Viking Flagship owner Graham Roach dies aged 69


Graham Roach: enjoyed plenty of jumps winners

 By Graham Dench 1:46PM 28 SEP 2016 

GRAHAM ROACH, who owned dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Viking Flagship among a host of distinguished jumps winners, has died at the age of 69.

Roach, who made his fortune with Cornish bacon and ham processing business Roach Foods, also trained and enjoyed considerable success in the 1980s handling Prideaux Boy. The horse developed into a top-class hurdler, winning the Lanzarote and Swinton Hurdles and finishing fourth to See You Then in the 1986 Champion Hurdle before switching to fences late in life.

However, Roach found it impossible to do training justice while running a growing business and said at the time: “Cornwall is too far down geographically and there were so many business commitments. I wasn’t able to split myself in half and make it work, and it was the business that always had to come first.”

Initially, Roach had the former moderate Irish Flat maiden Viking Flagship with Martin Pipe and the gelding started off with four straight wins as a juvenile hurdler, one on Lingfield’s all-weather surface.

However, it was with the late David Nicholson that Viking Flagship developed into one of the best-loved chasers of the last 30 years, winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1994 and 1995, the Mumm Melling Chase in 1995 and 1996, and many other top races, including a Tingle Creek Chase and a Victor Chandler Chase.

Paul Nicholls took over the Roach horses when Nicholson retired and landed a Grade 1 win with Cornish Rebel in the Challow Hurdle, and Cheltenham Festival wins in successive years with St Pirran in the Grand Annual and Thisthatandtother in what was then the Daily Telegraph Festival Trophy.

There was further success at Graded level with the likes of Be Be King, Hawkes Point, Hells Bay, Shotgun Willy, Silence Reigns, The Nightingale and The Tother One, and a bet365 Gold Cup win in 2015 with Just A Par, owned in partnership with his great friend Paul Barber and only just denied a repeat win in April when short-headed by The Young Master.

Good friend

Nicholls grew close to Roach in their long association, and said: “Graham came to me when The Duke [Nicholson] retired and he wasn’t just a good owner – he became a good friend too. He was a joy to train for and it’s terribly sad.

“It’s a sad loss for racing, and not just his family and friends, as he was a great supporter of National Hunt racing, as an owner and as a trainer himself in the early days, when he always had a good set up and enjoyed doing it himself.”

He added: “He had some amazing horses and had some great success. He enjoyed every minute of it, but especially those wins at the festival with St Pirran and Thisthandtother and the great days we had with Shotgun Willy.”

Roach leaves a widow, Valerie, a son, Shaun, and daughters Tanya and Louise. Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

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