Racing Ahead|October 2020
Graham Buddry remembers Barry Hill’s problem horse
Graham Buddry

We have all witnessed racehorses with a cantankerous streak in them, a mind of their own to do exactly the opposite of what is required. More often this takes the form of refusing to line up and jump off or ducking out at obstacles over the jumps. On the Flat, playing up in the paddock, a refusal to go forwards or even enter the stalls is the usual manifestation. Strangely those horses which display such behaviours are often very talented indeed… if they put their minds to it. One was such a handful that if he had been human he’d have been locked away in a straight jacket, yet he was good enough to win a Classic.

Bought out of Ireland for £30k on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, Moonax was sent to be trained in England by Barry Hills but proved a problem from the outset. To say Moonax was unruly would be a vast understatement and downright vicious would be nearer the mark. The staff at his new home flatly refused to go anywhere near him and it was left to leading stable hand, Joyce Wallsgrove, to look after him, especially as he had a real hatred of anything male and within a short time a sign was hung outside his box warning people not to approach too near.

Training the wayward youngster was also a challenge for Hills as Moonax was more likely to try and savage any other horse in his vicinity and it was November before the two-year-old made his racecourse debut. This race lasted a mere two furlongs as Moonax jumped off well and was racing close up when one of the other debutants jinked violently to his left, badly impeding three other horses in the tightly-packed bunch as they all collided and Richard Quinn was unseated as Moonax stumbled.

As a three-year-old Moonax slowly improved with each run, taking a Maiden in March and a Conditions race in April, both times finishing strongly to win by four lengths under Michael Hills before being upped in class to the Group 3 Chester Vase in May. Mick Kinane took the ride here as Michael Hills was aboard Broadway Flyer for his brother, John Hills. A distant second place to Broadway Flyer seemed to cement Moonax as a decent performer but no more while his conqueror appeared to have a brighter future ahead of him.

Moonax was still an unpredictable law unto himself as Michael ascertained: “The safest place to be was on his back. He couldn’t bite you then,” while Barry Hills opined, “He had to be treated with caution otherwise he’d grab you.”


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October 2020