Kiwi dairy farming brothers the O’Learys will be hoping Who Shot Thebarman has aged well as the nine-year-old aims to become the oldest horse to win the Melbourne Cup.
It will be Who Shot Thebarman’s fourth attempt at the $6 million Melbourne Cup, but the four brothers and their wives don’t see his age as an issue.
“That’s not a problem. It took a while to catch him,” Humphrey O’Leary said.
“We didn’t break him in until he was a late two-year-old and then he didn’t race until he was a late four-year-old old.
“He’s always had a lot of ability. It’s just a matter of harnessing it.”
Trainer Chris Waller says the gelding proved just how good he is by winning the Group Two Moonee Valley Cup little more than a week ago, his first victory for almost two years.
“He hasn’t won a Group One race in Australia yet his prize money’s massive and he just tries his heart out,” Waller said.
In the Waller stable, Who Shot Thebarman is just as important – and as popular – as triple Cox Plate winner Winx.
“This horse would be just as well received winning or losing when he goes back home to the stable as Winx would be. That’s how much he means,” Waller said.
Winx may be a superstar but O’Leary says the brothers have a good and tough stayer in the Cup at a reasonable weight.
“We’re a handicapper. She’s not,” he said.
“If she started in the Melbourne Cup she’s going to get 64kg and can’t win. But we can, well we can be in the first three with our weight (54kg).
Bred at New Zealand’s White Robe Lodge, Who Shot Thebarman is comparatively lightly raced for a nine-year-old, amassing more than $3 million prize money with 10 wins from 47 starts.
A third place in 2014 is the best of his three Melbourne Cup appearances, while the 2014 Auckland Cup winner has also contested four Sydney Cups, finishing second twice.
The gelding earned his name from the O’Leary brothers’ aunt Julie, who would cry out “who shot the barman” whenever her glass of gin ran out.
Who Shot Thebarman has developed a cult following among the locals in Wanganui on New Zealand’s North Island and has a big entourage whenever he races.
“We’ll probably have about 90-plus come over for the Melbourne Cup, just from the locals,” O’Leary’s wife Fiona said.