Ex-groom Mojo Wallner a sponsor of Quite Rightly
by Francis LaBelle
The former West Coast groom has never met the former East Coast racehorse. But Bill “Mojo” Wallner and Quite Rightly, respectively, have already done a lot of good for one another.
As a Father’s Day gift from his wife, Barbara, Wallner recently received a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation sponsorship for 17-year-old Quite Rightly, a stalwart of the TRF’s Second Chances Farm at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility. TRF sponsorship levels run from the $100 Gift of Love to the $10,000 Lifechanger, and the TRF even offers an affordable special sponsorship for children.
Years ago, “Mojo” — Wallner is a fan of The Doors and took the nickname from lead singer Jim Morrison’s anagram “Mr. Mojo Risin when he entered a nationwide trivia contest : — worked as a groom for trainer Lou Glauburg, where he worked with Glauburg’s assistant and future trainer Cliff Sise Jr. on the California racing circuit. Wallner’s Father’s Day present brought back a lot of fond memories.
“I was an insurance underwriter, and I worked for a company that, in order to move up, you had to be willing to relocate,” said Wallner, who is retired. “They wanted me to move to Boise, Idaho and I was happy in California. I felt I needed a break, so I took some time and went to work on the racetrack.
“It was a pretty big move, especially since I was afraid of horses.” Fear of horses aside, Wallner still enjoyed watching them race.
“I started playing the horses when a friend of mine kept begging me to go with him to the track,” Wallner said. “So, we went on January 16, 1967, the day before the first Super Bowl was played. I had $20 to burn, so I figured that if I bet $2 a race, I could bet seven races for $14 and still have $6 left to cover my overhead. Like I said, this was a long time ago.
“I played a Daily Double and cashed on the first winner, but did not hit the Double. They had two races on the card named for the two teams in the Super Bowl, Kansas City and Green Bay. I bet a horse and
he lost the race, but was put up on a disqualification and paid $48 to win. I was hooked. The first thing I bought with my winnings was binoculars.”
When Wallner decided that he needed a hiatus from the insurance business, he found his way to Glauburg’s barn.
“Lou assigned me to a groom named Pete who had a problem with his legs,” Wallner said. “Pete just hands me a shank and tells me to lead a horse because his legs were bothering him. I had no idea what I was doing, but Pete was right there. He taught me enough to get by at the barn.”
The more he worked with horses, the more Wallner enjoyed the labor. He was especially fond of a horse named Pauley Wog.
“I could tell that he had been abused, because when he came to our barn, he was terrified every time I moved my hands,” Wallner said. “But I treated him well. I would talk to him and let him know everything was fine, just like I did with all of my horses. Gourmet dinners were my specialty; I slow-cooked oats for my small band and never had to clean their feed tubs. I even made an ice water Jacuzzi for the ones that had sore legs. It involved standing their front legs in a tall, plastic tub filled with ice and water. I would stand there with a vacuum cleaner on exhaust and put the tube into the tub.”
While Wallner toyed with the idea of becoming a trainer one day, but he eventually re-entered the insurance business. He remained a fan, however, which made his Father’s Day present special.
“I don’t know how my wife picked Quite Rightly,” he said. “It might just be that she saw his picture and liked him, or that his name might have been a reference to the old Donovan song `Mellow Yellow,’ where he kept saying `quite rightly’ after every chorus.”
Quite Rightly is just the kind of horse that Wallner would have chosen for himself. A son of Miswaki out of the State Dinner mare, Debonairess, Quite Rightly is a great-grandson of 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. He made 45 starts during his four-year racing career, fashioning a record of 3-8-7 and earning nearly $150,000.
Quite Rightly came to TRF in 2006, but when he joined the Second Chances Program at Central Maryland three years later, he immediately established himself as the herd leader and was the go-horse for inmates learning how to take care of horses as a future vocation.
Late in 2013, Quite Rightly developed a serious allergy that requires daily medication as well as a special diet. He picked up a celebrity sponsor in Laura Hillenbrand, author of two best-selling books Seabiscuit: An American Legend and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.
And now he has Wallner, too. “I learned long ago that horses respond well to kindness,” he
said. “Just like the rest of us.”