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Coranna, the Wonder Horse

Updated on March 26, 2011

Did ever a horse win so much?

On the 6th May, 1846, at odds believed to have been around 66/1, and with Frank Butler in the saddle, Coranna ran to victory in the Chester Cup. Between prize money and winnings, it is estimated that the owner walked away from the event with over 18,000 pounds, sterling. In todays terms, that would be close to a million.

These facts by themselves are hardly particularly note-worthy, until one looks at them in the context of their historical significance. To begin with, Coranna's owner was George Henry Moore, a member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the Irish constituency of Mayo. Moore was both a keen rider and owner, but he had virtually withdrawn from the world of horse racing after his brother, Arthur Augustus, was killed while riding Mickey Free in the 1845 Grand National at Aintree.  What persuaded him to run Coranna in the Chester Cup, was the plight of his Irish tenants on the Moore estate near Ballintubber  in Co.Mayo.

Coranna - Chester Cup Winner

Coranna. Chester Cup winner 1846
Coranna. Chester Cup winner 1846
The facade of Moore Hall, Co.Mayo.
The facade of Moore Hall, Co.Mayo.

The Famine

Ireland was in the grip of the Famine, with the counties west of the Shannon being particularly devastated by the failure of the potato crop, upon which most tenant farmers were dependant. The failure of the British government to recognise the severity of the situation, and to respond accordingly, accelerated the rate at which poverty and starvation swept through the country. Many Landlords started out with a sympathetic attitude to their tenants, but as the problems escalated and rents became long overdue, evictions soon became the order of the day. Very often, these were carried out with a ruthless disregard for the plight of those being evicted.

Not so, in the case of George Henry Moore. In an act of optimism, he took Coranna to Chester, entered her in the Chester Cup, and placed substantial bets on the horse to be placed. Against the odds, she won the race, and legend would have it that jockey Frank Butler whispered to the horse, just before the final furlongs, "You're racing against Famine, Plague and Death. Now Coranna! Now, for Moore of Moore Hall."

The success of Coranna, and More's good fortune, led to a sequence of benevolent acts that would not be equally by any other Landlord. A percentage of the winnings was distributed among his tenants, with an additional gift of a milk cow being given to every impoverished widow on the estate.

Aided by The Marquis of Sligo and Robert Blosse, Moore chartered the ship "The Martha Washington" and in July 1847, it sailed into Westport with 4,000 tons of Maize, to further alleviate the plight of his tenants.

Through his compassion, it has been recorded that not one tenant was evicted from Moore's estate, and not one person on the estate died as a result of the famine.

When Moore died on 19th April, 1870, few of the landed gentry bothered to attend his funeral, but in a testament to his compassion and humanity, his coffin was borne by sixteen of the estates tenants to the church at Carnacon.


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    • Thatguypk profile image

      Thatguypk 7 years ago

      Sincere thanks, Terry. I was doing research, with the notion of writing a theatrical piece about the Famine, when I came across this amazing story. I figured it was definitely worth sharing.

    • Terry.Hirneisen profile image

      Terry.Hirneisen 7 years ago from Shenandoah Valley

      What a beautiful story! There is such a good story here it could be a major film. Voted up and beautiful.