Almanac Racing: Emus, cats and three-legged corgis and their place in training great mares

Egbert the emu, George the cat and Sandy the three-legged corgi have long been in animal heaven. As has the famous harness horse the trio “babysat” at a Western Australian trotting stable many moons ago.

 

Dainty’s Daughter, one of the best mares to have raced in the world, was this week made a museum piece. Or more precisely, her epic efforts now make up a piece in a museum.

 

On Tuesday – 53 years to the day after she was foaled in a paddock at Cunderdin, 160km east of Perth, and 24 years after she was buried in the same paddock – the newish, local museum opened the Dainty’s Daughter display. Thousands who travel the Great Eastern Highway in and out of the WA capital city can now stop and read of her freakish performances.

 

And they will be told about Egbert, who one day jumped a fence at the Forrestdale property of trainer Bernie Cushing and joined a horse in trackwork.

 

“He can really move and leaves the horses for dead when he really winds up,” Cushing, who had been given Egbert when he was a chick, said.

 

“When he decides to have a go, he’s faster than Dainty’s Daughter.”

 

And seeing Dainty’s Daughter once held the world record over two miles (for both sexes) and the world record over a mile for mares, that means Egbert had flying feet.

 

Dainty’s Daughter, bred and owned at Cunderdin by wheat and sheep farmer and country football identity Jock Coleman, was a flighty type when she moved to Perth for racing.

 

But that’s when George entered the picture. The ginger coloured cat, who lost part of his nose, tail and a paw after a brush with a train, roamed the box where Dainty’s Daughter lived. George cleared the stable of goannas, spiders, grasshoppers – and even a tiger snake – which upset the mare.

 

“It’s as if George has some magic with her. She loves having him around the place and she doesn’t rear and buck as she once did,” Cushing commented.

 

Three-legged Sandy – who lost his front leg in an accident with a grader – also acted as a guard for the star pacer.

 

“Sandy’s easy to get along with in normal circumstances – but it’s a different matter if a stranger gets near Dainty’s,” Cushing said.

 

But the real story told at the Cunderdin Museum – which is directly opposite an Ettamogah-themed hotel – is of the horse and two humans who were the stars of the show in WA harness racing between 1967 and 1974.

 

Messrs Coleman and Cushing met over an ale or three at the Victoria Park Hotel in 1952, when the former was searching for a city trainer for his mare, Cheeky Arab.

 

Cheeky Arab won six races in Perth; while the men won each other over. Their friendship not only included racing horses, but family holidays and fishing trips.

 

“It often seemed that they knew what the other was thinking and feeling,” members of the Coleman and Cushing families agreed at Tuesday’s museum launch.

 

Proof of their closeness came in 1998 – when the pair died within a week of each other. Coleman was 82, Cushing was 79.

 

Dainty’s Daughter was 29 when she died in 1992.

 

Her 33 wins in Perth have not been equalled by a mare, more remarkable considering that in more than 95 per cent of her events, she raced from handicap marks in standing starts.

 

Dainty’s Daughter endeared herself to an adoring public and had a following the equal of the freakish Mount Eden.

 

“Bernie could almost make her talk to the crowd. She would nod and bow to the crowd when she came back to salute the judge. The people loved her,” Coleman remarked when she died.

 

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