On the eve of the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick, Jess Donovan, part owner and breeder of bush raider Our Boy Malachi is packing for the journey from Brisbane to Sydney to watch “her boy” go around in what shapes to be his biggest test to date.
“When we started we had no idea he’d be as good as he was. His older brother Hodgie and Mo was a winning horse in Rockhampton, but for him to go to Sydney and win races and now to be the favourite in the biggest race in Queensland is something very special.”
It’s a story that echoes the fables of past greats such as Takeover Target and the great Queenslander Gunsynd, which Our Boy Malachi interestingly shares bloodlines with through his sire Top Echelon. The small town horse coming to the big city and blowing them all away is one of racing’s favourite tales. Like The Cleaner during the Melbourne spring carnival last year, Our Boy Malachi shapes to be the punters favourite this winter having already been backed heavily to win at short odds in Saturday’s Group 3. And why not. The “Rockhampton Rocket” has started favourite on 16 occasions and won 15 of them including his last three races, his first runs in Sydney under new trainers Team Hawkes.
“Dad’s biggest goal in life was to breed and own a good horse. When his father passed away he made a promise to him that he would breed a horse that would win a good race. When Malachi won the first of his Rockhampton Newmarket’s dad was very emotional because he’d kept his promise to grandad. Top Echelon is one of the more popular sires in North Queensland and we had success with Hodgie and Mo by taking our dam Rusticate to Top Echelon, so we thought we’d do it again. It’s pretty cool that he’s related to horses like Gunsynd and Kingston Town but it’s more by chance than anything really.”
Earlier this year Miss Donovan’s father, the managing owner of Our Boy Malachi, Col Donovan, passed away from a sudden illness. It was a shock to the entire Rockhampton racing fraternity to lose such an integral member of their tight knit community at just 62 years of age. He was described as a popular figure who touched everyone that knew him. He was specifically known however for being a steadfast family man.
“Dad often got asked why he hadn’t sent Malachi to the city earlier. He used to say that it was better to win races with family and friends around. Winning races in Rockhampton meant that he could share the victories with his family and friends, which meant more to him than anything. Eventually though he just became too good to refuse.”
Since the passing of her father, Jess and the other remaining owners, Col’s wife Katrina and his brother Ross have left much of the decision making regarding Our Boy Malachi’s racing career up to Team Hawkes. Michael, son of legendary trainer John has indicated that Our Boy Malachi is being set for a very ambitious homecoming campaign that includes all three Brisbane Group 1 sprints, including the feature race of the Brisbane Winter Carnival, the AAMI Stradbroke Handicap, for which Our Boy Malachi is the standout favourite in early betting.
“He’s a quality horse. After this run he’ll head up to Brisbane for the BTC Cup, Doomben 10,000 and Stradbroke.” Hawkes said.
If Our Boy Malachi is able to capture one of these feature races, Col’s mates at the Rockhampton Jockey Club will be celebrating as much as anyone, except maybe Jess.
“If Malachi manages to win a Group 1 for us, it will be very emotional, almost unbelievable. Dad always knew he was a great horse and that was why he was willing to give him the opportunity to run in Sydney. I reckon he had a good idea that he’d be up to this level but we sure didn’t. If he wins it will be probably the greatest thing that’s ever happened to us.”
If Malachi performs as well as expected he won’t just be Rockhampton’s favourite racehorse anymore, he’ll no doubt be Queensland’s and in contention for Australia’s favourite too.