Obituary: George Owen

George Owen, jockey and racehorse trainer; born Ledsham, Cheshire 25 December 1907; married 1934 Margaret Done (four daughters); died Bridgnorth, Shropshire 29 September 1997.

It was not just as the trainer of some high-class steeplechasers that George Owen left his mark on the sport of National Hunt racing. Owen's Cheshire base was the springboard from which three champion jump jockeys, as well as a champion amateur, launched their careers.

The most famous jockey to graduate from the Owen ranks was Dick Francis, now better known as a world-famous author, although he will be also remembered as the jockey of the Queen Mother's Devon Loch, who inexplicably did the splits when about to win the Grand National.

As well as Francis, the other champion professionals to start their career with Owen were Tim Brookshaw and Stan Mellor. It was Mellor who partnered perhaps Owen's best horse as a trainer, Sandy Abbot, to victory in the 1963 National Two-Mile Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. While Sandy Abbot was Owen's best horse as a trainer, it was another chaser, Russian Hero, who gave him his most famous victory when landing the Grand National in 1949.

He achieved a fair share of big race success as a rider, too, most notably when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1939, the last pre-war running of steeplechasing's Blue Riband event.

Owen was born on Christmas Day in 1907 in Ledsham, a village near Chester, and he was to spend his entire career, both as rider and trainer, based in the Cheshire area. Coming as he did from a farming family, it was little surprise that Owen, who was educated at Ellesmere College in Shropshire, took an active interest from an early age in equine pursuits. His particular interest was hunting, and he was involved in the local Wirral Harriers from the age of 10.

He was only 18 when he started riding competitively as an amateur. His biggest success under that status came when winning the 1930 Cheltenham Foxhunters' Chase on Melleray's Belle. While riding among the unpaid ranks, Owen also enjoyed a number of successes with the North Yorkshire trainer Walter Easterby, the uncle of the successful trainers Mick and Peter Easterby. Owen turned professional as a jockey in 1932.

Not long before war broke out, he had established an impressive reputation as a leading National Hunt rider. That reputation was capped with the 1939 Cheltenham Gold Cup victory of Brendan's Cottage. He was taking on the previous year's Gold Cup winner, Morse Code, but ran on well up the hill to defeat the defending champion by five lengths, the pair having jumped the last together. Cheltenham was a successful course for Owen, who also won that year's Grand Annual Chase with The Professor II.

He began training in 1945 with a small string based at Larche in Cheshire. It was a year later that his first jump jockey protege, Dick Francis, recently demobilised from the RAF, joined him. Francis's first ride for the trainer was Russian Hero, who was at a stage of his racing career where his subsequent status of Grand National hero would have seemed far too fanciful.

In another ironic link between Francis and Russian Hero, the jockey had actually finished second to the Owen chaser in the 1949 National, when he was riding a horse called Roimond. Earlier in both horse and jockey's careers, Francis had tended Russian Hero through the night to prevent an attack of colic becoming fatal.

Russian Hero, who had been regarded an unlikely stayer for the gruelling Aintree spectacular, was sent off a 66-1 outsider when winning the National. He fell at the first fence when trying to win the race for the second year running, an uncanny fate which has befallen other National winners such as Aldaniti and Hallo Dandy.

The National was a race in which Owen made frequent attempts to repeat that success but never quite succeeded. Martinique was sixth for him in the 1956 National, while he had the second and fourth, Badanloch and Tea Friend, in 1960, the first year the race was televised live, when it was won by Merryman II. Another of his National winners, Peacetown, who had won a smaller race over the famous fences, the Topham Trophy, led for much of the way in 1964, when he was third to Team Spirit and Purple Silk.

Another again of Owen's best horses, Two Springs, started favourite for the 1970 National but fell at the third fence before going on to finish sixth to Specify in the 1971 running.

Owen, who trained for the 15 years of his career in Tiverton, also in Cheshire, was regarded as an extremely loyal man to work for. As well as starting the careers of Francis, Brookshaw, and Mellor, he also provided a great deal of success for the champion amateur rider Steve Davenport.

After his retirement he acted as a steward at Haydock and Liverpool, two local tracks at which he had enjoyed a great deal of success.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice