Creating a legacy

Emotions were clearly running high across two families back in mid-July.

At Albion Park on July 11, rookie pacer Whata Legacy broke maiden ranks when proving triumphant in the Burwood Stud Pace defeating Sheer Artistry and Convinced in a time of 1:56.6.

Some four days later, Whata Roller scored in the $31,160 J.C McMullen, one of the co-features on Sunshine Sprint race night at Albion Park.

Both winners were prepared by John McMullen, and his daughters Dannielle (Whata Legacy) and Taleah (Whata Roller) took the winning drives.

Both winners were bred and raced by the late Norm McCloy and his wife, Margaret.

Earlier this year, Norm passed away aged 70, following a battle with cancer but his legacy lives on with many of his horses still racing and winning throughout the country.

McCloy was a giant of the industry. Based in Victoria, he bred and raced so many horses spanning close to four decades.

Many carried the ‘Whata’ prefix – including Whata Avenue, Whata Roller, Whata Journey, Whata Challenge, What Special, What Bluff, Whata Escape, Whata Shaw Thing and Whata Punt among others – with most being either raced or leased.

At one stage, 120 of his stock were racing.

The horses were spread amongst many trainers over the years, including John McMullen, Trevor Hillson, Mattie Craven and John McDermott. Even former Sydney race caller/conditioner John Tapp was involved at one point.

A keen breeder, Norm also had shares in outstanding stallions Art Major, Rock N Roll Heaven, Roll With Joe and Sportswriter among others.

His first horse was Truscott Boy and while he enjoyed solid success with several handy types over the journey including South Australia Oaks winner Please Don’t Tease, his best pacer was Bonamax, a star performer with close links to the Sunshine State.

McCloy bought into Bonamax as a two-year-old from Auckland trainer Gary Hillier following three wins from five starts.

Hillier is best known as the trainer/driver of The Bru Czar (13 wins, $436,000), a star of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Placed under the care of South Australian trainer Neil and Paul Cavallaro, the Whata Baron colt chased Derby glory back in 1992.

Whata Legacy scored his first win at Albion in July.

Bonamax won the Gawler Derby beating boom pacer Chokin before contesting the South Australia (sixth Chokin), Victoria (fifth Lotsnlots), New South Wales (eighth Fellas Pride) before being the runner-up behind Misty Maiden in the Australian Derby at Albion Park.

Retiring with a record of 20 wins from 37 starts, Bonamax stood at Melton Stud under the eye of George Michael, a close associate of McMullen.

And that’s where the connection commenced between McCloy and McMullen.

The connection spanned close to 25 years and Watta Bonamax was the first ‘better’ type, a winner of 25 races and more than $123,000 while others soon followed.

“Norm was a great character, very passionate about his horses and a keen breeder. We enjoyed some good success over the years, and he was genuine harness racing guy,” McMullen said.

Whata Legacy is a gelded son of Art Major from the Bettors Delight mare Needa Margarita, a useful type for John’s eldest daughter Narissa.

Needa Margarita contested such features as the Raith Memorial in Sydney plus the Queensland, Redcliffe, and Gold Coast Oaks back in 2015.

At stud, she is perfect with three foals to race for three winners including Whata Optimist (11 wins, $41,000), Whata Sport (one win, $7000) and now Whata Legacy.

Her latest foal is a filly by Mr Feelgood.

Whata Legacy went through all the early stages of his career with McMullen and early signs were promising, a natural leggy type with a strong attitude.

The youngster stepped out for his first education trial at Albion Park back on March 21 before having his qualifying trial a week later.

He finished third in a mixed trial won by Eternal Gold in a time of 1:57.2 when handled by Adam Richardson.

His debut came on April 11 at Albion Park and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

He jumped a shadow in the crore-up, cast a plate and basically took no competitive part when a distant last before being ordered to trial again before his next start.

Whata Roller took out the J.C. McMullen on the Sunshine Sprint race night.

Requalifying the following week, Whata Legacy was back at the races but never threatened in his three starts.

At his fifth start, Whata Legacy showed sharp improvement and ran a solid race when finishing third behind Majorita Jujon and Denis The Punter in a time of 1:57.4.

The following week he never featured from a wide draw and finished towards the rear of the field before finishing second behind Force Full in 1:57.3.

On June 11, at his eighth start, Whata Legacy scored his maiden victory when leading throughout in a time of 1:56.6.

“Norm was excited and hopeful about this horse; he was always checking-in and getting regular updates once he started,” McMullen said.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see him win but I know he’d be looking down and cheering him on, he would be particularly proud.”

Later in the same week, Whata Roller scooted through via the sprint lane to claim the J C McMullen feature downing Aardies Flash (driven by Pete McMullen) in a time of 1:52.2.

Whata Roller and Taleah were sporting the silks made famous by John “Hollywood” McMullen, the red jacket with white sash.

“It was the first time I’d started a horse in Dad’s race, so to win, was very special, in particular, with Taleah wearing his colours,” McMullen said.

“Hopefully both Dad and Norm are up there having a drink together after that win.”

Whata Roller, a six-year-old gelding by Roll With Joe from one of the McCloy’s better race mares Whata Avenue (12 wins, $92,000) has been a great performer for the McMullen family throughout his career.

That was his 12th career victory while his earnings are just shy of $100,000.

Let’s hope the winners keep coming for years to come.

The connections of Whata Roller.