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Tributes paid after tragic loss of 'larger-than-life' teenager Jack de Bromhead

Jack de Bromhead, son of Henry, has died aged 13 following a pony racing fall
Jack de Bromhead, son of Henry, has died aged 13 following a pony racing fallCredit: Healy Racing

A pall of unbearable sadness hangs over the racing and broader sporting communities following the tragic death of Jack de Bromhead, the "larger-than-life" 13-year-old son of Henry and Heather de Bromhead who was killed in a freak fall at Glenbeigh horse and pony races on Saturday.

A statement from the family on Sunday described the teenager as "a one-of-a-kind child who touched all our lives in the best way possible", with the devastated parents adding: "Our hearts are truly broken".

Tributes have poured in from across the world of sport for the pony racing fanatic, who was characterised as a "very outgoing person who loved life" by family friend Peter Molony. Gigginstown House Stud manager Eddie O'Leary paid tribute to De Bromhead as "a thoroughly lovely young man" touted to be a "future star" by pony racing followers.

A twin brother to Mia and older sibling to Georgia, the young rider was already a familiar young face to racing fans having featured in various television interviews as the likes of Honeysuckle, A Plus Tard, Minella Indo and Minella Times carried all before them for his father's County Waterford stable.

He was known as a pleasant and humble boy who was regularly seen by his father's side at the races, and had begun to carve his own career on the horse and pony racing circuit over the past couple of seasons, making a big impression by riding a handful of winners this summer.

On Saturday he was participating at the historic Glenbeigh races two-day event, which takes place on Rossbeigh Strand in County Kerry.

Jack de Bromhead, pictured here with his parents Heather and Henry and his sisters Georgia and Mia
Jack de Bromhead, pictured here with his parents Heather and Henry and his sisters Georgia and MiaCredit: Noel Browne

De Bromhead was riding in the fifth race when his mount veered into the sea as they rounded a bend and fell, landing on top of him. An air ambulance was summoned to attend the stricken rider but despite the best efforts of all the emergency services he died at the scene.

"Jack was a larger-than-life type of person," said Molony, who operates as racing manager to Kenny Alexander, owner of De Bromhead-trained superstar Honeysuckle.

"He always had a smile on his face and just loved racing, loved horses, loved ponies. Pony racing was his life. He absolutely lived for it. He was a very outgoing person who loved life. I think unimaginable is the only way to describe how everyone must be feeling right now.

"Jack and his sister Mia, a wonderful girl, have been front and centre in supporting Honeysuckle. We'll especially miss him being there during the season with her running."

He added: "I think one of the best ways of describing his love for racing was a story Henry has been telling for the last couple of years. He'd tell us how Jack spent most of his evenings on the back of the sofa riding finishes to whatever races were going on, and all Henry could hear was the noise of him in full flow during the finish.

"Last Christmas they got him an Equicizer [mechanical horse] and it was just pure delight for him. I can remember one day we were all down there and Rachael [Blackmore] gave him a lesson on the Equicizer. It was fantastic."

Jack de Bromhead: discussed his father's stable stars in various television interviews
Jack de Bromhead: discussed his father's stable stars in various television interviewsCredit: RTE Racing

Prayers were said for De Bromhead's family and friends during Sunday morning mass at Glenbeigh church, with a host of messages, flowers and teddy bears left on Rossbeigh Strand in his memory.

O'Leary said: "Anybody who spoke about Jack spoke of him as a future star. He seemed to be a thoroughly lovely young man. We just feel so sorry for all his family and friends at such a tough time."

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) chief executive Suzanne Eade offered condolences to those close to De Bromhead, and said the governing body is assisting in organising counselling services to his pony racing colleagues and friends.

She said: "Jack may have been only 13 but he was already incredibly popular in the racing community. His family and friends, his pony racing colleagues and all those whose lives he touched are in our thoughts today during this numbing, devastating tragedy.

"Horse Racing Ireland’s equuip [education and training] department through the Industry Assistance Programme will assist in offering counselling for Jack’s pony racing colleagues and friends."

Recently retired Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning jockey Robbie Power became familiar with the teenager through his link with the Knockeen stable, and hailed both his horsemanship and demeanour.

"Jack was a lovely young man, as well as being a very capable rider," said Power, who assists the leading trainer as a race planner.

"I rode out with him at Henry's on a few occasions and you could see how much he loved racing and just loved horses. He had an unbelievable enthusiasm for the game. Your heart bleeds for the De Bromhead family. We're all thinking of them."

Jack de Bromhead (second from right): walks the track with his father Henry and family ahead of Honeysuckle's Grade 1 win at Punchestown in April
Jack de Bromhead (second from right): walks the track with his father Henry and family ahead of Honeysuckle's Grade 1 win at Punchestown in AprilCredit: Patrick McCann (

Legendary Irish rugby international Ronan O'Gara was among those to post messages of support on social media, tweeting: "Thoughts and prayers with the De Bromhead family. A 13-year-old boy taken doing what he loved. The poor family. The heart hurts."

A statement from the Irish Jockeys' Association added: "The tight knit family of jockeys, many of whom have come through the world of pony racing, are devastated at the tragic loss of Jack de Bromhead, a kindred spirit. Our heartfelt sympathies to Jack’s beloved family and his very many friends."

After a pre-scheduled blank Sunday of racing in Ireland, action resumes on Monday at Galway, where trainer De Bromhead on Saturday morning declared two runners, Watch House Cross (6.45) and Fangio De Vassy (7.15), before the tragic accident took place.

Galway manager Michael Moloney said the track would mark the tragic loss in an "appropriate manner" after discussions on Monday. A minute's silence was held at York's meeting on Sunday, as well as at Paul Nicholls' open day.

Nicholls said: "It’s terrible for Henry and Heather. My kids all pony race and [my daughter] Zara was riding at Burghley on Saturday for Shetland pony racing. You always dread news like that. It's an accident and I think everybody in racing's thoughts are with them."

De Bromhead is the first fatality on an Irish course since Jack Tyner, only son of Robert and Mary Tyner, died after sustaining injuries in a fall at Dungarvan point-to-point in 2011, while fellow amateur rider Lorna Brooke was killed following a fall at Taunton last year.

Record-breaking amateur JT McNamara died in 2016, three years on from a fall at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival that left him with life-changing injuries.

De Bromhead will repose at the family home on Tuesday from 3pm to 7pm, the house private at all other times. His requiem mass will be on Wednesday at 12pm in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Butlerstown, followed by private cremation.

Richard ForristalIreland editor
Mark BoylanReporter

Published on 4 September 2022inNews

Last updated 20:36, 4 September 2022