ONE of the all-time greats will be thrust back into the limelight at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night.
Named in honour of the 1970s superstar, the Maori’s Idol Free-For-All has assembled a solid field, including two distance relatives – Maori Time and Maorisfavouritesun.
Although the pair have forged successful careers, they have a long way to go before they can be compared to the great Maori’s Idol.
Maori Time is a multiple Group One winner, while Maorisfavouritesun has scored at Group Two level.
Despite the Maori Dynasty has producing several outstanding trotters, including Inter Dominion winner, Sumthingaboutmaori, regular driver Bryan Healy declared Maori’s Idol will always be at the top of the mantle.
“There will never be another one like him,” Healy said. “Even Sumthingaboutmaori isn’t half the horse he was and she won an Inter Dominion.”
By Ike Frost from sensational matron Maori Miss, Maori’s Idol was bred, owned and trained by Ric Healy.
Making his debut against older horses at Globe Derby in October 1975, the three-year-old lost a conservative 250 metres at the start before racing five-wide during the final stages to win by 15 metres.
The youngster ran the last half in a remarkable 59 seconds despite covering more ground than ‘early settlers.’
Maori’s Idol’s exhibition was so impressive it attracted an unheralded $100,000 offer from international interests, which was quickly turned down by Healy.
Triumphant at his only other start that season, Maori’s Idol returned at four to win 11 of his 13 starts, including his last four outings.
The boom trotter sealed his greatness the following term by winning his next 20 starts to equal Lucky Creed’s national winning sequence record of 24.
Included in those victories is his 1:59.3 performance in the Kaiser Stuhl Summer Wine Free-For-All at Moonee Valley to become the first trotter to break two minutes.
“Breaking two minutes was his greatest moment,” Bryan Healy declared.
“It was his first time from the mobile, he missed the start and lost about a second, got a slight check, losing another second, and still broke two minutes after starting out in gate six.”
After dominating the season, Maori’s Idol was expected to score a hollow victory in the 1978 Inter Dominion at the Valley, but suffered a shock loss when finishing third to Derby Royale in the Final.
Sent for a spell, Maori’s Idol returned later in the year for an ambitious campaign against the nation’s best Grand Circuit pacers in the Sir Clive Uhr Championship – later known as the Queensland Pacing Championship – at Albion Park.
The stallion made a clean sweep of the heats, defeating the likes of Paleface Adios, Roma Hanover and Sammy Karamea.
Maori’s Idol’s time in the opening round was 1.2 seconds quicker than fellow winner, Rip Van Winkle.
In the second round, the squaregaiter’s rate was again the fastest of the night, an amazing nine-and-a-half seconds quicker than Koala King in the other heat.
Finding the lead in the Final, Maori’s Idol was given little peace during the middle stages, but still led the field into the straight before being overpowered Rip Van Winkle to finish second.
“His efforts during the Clive Uhr heats were unbelievable,” Healy said. “It was disappointing he didn’t win the Final, but it was no disgrace.”
Maori’s Idol then created history when he was declared the 1978 Australian Horse of the Year – the first trotter to win the coveted award. He remains the only trotter on the prestigious award’s honour role!
Sent for a spell after his Queensland campaign, Maori’s Idol missed a placing for the first time upon his return when 11th in the Kilmore Cup.
After failing to finish in a Free-For-All at the Valley on December 9, 1979, Maori’s Idol was retired.
Disheartened the champion wasn’t receiving the patronage he deserved at stud – a problem still facing colonial stallions – Healy decided to put Maori’s Idol back in work.
Despite a 32-month absence, Maori’s Idol made light of his 40-metre handicap to score an effortless first-up win at the Valley in a class record 2:07.7.
Much to Healy’s dismay, Maori’s Idol became sore in his fetlock, the injury which led to his original retirement, with the horseman sending the champion back to stud.
The majestic looking star was retired with 40 wins and four placings from 46 starts for earnings of $98,820. Eight of his victories were against the pacers.
Receiving greater respect at stud the second time, Maori’s Idol carried his prowess from the racetrack to the breeding barn to be Australia’s leading trotting sire seven times.
In 2000 Maori’s Idol was fittingly voted the Trotter of the Century by a panel of experts.
Sadly in October 2006, Maori’s Idol had to be put down at a ripe age of 34 after struggling with illness.
- PAUL COURTS