Defied death … Tulloch, ridden by Roy Higgins.The Tulloch strain, as well as the curse, raged in Tullmax. Probably the greatest horse of our time, Tulloch was a dud at stud. Few of his offspring showed the attributes – a little of the aristocrat, brute force and courage – that made Tulloch a champion.

Trainer Tommy Smith reckoned he was retired to a Bathurst sheep property that ”wouldn’t sustain a rabbit”. Of course, Tulloch nearly died with a scouring affliction and missed two years of racing. Only the genius of super vet Percy Sykes, at first with a tincture of opium, saved him. While Smith maintained he was never the same following that illness, Tulloch still won 14 more races.

Tulloch retired in 1962 but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years that Tullmax, a far cry from Tulloch Lodge and Royal Randwick, surfaced in most unlikely circumstances. By Prince Max, Tullmax was out of Tullrigo, a Tulloch mare. When he arrived at Trevor Doulman’s Molong stables after being knocked back by other trainers, Tullmax had plenty in common with Tulloch at his lowest ebb.

”I remember him coming off the float, just bones, the float was a mess, he was scouring so badly,” Joan Giffen, wife of Doulman, recalled last week from Molong, which she described as still a ”lovely town with lovely people, and not going backwards”.

Tullmax couldn’t be left at the stables because it was feared he would contaminate other horses, so he was sent to Jack Cantrill’s property near Orange which had an apple orchard. ”When Trevor took him out there, ‘Dexter’, a worker, shouted ‘we’d better start digging today because he’ll be dead tomorrow.”’ Tulloch was also fed tormented apples with a special clay. It proved successful for Tullmax, the bag of bones, which made his racing debut for his new owners at seven and won 14 out of his first 17 starts. Doulman worked at the Molong post office and Tullmax was trained earlier on the Molong golf course, once a racetrack.

”After being very patient Trevor decided to give him a bit of hit-out and couldn’t believe the time he ran,” Giffen said, but her timing system didn’t entail the distance between the third and eighth green. ”Hit the button on the stopwatch at a certain point and stop it at the winning post.”

Tullmax created a furore in Sydney and Herald chief of staff Peter Bowers, a wizard news hound, sent Bert Lillye and a photographer in an office car to capture the Molong action. Ken Sutcliffe and his photographer arrived from another outfit and Giffen gave them morning tea. ”Ken told me he had been a barber in Mudgee,” Giffen said. Tullmax went on to win races in town, including the weight-for-age George Main Stakes, a group 1 mile at Randwick, after being a certainty beaten in the Epsom, says Allan Williams, the MP for Hawkesbury.

”My dad, the late Allen Williams, was Trevor’s cousin and whenever he had one smart enough to win in town, which he regularly did, he would bring it to our place at Box Hill, days prior to the race, to ensure as little travel fatigue as possible for the horse on race day,” Williams said.

”Horses were their lives and Trevor obtained his trainer’s licence when still a teenager. My father followed his chosen career in the boxing ring, winning the Australian and South Pacific heavyweight title belts in the 1950s, later obtaining his own trainer’s licence when the boxing career finished. Trevor and dad would discuss his work pattern over the phone and ensure a good supply of Molong water was available for him to drink, together with his special diet. Nothing was left to chance with kegs of water and his feed from home trucked over the mountains to ensure even the slightest chance of a recurrence of the problem being averted.”

Alas, the gelding had a bleeding attack in the Newcastle Newmarket and after his three-month break was favourite for a Sydney race when disaster struck. ”Reg Paine’s son from Cowra, Neil, an apprentice, was to ride him but after a trot getting ready for the race he came back with a trickle of blood and Trevor ended his career. ”Everyone said ‘why did you do that?”’

But Doulman wasn’t going to risk a young apprentice. ”If Max fell I’ve got to live with it and he’s given us more than we expected. We can’t race him if he’s not well,” the trainer said.

Since it was his second bleeding attack, Tullmax was barred for life in Australia. The gelding returned to Jack Cantrill’s apple orchard. He lived until he was 29. Doulman, 62, died 16 years ago. ”It’s a stressful game,” Giffen said.

Once the trainer gave his wife cause for concern when he went to a presentation for Tullmax. He was wearing a shirt, frayed at the collar and not the special one laid out by her for the occasion. Why? ”I don’t want anybody thinking I’m getting too flash because of Max,” he replied.

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