It was a lovely summer's evening in Shelbourne Park. I was there in the company of family and friends. My dad Dick King was there. My mother Bridie stayed at home praying for a good outcome. Also present were Michael Fortune and Seamus Graham, two men I will never forget. Michael and Seamus were totally different but they both had one thing in common, their love for greyhounds. Both men had different roles to play. They were both very professional in their chosen careers.
Seamus was the trainer of Cool Survivor. I had known him since 1980/1981. I spent a lot of my spare time down in Tolerton and I saw his set-up firsthand. His was a family operation, with his wife Noreen and their family all helping out. Even then it was very evident that this was a man going places.
Michael Fortune, on the other hand, had two roles to play on the night. One was his journalistic work and the other was as joint owner of Cool Survivor. Myself and Michael had studied the final line-up many times during the previous week and no matter what result we came up with, the overriding word from Tolerton was that the bitch was in tremendous form and really back to her best. Cool Survivor had already won the Red Mills Puppy Oaks in H.X. in a very fast 28.98. Also in 1994 she won the Micheal Foley Memorial Trophy over 600 yds. in Enniscorthy, coming within a few spots of the track record. This win was very special for Michael as it was in memory of his first cousin and dear friend. These two wins gave us some confidence going into the Oaks final.
On the night, as the final approached, expectations were high and a hugh crowd packed the stands in Shelbourne Park. Cool Survivor went into trap 6, a very strong 3/1 second favourite with Floral Spark the even money favourite.
I found this a very anxious time as the hare approached the traps. When the lid went up, trap 6 showed in front and led to the bend. She raced in front up the back straight. With the rest of the field closing up to the third bend, my heart was in my mouth. But I needn't have worried as once she straightened for home, she raced on strongly to record a 3 length victory in a very fast time of 29.35. Pacific Wind finished 2nd, a neck in front of Dalcash Visa.
On air with Ger Canning on RTE in 1995 to mark the Oaks win
Our dream was realised and the celebrations started. I was very lucky to share ownership of Cool Survivor with a man who was known to everyone in the greyhound world: the one and only Michael Fortune. I could not have wished for a nicer co-owner of a classic than Michael.
We celebrated long into the night with Michael and his wife Rita and family Ian and Michelle, Seamus and his wife Noreen and family, my wife Barbara, and other family and friends.
The star of the show, Cool Survivor, went on to win the Television Trophy over 750 yds. When she retired at the end of a very successful career, she produced an Oaks winner, Borna Survivor, a very rare feat.
I was so privileged to have been involved with two men who will never be forgotten by me and who have left me with many cherished memories. May they both rest in peace.