Remembering Tommy Staunton and Roving Minstrel 25 years on
BRIAN Roache's brilliant collection of old Castlebar photos, which he regularly shares on Facebook, have proven very popular.
It is a great platform for people to share old photos and to identify people they may not know, and maybe even some they prefer not to know, but it is a very popular series and gets huge traction from viewers.
This one here of the late Tommy Staunton from Castlebar drew a great reaction from followers as one of the proudest days for Tommy and horse racing was recalled on this the 25th anniversary of the event.
He made a lot of people happy but he also made a lot of people a bit wealthier, and I believe most of the town of Castlebar and beyond got stuck in to Roving Minstrel.
As John Scott rightly pointed out, it was surely the Lincoln in 1995 (Doncaster), which was won by Tommy’s horse Roving Minstrel, who came in at odds of 33/1, and a good few people in Castlebar, including Scotty (he was only 10 at the time), are still living on the largesse from that betting coup.
There was some uncertainty about the premises where this photo was taken but it seems some research has revealed that it was indeed Paddy Moran’s - back in the day - where Tommy is pictured with the cup and Eileen Roache, Brian’s mum.
I just hope Eileen had a few bob on the horse. I have a feeling a few of the Roache family were on it for sure and although not related, you can be sure Martin Roache had a wad on it, as did Frank McHale, Mick Byrne, Ger Whyte, Seamus Canning, Paddy McGovern and the legend himself, Mickey P, just to mention a few.
Tommy told some great stories about that famous day of the Lincoln, which was his proudest moment as a Castlebar man.
What made Tommy even happier at that time was to know that a lot of the small punters had backed the horse.
The Yorkshire Post carried a nice interview with the jockey on board Roving Minstrel, Kevin Darley, to mark the 25th anniversary of the famous win:
There have been plenty of shocks throughout the history of the Lincoln Handicap – and 25 years ago Kevin Darley caused another when steering Roving Minstrel to glory.
Retired former champion jockey Kevin Darley recalls his success in the prestigious handicap as significant in its own right.
"Back then we didn’t have the volume and quality of all-weather racing like we have now, so that first meeting at Doncaster was a real focus point
"For me as a young lad growing up, that’s why the Lincoln was set out in my mind as one of the big races of the year – it kicked the whole season off.
"We all used to think back then ‘It’s Doncaster coming up – and will I get a ride in the Lincoln?’"
Roving Minstrel was not, as the phrase goes, a handicapper masquerading as a group horse.
Nonetheless, despite starting at odds of 33-1, Darley was given plenty of encouragement by trainer Bryan McMahon that he was not on the no-hoper bookmakers had priced up.
Darley, who went on to be crowned champion jockey in 2000, was happy to take the canny McMahon at his word.
"Bryan was a good trainer – and he knew how to get one ready," he said.
"Even though he was 33-1, I knew that he fancied the horse quite strongly. He was a proper shrewdy and was a real good old-fashioned trainer.
"I was struggling for my weight, because I had to ride 8st 3lb – which was about my minimum – and it was the first time I sat on the horse, and I didn’t know what colour he was until I saw him.
"(But) if someone says that a horse is doing everything right at home it was encouraging enough to think he would run well."
With a win ratio of just two victories from his previous 16 outings and stamina to prove on his first start over the trip, Roving Minstrel needed a lot to go his way – and it did.
Darley added: "He wasn’t the most genuine of horses and he was one of those types of horses where everything had to drop right. I can’t complain, though, because he gave me my only Lincoln winner.
"I just thought he was maybe floating around in front, but thankfully when the second came to me he stuck with him and kept going. Bryan was fairly optimistic he would stay.
"We ended up towards the middle of the track, but I can’t say it was a massive part of a strategic plan to find better ground - because in these races you often get that, with horses coming from both angles."