For many decades Australian punters and bookmakers have been understandably wary of horses coming from New Zealand. Their record over the years has been impeccable and has caught many Australians off guard, so their appearances on our tracks have seen them placed ‘well under the odds’.
In 1992, Mike Moroney created a stable in Adelaide and managed to shuttle his horses from his Matamata base in New Zealand to South Australia. But Moroney was aware that Australian punters and bookmakers never grasped the idea that a horse could win first-up over 1600 metres or beyond.
Moroney had been working on a three year old in New Zealand that could fit the bill nicely and could get under the guards of most racing enthusiasts in Australia. In July of 1992, a $60000 purchase named Prince Charming arrived in Adelaide and was accepted for an open three-year-old handicap at Victoria Park.
Moroney was convinced that the horse was bombproof and contacted a leading commission agent in Sydney to handle the wagers of all connections and the stable. ‘I told him the amount and said I really thought it would hit the line, but he replied, “Mike, that’s a lot of money on a horse having its first start over a mile it’s never raced before; consider the job done but I won’t be with you.” ’
Prince Charming was backed from 33–1 into 4–1 and subsequently scored by six lengths. So impressive was the three year old that within hours of the victory, trainer David Hayes was putting the finishing touches to a deal to purchase Prince Charming for many times its yearling value.
Understandably elated with Prince Charming and the financial windfall of the plunge and sale, the trainer produced a similar scenario eighteen months later. Moroney, who was the former long-serving stable foreman for Kiwi trainer Dave O’Sullivan, had prepared the unusually named Twenty-Six Bricks, who again was shipped into Australia with no form or any credentials indicating that he’d be a threat at his debut.
‘I’d given him a trial in the bush over 1600 metres and I think he won by twenty lengths. In those days, trials were never recorded, so as far as most people were concerned I was bringing a big, strong gelding to Adelaide for jumps races,’ said Moroney.
In 1993 at Cheltenham, Twenty-Six Bricks scored by two lengths after being backed from 12–1 to 7–2 in a plunge that reaped a fortune in bets for those connected with the camp.
‘I know it’s history now, but these days it’s very hard to keep horses quiet with so many public trials and punting specialists who manage to get the profile of any horse in the world,’ Moroney said. ‘I probably upheld the tradition of New Zealand trainers sneaking into the country and landing the money. We didn’t do anything illegal, we just got the horses as fit as we could without racing them and stepped them out and they did the rest.’