James' Cheltenham dream overshadowed by J.T's accident


James’ Cheltenham dream overshadowed by J.T’s accident

A Dungarvan based garda from Fermoy fulfilled a lifetime ambition, when competing in the charity race held during the Cheltenham racing festival.

Friday, 22 March 2013
7:20 AM GMT

"I had one of the best days of my life today" Fermoy man James Fenton Tweeted on Thursday last after taking part in the St. Patrick's Derby at the Cheltenham racing festival in England.

That said, James revealed that the day had also been tempered with sadness, following the serious neck injuries sustained by jockey, John Thomas McNamara. James knows  J.T., a leading Irish amateur jockey, as he sometimes rides for James' uncle, the trainer David Fenton. James met J.T. in the weight room before his race in Cheltenham when J.T. wished him the best of luck in the charity race and told him "if you need anything just let me know." James said news of J.T.'s injuries "cast a pall of gloom over the festival."

McNamara suffered the fall from his horse Galaxy Rock at the first fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase which took place before the charity race. The incident delayed the start of the charity race which was due to get underway at 5.15pm. "It was decided to proceed with it because so much preparation had gone into it, and so many people had travelled to take part in it and to watch," James explained. It was dusk when it got underway.


James says he was happy with his performance in the race. He was riding to instructons and was fifth at the bottom of the hill but the horse was outpaced by stronger mounts. Still, James says "it was an amazing experience. Just turning down into the last stretch, something I used to watch on the telly, to be there, riding that, was brilliant." All in all, he said, it was "a fantastic day."

37-year-old James, a Garda in Dungarvan, wore a black armband during the race in memory of slain Garda colleague Adrian O'Donohoe who was shot in Dundalk in January.

James comes from a large family of racing enthusiasts in Fermoy and regularly rides out for his uncle and local trainer Pat Flynn. Taking part in the race was the fulfilment of a long-held dream. His wife Joanne and a large entourage of family and friends travelled over to watch him take part in the race.

The St. Patrick's Derby at the Cheltenham festival is a charity flat race in aid of cancer research. James' wife lost a member of her family to cancer in 2011 and James rode in the race in her memory. The charity race is the centrepiece of Cancer Research UK's annual funding. Over the past two years over £650,000 has been raised for the charity. James raised £7,500.

He was one of 12 jockeys taking part in the race from England, Ireland and France. They were selected from over 100 applications.

James said he was overwhelmed by the generosity of people in responding to his fundraising appeal. He extends a hearty thanks to all who contributed. Back at work at Dungarvan garda station on Monday, where he is attached to the detective unit, James revealed that cards and donations had even been handed in while he was away. He thanks everyone sincerely for their donations, good luck messages and cards.

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