By John Donohoe
But for an injury suffered by Lord Fingall’s horse while out hunting in Meath in December, 1953, the name of Roddy Owen might never have entered the annals of Cheltenham Gold Cup history.
The County Meath racing earl had been intending to send a different horse into training, but it was injured in Kilmessan village, and he set about looking for a new stable star.
Both the horse and its owner are still recalled fondly in the area by those who remember the Cheltenham Gold Cup victory of 1959. Michael Power, who worked as Lord Fingall’s stablehand for over 35 years, recalled the circumstances which led to the purchase of Roddy Owen in January, 1954.
“Lord Fingall had two good horses at the time, Florida Bay and Tuft. He intended sending Tuft over to the Curragh to be trained by Cecil Brabazon. But while he was out hunting on Tuft at Christmas 1953, in Kilmessan, they were crossing the Skane Bridge. There was a hole in the bridge and the horse was injured. Help was sought from the nearby Preston farm and the horse had to be put down.”
Michael recalls Fingall and his vet, Louis Doyle from Navan, travelling to Kildare one day to look for a replacement for Tuft. They looked at a lot of horses at the Curragh, but nothing stood out. Doyle decided to travel on to Nolans of Kilcullen. This was where they saw the four year-old. It had been broken and ridden, but never tried.