Lightly raced on the Flat over distances too short for her stout pedigree, but is improving with experience over hurdles.
One to watch: Elusive Hawk (David Evans), carried wide into the Lingfield straight today, must be followed next time after his strong third-place finish.