Due to an oversight, this piece on the achievements of Bernard Naughton was omitted from the chapter on sport in The Parish of Clontuskert - Glimpses into its Past.

Bernard Naughton, Abbeypark

Bernard (Barney) Naughton was born at Loughill, Creagh, Ballinasloe in 1902. The son of a farming family, he was the second youngest of a family of eleven.

A well-known farmer, livestock dealer, bookmaker, horse owner, he purchased his farm at Abbey Park, Clontuskert in 1943 from winning bets on one of his first horses, Mr. Wilts. He was an astute judge of livestock and horses. From the 1940s until his death in 1977 he owned thorough-bred horses that won him in the region of eighty-five races.

In 1960, his horse Solfen made racing history at the three-day Cheltenham Racing Festival. The horse won a three mile chase on Day Two and a three mile hurdle on Day Three. Solfen's first race, the Broadway Novices Chase - now the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase - was noteworthy in that the eight year old gelding romped home by twenty-five lengths. Solfen was ridden by Pat Taaffe and twenty-one horses ran.

As Solfen was not the easiest horse to keep right and ready to race, (he suffered from leg problems) the owner and trainer Willie O'Grady decided to run him again as he was fresh and well after the first race. Within twenty-two hours he ran in the Spa Hurdle - now the Ladbroke World Hurdle - and with H.R. (Bobby) Beasley in the saddle, he won by one length and six lengths in a field of twenty-one runners.

Irish horses won six races at the festival that year and Solfen won two of these. No horse either before or since has equalled Solfen's record-breaking achievement.

Fifty years on, Jim McGrath of Channel Four's racing included Solfen's record in his top twenty of racing greats at the Cheltenham Festival. Solfen later won the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park before finishing eighth in the Grand National at Aintree. Afterwards, he was retired to Barney's farm in Clontuskert.

Barney Naughton returned to the Cheltenham Festival in 1974 with his horse Mr. Midland which he had bred himself. The sire, Midlander, stood in Co. Sligo and his Stallion fee was £35. Mr. Midland won the National Hunt chase over four miles - the Amateurs Grand National. Mr. Midland was retired after winning the Ulster National in 1977. He was trained by Willie O'Grady's son, Eddie, and Michael (Mouse) Morris was the jockey at Cheltenham.

Barney Naughton with his horse Mr. Wilts after the horse won a hurdle race at the Phoenix Park Racecourse on 8th May 1946.

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Dan O'Neill and Owen's Image

Dan O'Neill and his horse made history at Mallow racecourse on November 23rd 1955. Dan, better known as an owner and trainer of greyhounds, made a brief entry into horse ownership.

He leased Owen's Image from his good friend and neighbour, Barney Naughton. The grey four year old was trained and ridden by Cecil Ronaldson in the last race, a two mile Maiden Bumper, at Mallow Racecourse. Ronaldson was in his prime as a rider at that time and knew exactly what was required to do the business. Betting on the horse went from 6/1 down to even money favourite.

In the race, Owen's Image made rapid progress from halfway and coming to the final bend had only two to beat. He mastered them quickly and won by one and a half lengths from Kumala, with a great deal in hand.

Mr. Eddie Harty (of Highland Wedding fame), who rode Kumala, objected to the winner on the grounds that Owen's Image had gone inside a post on the far side of the course. The racing stewards deliberated on the matter for fifteen minutes and then decided to go to the scene of the alleged incident. The stewards sent a car back for Mr. Harty who went out and aided them in their twilight search for evidence.

At this point, a wishful punter entered the bookies ring shouting, "Objection over-ruled!" and caused a considerable amount of confusion. The stewards returned to their room where the enquiry continued. Their enquiry went on for more than an hour and ended with their announcement that the objection had been sustained and the winner was disqualified. Mr. Harty's horse Kumala was awarded the race with Vincent O'Brien's horse Bamboo placed second with Bobby Beasley's horse Flying Ace, placed third.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the objection and subsequent disqualification, all those directly involved with Owen's Image felt hard done by. The Irish Press newspaper's main racing article stated


Dan O'Neill transferred ownership of Owen's Image back to Barney Naughton. The horse was transferred to Willie O'Grady's racing stables in Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, where he was very successful subsequently, over hurdles and on the flat.

The horse was later sold to trainer Fulke Walwyn in England where he continued to compete successfully in the racing colours of Mme. Hennessy of the Hennessy Brandy family.

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