Denny Moroney was well known as the father of prominent identities Michael and Paul Moroney, however, his reach went far beyond his immediate family to encompass countless members of the racing community.
Tributes and memories of the man known to many simply as Horace have abounded since he passed away at age 93 on Saturday morning following a period of hospitalisation.
His name will forever be linked to Ballymore Stables, but his initial passion for racing dated much further back.
He grew up with horses in his life, while his wife Mary’s parents had a heavy involvement that included breeding Centenary Melbourne Cup winner Hi Jinx.
The decision to sell their Walton dairy farm and relocate to Matamata township coincided with Mike founding Ballymore Stables in 1982.
For the family patriarch, retirement was less of a lure than freeing him up to become a full participant in stable activities.
On a daily basis he joined Ballymore staff, walking stable members to and from the track, saddling up and hosing down, and travelling and strapping them at race meetings.
“Dad’s passion for racing came more from Mum’s side of the family, but I remember him telling me about riding work at the Waharoa Aerodrome on horses owned and trained by his father,” Paul Moroney, a noted bloodstock agent, recalled.
“Once he had a family, he would supplement income from the farm by working part-time at Evergreen Lodge, which was just around the corner from home.
“Also our next-door neighbour at the time was fellow racing enthusiast Ian Signal, who stood Lord Sasanof and owner-trained horses he bred.
“The best of them was Johnny Cash, who Dad became the regular strapper for and even included taking him by trailer-float to Auckland to meet the legendary American musician he had been named him after.
“It’s incredible to think they took the horse to the Hotel Intercontinental and put him in the service lift up three floors to meet his namesake.
“It was broadcast live on the nightly TV show Town And Around and us kids waited up until Dad got home to hear all about it.
“I can still remember how bemused he was that Johnny Cash, who always dressed as a cowboy, was scared of horses.”
Moroney senior was the primary influence in his two elder sons’ interest in racing, something that he was only too willing to foster.
“Once Dad realised Mike and I were as keen as him, going to the races became a regular activity, to Matamata, Te Rapa, Te Aroha, Paeroa and other tracks in the region as well as big days like the Great Northerns at Ellerslie on Queen’s Birthday weekend.
“He nurtured our passion – that’s where it all started for us – but as well as that, especially when he got involved in Ballymore, he looked out for so many other young people.
“He was a friend to virtually everyone at the Matamata track and in racing’s wider circle he was able to mix with people at all levels.
“He travelled to the races in the float with everyone else until well into his eighties and he was still a registered stablehand when he turned 90.”
Over the past couple of years his trackwork sessions had to be curtailed, but he made sure to drop in and reconnect with his fellow workers and friends on the morning of his 93rd birthday in April.
“Dad’s legacy is huge, not just within his own family but across such a wide spectrum,” added Paul Moroney.
“Since the word went out that he had passed away I’ve had something like 800 messages and phone calls, which tells you just how well thought of he was.”
Denny Moroney’s funeral will take place at Matamata’s Anglican Church at 11am on Thursday, with his own parish church, the Holy Angels, currently undergoing renovation.