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Grand National-winning rider Mick Fitzgerald has spoken of his sadness and of the risks involved in racing after it was revealed by the family of rider JT McNamara that the serious neck injury he suffered in a fall at the Cheltenham Festival has led to paralysis.
Leading amateur McNamara, 37, was injured when Galaxy Rock fell at the first fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup and had to be airlifted to Bristol, where he remains, although plans are to be made for a transfer to Dublin in due course.
Fitzgerald told Sky Sports News: "It's a mixture of sadness, it's the end of a great career for a jockey who was an amateur and did it because he loved the game.
"When it happened at the time a sombre (mood) descended on Cheltenham, everyone had everything crossed and plenty of people were praying their worse fears wouldn't be realised.
"This is the end of a glittering career."
The condition of a leading amateur jockey who suffered a serious neck injury at Cheltenham races is beginning to stabilize following surgery.
JT McNamara was injured in a first fence fall from Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup on Thursday, He was and was airlifted to hospital after being treated by the on-course medics.
We can report that following lengthy surgery yesterday JT McNamara is in a stable condition. He remains in an induced coma at Frenchay hospital, Bristol.
No further updates will be released until Tuesday, March 19 and the family politely request that the media do not contact Frenchay hospital direct.
They would also like to thank everyone for their kind support and best wishes for JT.
Bobs Worth, the 11-4 favourite ridden by Barry Geraghty, has won horse racing's famous Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sir Des Champs, ridden by AP McCoy, was second at 4-1, followed by 7-2 Long Run, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen.
Tony McCoy will take the ride on Sir Des Champs in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. His intended mount Sunnyhillboy was declared a late non-runner by trainer Jonjo O'Neill.
Bobs Worth is favourite to win the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup - followed by Sir Des Champs and Silviniaco Conti.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old, to be ridden by Barry Geraghty, has not been seen since December when he emerged an outstanding winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Henderson is also represented by the 2011 Gold Cup winner Long Run, who claimed the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls will have high hopes for Silviniaco Conti, who is unbeaten in three starts this season and was particularly impressive in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
Davy Russell will miss the ride aboard Sir Des Champs in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after suffering a punctured lung.
The rider took a crashing fall from Un Beau Matin at the final flight in Wednesday's Coral Cup but was fit enough to take up his first two mounts on Thursday's card.
However, after finishing unplaced on both Argocat in the Jewson Novices' Chase and Stonemaster in the Pertemps Final, Russell was ruled out for the rest of the meeting.
The jockey has ridden Sir Des Champs on his last six outings, including his Irish Hennessy win.
Thoughts are with jockey JT McNamara, who has a serious neck injury (C3 and C4). Further assessment in the morning. #Cheltenham
Thoughts with JT McNamara at the moment. Praying he's ok.