Gai's Group One glory
Gai Waterhouse heads to Randwick on Saturday on the verge of yet another history-making achievement.
The world’s most successful female horse trainer needs just one Group One win to reach the century milestone.
With runners in three of the four Group One races to be run on home soil, it seems a formality.
It would also be fitting that she reached the 100 mark on the 18th anniversary of her first Group One success with Te Akau Nick in the Metropolitan.
She would most certainly have reached 100 sooner had she not had to fight a protracted battle to gain a licence.
The Australian Jockey Club committee which was in charge at the time denied her the right to train because she was married to warned-off bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse.
It took 2-1/2 years but eventually the decision was reversed by the courts. A legacy from that time was the introduction in 1994 of the Waterhouse Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act outlawing discrimination against a person because of the identity of his or her spouse.
When she was a child, Randwick Racecourse was Waterhouse’s playground and she spent her afternoons in the presence of her father, the late champion trainer TJ Smith.
After pursuing an acting career, Waterhouse returned to Randwick after the birth of her children to work alongside her father and her interest in horses was rekindled.
TJ Smith holds the record with 282 Group One wins with Bart Cummings now on 261 and Lee Freedman at 125.
Not only can Waterhouse reach 100 Group One wins on Saturday, it’s not out of the question she could end the day on 102.
The races to look out for are:
FLIGHT STAKES (1600m for three-year-old fillies): The Waterhouse-trained More Strawberries is vying for favouritism with Parables from Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation for trainer Peter Snowden.
More Strawberries is owned by businessman John Singleton who, like Sheikh Mohammed, has invested millions of dollars in his passion for thoroughbreds.
Parables started the spring with a bang, winning the Silver Shadow Stakes in which More Strawberries was fourth. But More Strawberries hit back at their next two meetings with wins in both the Furious Stakes and Tea Rose Stakes.
It will be a clash to remember.
EPSOM HANDICAP (1600m): Waterhouse is seeking a seventh win in the race which is named after the famous racecourse in England.
If either Once Were Wild or Cannonball can claim victory, Waterhouse will equal her father with the most winners of the race.
Like More Strawberries, Once Were Wild is raced by John Singleton. She won the AJC Australian Oaks over 2400 metres earlier this year while former American Cannonball came to Australia originally to contest sprint races.
The mile at Randwick is regarded as the toughest in the country and Waterhouse believes that gives Once Were Wild an advantage.
“You need a 2000-metre horse to win a Randwick mile and she fits,” she said.
METROPOLITAN HANDICAP (2400m): A stepping stone to the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, the Metropolitan is a chance for the Waterhouse-trained Herculian Prince to make up for the disappointment of a week earlier when he choked down in his lead-up run.
Adjustments have been made to his gear in an attempt to make sure he doesn’t swallow his tongue again and he has been reinstated as favourite to give Waterhouse her seventh Metropolitan victory. Like the Epsom, seven wins is a record and also like the Epsom, the current holder of that record is TJ Smith.
SPRING CHAMPION STAKES (2000m for three-year-olds): The only Group One race without a Waterhouse runner, the Spring Champion is dominated by Snowden and his three contenders for Darley.
Snowden was appointed head trainer when Sheikh Mohammed bought Bob Ingham’s racing and breeding operation in 2008. The Spring Champion win by Sousa that year was the first for the new alliance.
The Darley runners are Retrieve, Giresun and Erewhon who appear in that order at the top of the market.
Often a guide to the Victoria Derby, the Spring Champion was won last year by Monaco Consul who completed the double.
Monaco Consul is trained by Mike Moroney who has Missing In Action engaged this year.
He is the outsider of the field, but so was Monaco Consul. Missing In Action’s sire is Savabeel, winner of the 2004 Spring Champion on his way to Cox Plate glory.