Half a century separates Red Ora and Maranalgo as racehorses but both started life as orphans.
Red Ora was six weeks old when his dam, Friar Triar, passed away in her paddock. She was just in foal for the third time, her first foal being a full sister to Red Ora.
Red Ora, trained by Dan Morton, is the latest three year old sensation having won all five of his starts for a band of mainly first time racehorse owners. These new owners have the common denominator of being members in the Aquinas Leavers class of 1975.
These young whippersnappers, finishing their schooling a decade after the real cream graduated from Christ Church, can thank classmate, Gray Williamson, for giving them the ride of their lives.
Williamson and his wife Jan, have bred and raced horses for over 30 years and gave him to the old Aquinian group as a replacement for Okatika who had fetlock problems and is still unraced.
Originally the idea was for these former classmates to have a horse that would give them fun at provincial and country meetings where they could gather to socialise.
As Gray Williamson quipped, after Red Ora’s fifth win, “now they are complaining they have not got further than Ascot!”
You certainly can’t miss the burgeoning Red Ora army, sporting the red jackets and black trousers, the Aquinas College colours.
But as Williamson noted, “I have never had a horse that has won five straight before.” This earned a quip from one of the red and black blighters, “and I have never raced a horse that has not won five straight.”
So, originally passed in at the 2013 yearling sales and then given to a novice group of owners, as a substitute, Red Ora has exceeded all expectations.
Jan Williamson made the point that orphan foals can be tougher.
“He was given milk from a bucket four times a day after losing his mum and he was also ready for some food supplement. Being around humans more made him quiet and friendly. Some Due Sasso youngsters can be hot headed but not him.” She added, “We had another foal at the time getting the same treatment. Both of them had the same nanny, a lovely old mare called Miss Jane, who cared for both of them.”
Red Ora was called Friday at Mungrup Stud because that was the day he lost his mother.
Gray Williamson said that Red Ora, now spelling, was potentially the best horse he had been associated with. “I think he has the ability to be better than Metal Master, Shout From Maroof and Scuffs. We are currently working out his future program, that may include going East, but he will probably come back in winter for a few starts at Belmont.”
Williamson said his competitive nature meant he still had to settle better in races. “He has improved in his last couple of starts but still needs to progress further in settling in his races.”
The Stewards Reports reinforce the studmaster’s comments. In his first race he ran ‘greenly’ and then ‘keenly’ at his next two starts.
However his keenness and will -to -win is also an important ingredient in his success. His third race, on January 17, was his toughest race. He appeared gone at the 200m mark when Volkoff got a neck in front of him in the Westspeed 3Yo Handicap (1200m). However, Red Ora fought back and won in a head bobber.
Born in 1954, Maranalgo (Kingsley-Zawingie) lost his mother almost immediately after she got into a feed shed and indulged in an oat-eating spree.
Owned by pastoralist Albert Butler, and his wife Dorrie, the young foal required constant two hour feeding, by bottle, to survive.
He did and was a useful galloper in 72 starts, from 1957-64, that saw the attractive bay win 12 times, the best of them being the 1961 Kalgoorlie Cup, when ridden by Frank Treen.
He was placed behind the likes of Aquanita and Young Filipino and was sixth behind the former in the 1959 Railway Stakes. Jockeys successful on Maranalgo included Bruce Hutchison, Colin Hayes, Colin Tulloh, George Davies, Gordon Dickinson and Graham Lambie.
Maranalgo’s Ascot trainer, Ted McAuliffe, left with him at midnight and arrived at the Goldfields at breakfast time. In the afternoon he won an emphatic victory by two and half lengths with Kifinane and Coco filling the places.
McAuliffe employed the same successful late arrival strategy with Polo King some seven years later, employing the jockey skills of his son-in-law, Graeme Webster Snr.
Webster had also ridden Maranalgo, during the galloper’s career, but was never successful on him.
It is interesting to compare the social transition of racing owners today and yesteryear.
Today sees many racing partnerships and syndicates being formed. Over half a century ago there were more single racehorse owners with pastoralists and farmers being plentiful in their ranks.
Albert Butler (born 1892) was a wealthy, genial pastoralist who started life as dingo hunter and trapper and ended up owning Maranalgo Station (near Payne’s Find) and Wee Maranalgo, just out of Armadale.
He was an original ANZAC, landing at Gallipoli on the first day, (25/4/1915), and was twice wounded in the Great War, being repatriated home at the end of that year.
His father William George (aka Jerry) was a poacher who was sentenced to seven years in prison and was sent to WA on the last of the convict transport ships, Hougoumont, leaving England in 1867 and arriving in WA on 10 January 1868.
William Butler left a wife and 12 children in the Old Country and started anew in Australia, after doing his time.
Not many of today’s group of racehorse owners can match Albert’s ancestry and background but Red Ora and Maranalgo, separated by time, have a common trait.
These orphans, with tails, both possessed enough courage and ability to overcome an uncertain start to life.
by John Elsegood