Who shot the barman?

In good spirits: Dan O’Leary with Who Shot Thebarman, named in honour of his aunt. Photo: Vince CaligiuriDan O’Leary remembers it being three fingers as a small child and two fingers as a bigger kid.

Be it weddings, funerals, 21st birthdays – “Aunty Julie” was always heard when running on empty.

It rarely seemed to matter she could not remember most of the kids’ names. They all knew how she liked her gin – with only a dash of water, of course.

“She would just yell out, ‘hey you kids, who shot the barman?’ That was her call for one us kids to grab her glass and go and fill it up,” nephew Dan O’Leary said.

“Whoever was close would always know … little kid three fingers, big kid two fingers. As we got to be bigger kids it was two fingers of gin and not much water.”

“Aunty Julie” would be pretty proud if she was around now.

Despite admitting to having reservations about lending her catchcry to a horse the dairy-farming O’Leary brothers from New Zealand’s North Island will be the toast of the once-a-year Melbourne Cup punter on Tuesday.

“I didn’t want to call a good horse a name like that, but a lot of people have bought into it the name,” O’Leary said.

Dan O’Leary is the eldest of the four brothers – along with Michael, Humphrey and Shaun – who race Who Shot Thebarman with expat Kiwi trainer Chris Waller. Dan’s wife, Jane, also shares in the ownership.

The brothers’ distinctive tangerine racing colours worn by Who Shot Thebarman have been passed down through the generations.

It is much like the family’s dairy farming background in the Wanganui district after arriving from Ireland, which means milking cows has primarily funded this Melbourne Cup dream.

“The whole family have milked cows in the Wanganui Valley for just over 100 years … and all four brothers have still got cows today,” Dan said.

The brothers’ father, Humphrey snr, had always dabbled in training a few horses. The boys used to be in tow, often racing around their paddock on ponies.

“We’ve raced horses for a long time and we know how hard it is to get a horse of this calibre,” Dan said. “There’s a lot of interest – not only from Wanganui but right across New Zealand – in the horse.

Maybe none more so than “Aunty Julie”, ready for one almighty heavenly shout on Tuesday.

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