LAST Saturday’s charity race at Punchestown raised over €70,000 for the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund but, just as importantly, it raised public awareness around organ donation.

Race organiser James Nolan reported: “Everyone who rode in the race has a story to tell, and they are all special, but this year we actually had a kidney transplant recipient, Sara-Jane Tracy, taking part and that attracted a lot of attention.”

From Kill in Co Kildare, Sara-Jane is a professional show jumper who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and an immunity disease some years ago. “At one stage she was on chemo and dialysis three days a week, which is a fair amount for anyone to deal with,” James explained. “She received a kidney transplant from her uncle, Alex, and made such a good recovery that she was granted an amateur rider’s licence five weeks ago.”

Jessica Harrington and her team took Sara-Jane under their wing and prepared her for Punchestown where she finished 10th of 22 on Jungle Cove on Saturday.

James added: “Sara-Jane was interviewed on Morning Ireland last week and spoke so movingly about being ill, her dialysis and then receiving the gift of a kidney donation. The name of the race is ‘Have The Conversation - Say ‘Yes’ to Organ Donation’ and Sara-Jane really got that message across: leave your loved ones in no doubt about your wishes.”

Some leading racing personalities took the time to mix with the charity race riders, organ recipients and their families last week. James reported: “Sara-Jane was at Naas the night before Punchestown started to be interviewed for Racing TV. Aidan O’Brien came over and asked her about her illness and he gave her advice ahead of the race. Then, at Punchestown, we had nearly 300 patients, family members, doctors and nurses there to support the riders. It was amazing to see Willie Mullins, Henry de Bromhead, Philip Rothwell and Terence O’Brien in amongst them. Then Jack Kennedy and Paul Townend posed for photos too. I must also thank all the owners who allowed their horses to run - there would be no race without them.”

The race was won by Glen Norris (see pages 24-25) with Joan Tyner of Goffs second and jockeys’ agent Garry Cribbin third.

“There was a lovely atmosphere in the ring and I’d say we raised between €70,000 and €80,000 for the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund, all thanks to the racing industry. Next year will be the 34th edition of the race and I expect the total fundraising will surpass €2 million, so we may have to plan something special for that,” James concluded.

To apply for a spot in next year’s race call James on 086-234 9919 or see for more information.