Popular Alm – Ballarat Cup 1982

Popular Alm was one of the greatest pacers Australia has ever seen, a winner of 49 of his 62 starts with 10 placings and at one time the world record holder for the famous mile journey after he ran the then incredible time of 1.53.2 one night at Mooney Valley in 1983 during a specially staged time trial (above).

A year before running this scintillating time Poppy – as he was known by the adoring fans – had been taking all before him in the high quality Victorian Country Cup series, and was chasing a $50 000 bonus in the Ballarat Cup after wins in the Shepparton and Bendigo editions during the previous month.

Poppy’s regular race driver was unavailable to steer the champion around in the Ballarat Cup so his father, the horse’s trainer Bob Knight, stepped up and took the drive. I’m sure it was a decision that everyone connected with the horse later regretted.

Maori’s Idol – 1978 Inter Dominion

Maori’s Idol is without any doubt the greatest trotter (square-gaiter) ever to set foot on an Australian track.

This absolute champion stallion – who in 1977 became the first trotter in the Southern Hemisphere to break 2 minutes for mile run under race conditions – won 31 of his 34 starts against fellow square-gaiters, and 9 of the 12 he ran against the pacers, including victories at the old right-handed Albion Park track in the heats of the Sir Clive Uhr Championship defeating such legends of the sport as Paleface Adions, Koala King, Roma Hanover, Sporting Son, Rip Van Winkle, Right Action and Master Findlay, all themselves top-flight performers and winners of multiple Group 1 races.

The great champion would almost certainly have added the 1978 Inter Dominion Championship – the Melbourne Cup of trotting – to his resume as well, were it not for perhaps the worst drive in standardbred history by his regular reinsman Brian Healey, who completely misjudged the pace of the race and sat back toward the rear of the field for far too long before taking off after the leaders, costing his great horse the race.

Maori’s Idol started 11-4 on that night, and the punters almost tore down the stand after the race. Watching this replay you can certainly see why.