Feburary 2019 | Wendy Laing
LOCALS AND visitors alike will have seen the statue of the famous racehorse Malua, gracing the forecourt of the Western Tiers Visitor Centre. Malua was bred at Calstock, near Deloraine, by John Field, purchased as a yearling by Thomas Reibey (former Premier of Tasmania), who sold him to Mr J O Inglis for 500 guineas.
Winning the Newmarket Handicap, the Adelaide Cup, and other races, his performance in the Melbourne Cup in 1884 saw him recognised as the best horse in Australia. The Examiner, on 5 November 1884, reported that ‘in the greatest race of the southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Cup, Tasmania produced the winner in Malua … who covered himself with glory by carrying 9st 9lb in the fast time of 3 minutes, 31seconds’.
Malua was an extraordinary horse – able to carry heavy weights and defeat the best racehorses in both sprint and staying races. He was in the habit of ‘coming from “nowhere” and fairly smothering the leaders’, The Sportsman wrote in May 1884. ‘The class of the field made little difference to him. At one stage he would not be in the picture, but in the next hundred yards he would swoop down and settle the argument.’ In July 1886,
The Examiner noted that Malua had gone to stud and would ‘probably bid adieu to the turf forever’. However, in 1888, Malua was switched to jumping – not so unusual in those days – and ridden by his owner Mr Inglis won the VRC Grand National Hurdle. Combined with his stud career, Malua continued to race, winning the Geelong Gold Cup in 1889, his last race as a ten-year-old. Malua was inducted into Australian Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
Malua Street, in the suburb of Ormond in Melbourne was named after this great horse. For a brief period of time, this little street was also home to Dame Nellie Melba.