The first Tuesday in November seems a country mile away from the second Saturday in March for Henry’s penniless turf correspondent.
Alas, gentle readers; the poor Irish lad struggles to make ends meet on the stingy stipend of zero that English Henry insists is his just reward for his humble scribbling on the sport of kings.
Thankfully, the future is another country and – with emigration – springs hope eternal for us croppy boys from Tipperary who were driven from our native home by John Bull’s cruel, racist, economic rationalism in the middle of the 19th Century (the Corn Laws that led to the Great Famine; not the potato blight that was left to carry the can).
The first Australian Cup was held at Flemington in 1861 – just 11 years after my branch of the O’Meachair/O’Meagher/Maher (Irish for “hospitable”) clan arrived in sunny NSW in 1850 with a terrible thirst in our throats and a raging hunger in our bellies.
My Great Grandfather Eoin O’Meachair (Owen Maher) was the youngest (22) of the four boys who stepped from the “The Orient” onto Sydney Cove on 17 April with his Mother Mary and his three younger sisters.
They had left behind on the Emerald Isle their father Lawrence and their eldest sister Margaret who were forced to pay the supreme sacrifice (they refused to eat to enable the rest of the family to survive) so that England’s mercantile interests (the trade of Irish-grown – but English-owned – corn to Continental Europe) could be satiated while the Irish starved to death in a land of plenty.
To say I’m not still bitter about the “coffin ship” experience 162-years later would be a lie. But it is no more of a lie than to say the failure of the potato crop (due to stupid Irish incompetence no doubt) rather than deliberate English economic policy caused the genocide of 4 million Irish people in the middle of the 19th Century.
I’ll have a drink on Saturday to toast the Great Saint and curse the English: I’ll forgive but never forget! Then I’ll get on with my life in this great country and plan for the Randwick Guineas and the Bendigo Golden Mile.
Where was I…
That’s right! We’re in Australia; it’s 1850; and great grandfather’s three elder brothers (Michael, John and Martin); his three younger sisters (Ellen, Margaret and Winifred) and his Mammy settled in the Camden district of NSW where they worked as tenant farmers and domestic servants for the Bunnyip Aristocracy of the dominant Macarthur-Onslow sheep (and horse)-owning farming families.
So, in Tipperary, the Mahers (who can trace their ancestry back to the High Kings of Munster in 9th Century Ireland) have exchanged working as indentured labour for the Norman (English Protestant) Ormond-Butlers in the north riding of the Co Tipperary in Ireland; for working as indentured labour for the Norman (English Protestant) Macarthur-Onslows in the Co Cumberland in NSW.
The basic difference was that here in the new world; kith, kin, faith and freedom were still alive: Here, there were choices that didn’t involve either the frying pan or the fire. The same “Butcher’s Apron” flag flew above our heads but the torch of Irish-Australian freedom burnt brightly in our hearts.
It was all about what you made of your new freedoms.
As a young migrant with old Irish attitude in the larrikin new world, my great grandfather, wasn’t about to hang about the “coffin ships” in Sydney Harbour or the many shepherd slave-fields that John Macarthur owned and controlled in the Sydney Basin.
He was off to the wild blue wonder with a twinkle in his eye, a miner’s pick over his shoulder and a gun on his hip. According to the family historians (thanks Aunty Joan) young Owen Maher was attracted to the goldfields; and followed-up mining in the Araluen (NSW), Ballarat, Bendigo and Beechworth with what the family calls “a fair measure of success”.
This I take to be family coda for “he made a packet but we don’t want anyone to know how much in case he gets robbed.”
Anyhow, it sure beats shearing sheep for the Macarthur-Onslows on slave wages.
Flushed with success, Great Granddad married the gorgeous Sarah Finn (she can’t have been more than 18) at St Mary’s RC Cathedral in Sydney on 27 July, 1853 – with no expenses spared.
She hailed from the tiny town of Clonoulty in Co Tipperary; whereas his townlands were in the vicinity of Horse and Jockey – which was not much more than six-mile away as the crow flies and the horse jumps.
That they had to travel 12,000 miles from home to meet, greet and marry in the great cathedral in Sydney rather than stroll down the road to the equally great Romanesque Cathedral of the Assumption in nearby Thurles, is a total mystery to this little black duck.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles, Co Tipperary.
Sarah Maher and her new husband, Owen, took up land at Morton Park (NSW) where they produced their first four children: Ellen, 1855; Lawrence, 1857; Margaret, 1859; and Mary in 1861.
Owen then got itchy feet; pulled up stumps in NSW and moved to Gooramadda in Victoria; where another three children were born (Patrick in 1864; James in 1866 and Winifred in 1868).
Owen made his final move from Gooramadda to Bonegilla in 1870 where Sarah delivered him the final four offspring of Bridget in 1871; Martin in 1873; Johanna in 1875; and belatedly (but no less specially) came my granddaddy Thomas Hugh Maher in 1881.
As a very, young boy I remember Grandfather Tom shouting at my father (another Owen Maher) in our bathroom in Canberra. I had never heard anyone shout at my father before so I was impressed by this new authority figure that had suddenly come into my life.
But my abiding interest in family history has always been about the mysterious great uncle Patrick Maher who was my grandfather Tom’s rich elder brother and the assumed font of the “Patrick” in my moniker of Terence Patrick (TP) Maher.
Patrick Maher, my bête noir: suave and sophisticated – totally unlike any other Maher I have ever known.
Great Uncle Patrick Maher is the man I want to be; if only I could go back in time. He died the year I was born (1948) which is my only direct connection to him outside of paternal bloodlines in the great scheme of things and timescale of life.
Great Uncles and Aunties say they loved it when “rich” Uncle Pat visited the family homestead at Bonegilla because all the “good’ children got a silver coin if they paid due obecience to ‘uncle pat’ upon on his departure.
Pat Maher was born in the Wodonga hinterland (Gooramadda) just as my grandfather and father were. I’m told he was of medium height, had a slender build and had auburn hair (just like me without the built-in “slender build” and the “auburn hair” that I don’t have any more).
So Uncle Pat was about 6-years-old when the family moved to Bonegilla and he attended the Bonegilla State School for about two when it finally opened in 1876; this made him the first in the family to receive a formal education since the family left the Church’s care in Ireland.
It was enough for him to become a successful farmer in his own right in the district: “He also made good investments enabling him to travel abroad several times. He visited Ireland, England and the Continent in 1910 and later New Zealand and the South Sea Islands.”
Uncle Pat retired in 1932 “a wealthy man” to reside in the Tallangatta Hotel (which he probably owned as he lived there for 16-years); and acquired his first car, a royal blue Chrysler, in which his driver took him to social and sporting events like the races at Flemington.
I imagine that his “good investments” came from the stockmarket as well as thoroughbred horses. I also like to imagine that he owned and trained a horse called New Tipperary which won the Australian Cup in 1918.
The Australian Cup has a long and proud history with $1,005,000 at stake for the lucky winner on Super Saturday. The event has produced many stars that have stamped their authority on the Australian turf over the years. These include the likes of Lonhro, Makybe Diva, Northerly, Octagonal, and Durbridge in recent times.
The first Australian Cup was held in 1863 as a principal race over 18 furlongs. The inaugural event was won by Barwon. A horse named Woodman won two consecutive cups in 1865 and 1866, a feat repeated by Welkin Prince in 1962 and 1963, Craftsman in 1965-66, and Vo Rogue in 1989-90. Other champion thoroughbreds to win the premier staying event include Better Loosen Up, Dulcify, and Leilani.
Over the years the distance in the Australian Cup has varied from 3,600 meters to its current 2,000 meters since 1964.
Peter Moody: "I've never had this type of horse before...” Photo: Getty Images.
Manighar, twice a runner in the Melbourne Cup when prepared by Luca Cumani, finally found success in the Group I Australian Cup (2,000m); thus proving his versatility and demonstrating the genius of his new trainer, Peter Moody.
Manighar, bred by the Aga Khan, is a six-year-old grey gelding by Linamix, one of the best stallions in France over the past 15 years, and he was produced by a daughter of Fappiano's excellent US sprinter-miler Rubiano, according to the esteemed Tony Arrold of The Australian.
Southern Speed ($8.50) threatened to run straight past Manighar when she swooped inside the 400-metre mark, but Manighar ($7) dug deep and clawed back to win by the barest of margins. Chasing them for the entire length of the straight was Americain ($2.40 fav), which just failed by a neck to land a remarkable first-up win.
Americain’s trainer, David Hayes, was relieved but disappointed after the race following the brave first-up performance by what some experts say is the world's best staying horse.
''He hit the line the way we wanted, but a few little things went against him and put them together, I think it cost him victory,'' he said. ''From the outside barrier he had to go back to the tail and follow Precedence, who was never going to take him into the race. I think if he'd drawn better he wins the race.
''He certainly will be better suited over the 2,400 metres of The BMW which is likely to be his next start. If he draws well there, I think we can ride him midfield and he'll have every chance to win.''
Southern Speed, a South Australian-bred mare by Southern Image, turned back a massive foreign invasion at Caulfield and made a brave bid from a similar attack in the Australian Cup where foreign-breeds made up half the field of eight.
But Manighar, fourth of 18 in the Caulfield Cup, outgunned Southern Speed in a neck-and-neck duel over the final 200m and won the photo decision by a nose. US-bred Americain was a neck away third.
Luke Nolen (inside) gets the nod to ride Manighar to victory over Southern Speed in the Australian Cup at Flemington. Picture: Theo Karanikos. Source: Getty Images.
Peter Moody was full of praise for the way Luke Nolen summed-up the race:
"I've got to give Luke credit because he read the race well. He thought if anything went wrong with Glass Harmonium, Illo would take it up at a gallop with the blinkers on so he'd certainly done his homework," Moody said.
While Moody said he thought it was a dead-heat, Nolen wasn't sure whether he had got there or not. "I asked Craig (Williams, Southern Speed) and he wasn't sure either," he said.
"Southern Speed definitely gained a neck advantage on me. One thing I've found, the other day at Caulfield in the St George (Peter Young Stakes) is that he (Manighar) does possess a turn of foot when he is ridden for it."
Jockey Steven Arnold said he thought the 2,000m was "a bit too sharp" for Americain who was gallant in defeat. "They went at a pretty good speed and I was happy to let him get comfortable back," he said.
"He just had a little bit too much to do around the corner. I had Precedence (fourth) in front of me and he didn't quite take me far enough into the race. I had to come out and do it myself."
Glass Harmonium missed the start before finishing seventh while Illo, who led, dropped out to finish last. Maybe BJ Cummings is infallible after all.
C'est magnifique! Luck’s a fortune when the four horsemen of the apocalypse (#1-#5-#8-#14) line-up in your slot machine viewfinder: but it is a rare occurrence for us usually cack-handed punters to be blessed with such a beautiful set of quaddie numbers.
It is only your correspondent’s second-ever foursome/quadrella/Yankee/four-leaf-clover lucky-thingy since he began thinking a dingo probably did take Lindy Chamberlain’s baby; and that a winning trifecta was not the closest thing to the Holy Trinity available to us Irish Catholics on Earth.
Not everyone in the racing fraternity is a devout RC like me; but they sure as hell need a very good excuse (or a massive hangover which is much the same thing) for failing to turn up to the Spring Melbourne Racing Fraternity Mass at St Francis’ Church in Lonsdale St or the Autumn Sydney Racing Fraternity Mass which was held on Sunday at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, in Kensington.
Father Adrian Meaney conducts last year’s Sydney Racing Fraternity Mass.
Religion, you see, plays an enormous part in your correspondent’s betting strategy since he recently became a lapsed atheist and resumed the faith of his fathers – after 50-years of walking on the devil’s altogether barren side of the bookmaking street.
Among the rituals and protocols that must be observed when taking a Catholic Quaddie is the obeisance that must be paid to St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all racehorses (and lesser animals) and all the horsemen and women who depend upon these sturdy steads to earn their living and help praise the Lord.
That I religiously attend St Francis’ Church in Melbourne every Sunday gives your correspondent a head start over the heathen punters who only have the Herald Sun form guide to comfort them in the hours of darkness before the TAB opens.
The deal I struck with St Francis on Saturday morning (after viewing the scratchings) was that if my Quaddie got up; I would place a tithe (10% of my winnings or $20) in the plate at Mass the next day. Job done! Or so I thought!
Next to be placated were the Four Apostles – Mathew, Mark, Luke and John – who were required to bless the bed that I laid my quaddie on.
Mathew gave me horses #1,#6,#9,#13 and #22 in the first leg; Mark suggested only #1,#4 and #5 in the second; as usual, Luke procrastinated before coughing-up #1,#3,#5,#7 and #8 in the crucial third leg; whereas John was unequivocal that the only numbers that I needed to clinch the quaddie were #9,#11 and #14 in the last.
Thank you God! Thank you St Francis! Thank you Apostles all! And finally, thank you to the Wurundjeri people who were the traditional owners of Flemington until the bloody English stole it from them (don’t get him started on the English – Ed.).
My $50 flexi quaddie (5x3x5x3=225 combinations) gave your humble servant 22.22 percent of the somewhat skinny (given the engorged guaranteed $3 million pool) Supertab dividend of $881.10 or $195.03 in the old money. I have upheld my part of the bargain and am right pleased! QED.
Flemington in the good old days when the Wurundjeri were the stewards and Channel 7 didn’t have the TV rights for their silly fashion parades.
ONES TO FOLLOW (Naps)
All Too Hard; Samaready; Green Moon; Americain; Kauto Star (Cheltenham Gold Cup); Shez Sinsational; Centennial Park and Shoot Out.
''Are you going to Royal Ascot for Black Caviar?'' asked Les Carlyon, the renowned author and turf enthusiast of SMH journo Max Presnell. ''Been there, done that,'' was the reply, albeit without the champion mare. With the full blast of Hay List, Flemington on Saturday was hard to beat. ''The best racecourse in the world,'' prompted Carlyon? ''No risk,'' replied Presnell.
“Nothing matches viewing the action from the top of The Stand, a public area, open without glass. Sydney more than compared with Melbourne until Brian Beattie built the new Flemington grandstand, a point the naysayers regarding the coming Randwick innovations should consider,” says Presnell (SMH).
Victorian racing is on the move, mainly forward but back as far as the Friday night meeting preceding the coming Cox Plate at Moonee Valley is concerned. A chopped-up surface for the weight-for-age championship of Australasia would be deplorable. A step in the other direction was the more than 6,500 who went to Cranbourne for the night-racing debut last Friday, topping the worthy venture into the free attendance Warwick Farm meeting on a ''glorious'' Saturday. Now it is being mooted that Ballarat will be run in the clockwise direction for two-year-olds, so they can get the vital experience for travelling north, the first race in the Sydney way for nearly a century in Victoria.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/horseracing/hawkes-wary-of-slipper-draw-for-all-too-hard-20120311-1usfs.html#ixzz1otDhuoEJ
The Riders in the Stand
There's some that ride the Robbo style, and bump at every stride;
While others sit a long way back, to get a longer ride.
There's some that ride like sailors do, with legs and arms, and teeth;
And some ride on the horse's neck, and some ride underneath.
But all the finest horsemen out – the men to Beat the Band –
You'll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand.
They'll say "He had the race in hand, and lost it in the straight."
They'll show how Godby came too soon, and Barden came too late.
They'll say Chevalley lost his nerve, and Regan lost his head;
They'll tell how one was "livened up" and something else was "dead" –
In fact, the race was never run on sea, or sky, or land,
But what you'd get it better done by riders in the Stand.
The rule holds good in everything in life's uncertain fight;
You'll find the winner can't go wrong, the loser can't go right.
You ride a slashing race, and lose – by one and all you're banned!
Ride like a bag of flour, and win – they'll cheer you in the Stand.
Lyrics by the great AB “Banjo” Paterson
*Horse and Jockey is the fair-dinkum name of a town in the County Tipperary, Ireland. TP Maher comes from a long line of horse thieves and whisperers who once roamed its townlands – finally, they were warned-off by the stewards and moved to Bonegilla in Victoria.