‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira not the first jockey to make the trip from Hong Kong fashionable   Leave a comment

‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira not the first jockey to make the trip from Hong Kong fashionable
April 2, 2015 – 4:49PM
Max Presnell
A worthy prize: Francesca Cumani  with the trophy that will be given to the winners of the group 1 and Country Championships races held on Satruday.
A worthy prize: Francesca Cumani with the trophy that will be given to the winners of the group 1 and Country Championships races held on Satruday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Unfortunately Allan Middleton, with form lines similar to Joao Moreira, is not available for Saturday’s Country Championship final at Royal Randwick.

Some figure the country wing of The Championships, the major innovation for the autumn, should be limited to bush jockeys, a point of discussion at the Bletchingly Lunch, a gathering of racing types at the showground on Monday, including Bill Rose, owner of Tarangower, and Noel Leckie, shareholder of another strong contender, Voodoo Lad.

Rose countered the engagement of New Zealand ace James McDonald for Voodoo Lad with the Moreira factor, quickly gaining acclaim as Brazil’s best export.

Neither would have any knowledge of Bourke, Middleton’s home territory where he was a sparring partner of my mate, John Salway.


Middleton came onto the Sydney radar due to work experience with Randwick trainer Harry Darwon in the 1950s.

He was a bush kid, too big to be a jockey but a natural horseman. Both Middleton and “Sally” graduated from StJosephs, renowned for fine academic standards, and punters.

Sally was well versed in the classics, as adept with Shakespeare as Henry Lawson, and fine-tuned his mathematics as a bookmaker’s clerk in the Western Districts that set him up to make his pile from advertising.

Following his early years with Darwon, Middleton became a top amateur jockey and won a Corinthian – an event for amateurs only usually on the first day of the season – at Randwick for Tommy Smith.

The race was dropped by the Australian Jockey Club in the mid-70s but brings to mind the Corinthian Room, Joe Taylor’s speakeasy near Railway Square, with no connection to the race other than that we, Middleton occasionally and Sally with other cohorts Hoppy Laurie, Dick the Crock and Ray Alexander frequented the establishment. Ironically Alexander, later secretary and AJC CEO, was at the Bletchingly Lunch.

Rising up steep stairs at the Corinthian, which were very difficult to navigate on the return journey, patrons were greeted with a magnificent, framed display of cheques that had bounced. We never made the honour roll. Jack Gibson was the chucker outer.

It was a far shout from the showground on Monday where former AJC chairman Bob Charley gave a rousing rendition of an unpublished Banjo Paterson work and John Digby, a past keeper of the stud book, was more irascible than usual after New Zealand’s World Cup cricket loss on Sunday.

Digby was pontificating about the merits of Hector Gray, the McDonald of his day much earlier than even Middleton, who went to Hong Kong – with races then for amateurs only – where he developed a Moreira-like reputation.

Old timers still rate him with the best but obviously against lesser opposition. In 1967, Middleton married Hong Kong’s best known cabaret artist, Billie Tan.

Even then Honkers was regarded as a jockey’s Valhalla, dwarfing the Australian bush that provided a bountiful harvest for amateurs on the picnic circuit.

But The Championships has put new life into NSW country racing, more appealing to me than the millions in prize money that is attracting attention abroad.

From the Bletchingly Lunch, Binalong Road, with the services of a genuine bush jockey Hugh Bowman was mentioned in assessments for Saturday’s rich prize but the main push was for Tarangower and Voodoo Lad.

The barrier draws were yet to come but from gate 19 over 1400 metres, the magic of Moreira on Tarangower will be tested. Alas Middleton is long gone and Sally more recently, but if anything can bring them back it will be the Back’O’Bourke reunion next weekend, featuring the picnic races on Sunday for the first time in 12 years.

Posted April 3, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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