• Thursday, 17 Feb, 2022,
  • by Gerard Guthrie

‘Orson’ boost to Michael’s spirits

Michael Hogarth wasn’t sure about making the three-hour trip from Mildura to Horsham on Tuesday to watch his namesake, talented sprinter Orson Mick, which is part-owned by his brother David.

It was hardly surprising an afternoon at the greyhounds mightn’t have been that appealing, considering the enormous physical and emotional strain the 57-year-old has been dealing with.

Michael suffers from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) – the insidious illness labelled ‘The Beast’ by its fierce enemy Neale Daniher.

Facing up to the daily challenges presented by MND is difficult enough.

“MND is a very tough disease. Neale Daniher calls it ‘The Beast’ and I know why.”

But the last week has been incredibly tough for Michael, with the passing of his father, Kevin, a Bronze Medallist in Boxing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, last Friday.

Michael, who’s married to Carol, now his full-time carer, and a father of six, also lost his mother, Faye, just three months ago.

The physical limitations imposed by MND, which necessitate Michael using a wheelchair when outside, have been daunting for the former outstanding local footballer, a six-time premiership player and life member of the Mildura Imperials club, who also played a season with Sturt in the SANFL.

“Three years ago I had a heart attack while I was playing tennis and had open heart surgery, requiring six bypasses,” Michael explained.

Michael Hogarth pictured with namesake Orson Mick at Horsham on Tuesday.

“Then in November, 2020, I was diagnosed with MND.

“It’s a very tough disease. Neale Daniher calls it ‘The Beast’ and I know why.

“Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do; hopefully they can find a cure one day.

“It is what it is and doctors told me I should have been dead from the heart attack, so every day is a bonus. That’s the way I look at it.”

Earlier this week, Horsham was the unlikely setting for one of those bonus days, when Michael ‘went to the dogs’ for just the third time.

WATCH: ORSON MICK (2) continued his impressive form with an emotional victory in the GRV Vic Bred Grade 5 final at Horsham on Tuesday afternoon.

The other two occasions were both at Geelong, where he watched the immortal Brett Lee and then the less-acclaimed Beanbag, mother of Orson Mick.

“I wish Orson Mick was as good as Brett Lee!” Michael quipped.

“My brother Dave and I are the only two siblings, so I thought the six-hour round trip to Horsham would give us a chance to have a yak about the old man.”

It was an afternoon to remember for the Beanbag syndicate that races Orson Mick, comprising Michael’s brother David, Darrell and Cheryl Heathcote, Peter Hilton-Wood – all Mildura locals – and trainer Jessica Sharp.

With Horsham being the closest track for the Mildura contingent, it was only the second time syndicate manager Darrell Heathcote had seen Orson Mick race in the flesh and the first time for the rest of the ownership group.

Orson Mick has won 8 of his 24 starts.

Demonstrating a great sense of occasion, Orson Mick lived up to his end of the bargain, turning the GRV Vic Bred Grade 5 final (410m) into a one-act affair, scoring by five lengths in 22.96sec, his eighth win from 24 starts.

“The dog has a fair bit of a following up here because of Mick, with his MND, and the whole family is well-known and well-respected,” said Heathcote.

“MND is a bugger of a thing and when we were naming the pups, we decided to call him Orson Mick to give Mick something to look forward to and hopefully cheer him up a bit. We’ve made Mick an honorary owner!

“I don’t think Mick really wanted to go to Horsham, but it gave him a big boost. He’s still got a wicked sense of humour and the dog’s win made his day. It was a ripper day for him.

“Mick originally wanted to go straight home after Orson Mick’s race, but we had his brother, Watch The Clock, in a later race and he said, ‘We’re staying!’ Unfortunately, Watch The Clock ran second.

“You wouldn’t believe it, but when Orson Mick came out afterwards he went straight past us and went over to Mick. That’s no word of a lie. I think the dogs can sense the illness.

“We’re always hearing negative stories about the greyhounds, but this is one of the good stories. It was just great to see the dog lift Mick’s spirits!”

Assistance can be offered via Michael Hogarth Family Support on GoFundMe.

Gerard GuthrieGerard Guthrie

Gerard Guthrie

One of Australia’s leading greyhound racing journalists since 2000 with the Greyhound Recorder and now with Greyhound Racing Victoria. Part-owner 2013 Group 1 Paws Of Thunder winner Sheikha. (The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of GRV)

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