28 Jan 2022

There was horse racing in Cooley 70 years ago

Another letter from Cooley, I thought, when a neighbour handed me a piece of paper, saying: “Danny Ferguson from Castletowncooley told me to give you this.”

Another letter from Cooley, I thought, when a neighbour handed me a piece of paper, saying: “Danny Ferguson from Castletowncooley told me to give you this.”

No, I’m not averse to letters coming in from the peninsula, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact I welcome them, because in a slow week they can act as fillers, and also, if someone has something to say about anything appearing on this page, even though it might be contrary to my opinion, I’d have no problem publishing it. The prime requisite is that letters are signed. None of your hiding behind “Angry GAA Supporter”, or, “Hungry Punter”, or “Aviva Regular.”

It transpired Danny’s wasn’t a letter, but a copy of an account taken from this paper’s edition of October 2, 1943. I know Danny to having been heavily involved in athletics – indeed, he might still be. But what his story centred on was racing of another kind – horse racing.

The Cooley Races meeting of the previous Thursday was the first to be held in more than 25 years. It attracted a “great” attendance, even though the weather “did not keep up as well as it promised”. The sport took place on the Old Grange Course, owned by George Bothwell.

There were six races on the card, the fifth of which was declared void. Playboy, who had finished second in the previous race, the Rawson Plate (for farmers) over one-and-a-half miles, crossed the line first, but didn’t get the prize.

The account says: “Here the unlucky one was Mr N Bothwell’s Playboy, a gallant winner and totally unconnected with the circumstances which compelled the judges to declare the race void.

“That they were correct in their decision was general voted – the ruling will probably help considerably in making for clean sport.”

In the absence any further information, we can only guess at what might have happened - some sort of skulduggery, like one jockey lashing out at another, perhaps. Or, over-use of the whip inside the final furlong. Or, God forbid, a ringer making it into the line-up.

The winner of the race in which Playboy finished runner-up was Biddy, running for none other than Danny Ferguson. Our Danny’s father, or uncle, perhaps?

This was, indeed, a fine performance, because earlier in the programme, Biddy won the six-runner Greenore Plate. She was a 3/1 chance for this one, but only 6/4 when she completed the double.

Gentle Annie, running for the course’s owner, won the Carlingford Plate, and successful in the two-mile Cooley Plate was D O’Gara’s Knockalassa Lad. P Gallagher’s Johnny sent the intrepid among favourite-backers home happy by taking the Consolation Plate at 1/3.

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