Tough as nails businessman Michael O’Leary has donated $300,000 winnings from his racehorse empire to tragic Irish jockey JT McNamara.
The Ryanair boss made the donation after his horse Akorakor won the bumper in the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National card at Fairyhouse on Monday.
He made the gesture just days after doctors confirmed that amateur jockey McNamara will be paralysed for the rest of his life after a fall at the Cheltenham festival last month.
The 39-year-old is set to be transferred from a hospital in Britain back to Dublin as he continues treatment after he fractured two vertebrae in an horrific fall at the first fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup..
The fund set up to aid McNamara’s family received the major boost just minutes after Akorakor triumphed at Fairyhouse on the Bank Holiday Monday.
O’Leary, who was on holiday in Portugal and missed the race, showed his human side when he made the donation via his Gigginstown House stud operation in his native Westmeath.
Businessman O’Leary had intended to award the huge cash prize to the winner of the race but when his own horse won he immediately offered the money to McNamara and his family.
He had intended to offer the sum to the owner of whichever horse won the race before the Irish National, a contest which usually features a number of young and promising animals. O’Leary has made a habit of offering to buy the winner of that race in recent years but, in the event, managed to win it with a horse he already owned and decided to put his money to an extremely popular alternative use.
Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the British-based Injured Jockeys Fund, told The Guardian: “It’s fantastic. I know that it will mean a huge amount to JT’s wife, Caroline, and the family, just to know that the whole industry is rooting for them.
“It’s a dreadful injury and clearly it’s going to be a long haul from here but this is a magnificent gesture, the kind of thing that makes you proud to be involved in racing.”