It was a surreal feeling as Bryan Healy walked into Albion Park last Saturday night.
A lifetime ago, 43 years to be precise, Healy headed into the same track with the horse who changed his life, the greatest trotter Australasia has ever seen, Maori’s Idol.
Maori’s Idol won 40 of his 46 starts, became the first trotter (not pacer) to win the Australian Horse of the Year title (1977/78) and has Hall of Fame Legend status in Victoria.
What’s most amazing is Maori’s Idol was so much better than the trotters he raced, Healy and his father, Ric, dared to race him against some of our best pacers. For context, that would be like an under-14s kid playing against AFL footballers. “It’s remarkable really, it’ll never happen again,” Healy said.
And that’s why the 1978 Albion Park raid came about. The Healys decided to take on pacing greats like Paleface Adios, Koala King, Rip Van Winkle, Roma Hanover and others in the Clive Uhr Championship, through two heats into a final. Incredibly he won both heats and ran a mighty second (to Rip Van Winkle) in the final after being “gang-tackled” and made to work incredibly hard to find the lead in the final.
Despite wondering what might have been, Bryan Healy has nothing but good memories of Albion Park.
“I retired about three years ago and moved up (from Marnoo, near Stawell) to live on the Gold Coast, but would you believe last Saturday night was only the second time I’ve been to Albion Park since I was there with Maori’s Idol. It was a strange feeling walking back in,” Healy said.
Rip Van Winkle driven by Michael Vanderkemp just behind Maori’s Idol driven by Bryan Healy at Globe Derby Park Dec 1977. Photo: Staff photographer.Source:News Corp Australia
“That trip is one of the greatest memories I have of him, trotters don’t race against the pacers, let alone the very best pacers and let alone beat them. He was an incredible horse, before his time.”
Fittingly, it was another exciting trotter, the brilliant four-year-old mare Pink Galahs, who lured Healy back to “The Creek”, as Albion Park is known.
Healy’s daughter, Laura, bred Pink Galahs and he loved what he saw of the mare winning her first start so much he asked if he could buy a share in her.
It was a great fit and an excited trainer-driver Matty Craven wanted to celebrate it by having Pink Galahs race in the Healy family green and gold colours, those immortalised by Maori’s Idol.
“I never thought I’d see those go around Albion Park again,” Healy said.
Pink Galahs must have sensed the occasion, producing the most stunning performance of her fledgling career and thrashing rivals in the Group 1 Darrell Alexander Trotting Championship final. She became the first trotter to clean-sweep the series, having won heats the previous two weeks.
Healy and Pink Galahs will be back chasing more Group 1 glory in the Queensland Trotters’ Championship at Albion Park this week.
“I’m going back again. She’s great to watch, isn’t she? She’s so fast and her stamina is getting better, too. Sure she’s only small, but she doesn’t race small, she’s a big strider and trots big if you know what I mean,” Healy said.
Anyone who saw her give the leaders a 60m head start and thrash them last Saturday night would agree.
Originally published asHealy remembers wonder trotter Maori’s Idol at ‘The Creek’
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