Singleton stoush can't stop Gai juggernaut
Gai Waterhouse is accustomed to being front-page news but even she was unprepared for the headlines that followed two of the biggest events in her training life.
The first came after her long-time owner and friend John Singleton launched a stinging and public attack on Waterhouse on the biggest stage of Sydney racing.
In a pre-race interview on April 27 he accused Waterhouse of concealing information his champion mare More Joyous could not win the All Aged Stakes.
After the race, in which the mare finished second last, Singleton backed up for another interview to sack Waterhouse and make claims her bookmaker son Tom had passed on information regarding the condition of More Joyous.
His comments sparked a lengthy stewards inquiry with high-profile witnesses Andrew Johns and Eddie Hayson in attendance.
After maintaining a dignified silence on raceday, Waterhouse let loose at the hearing, saying Singleton had been “drunk” and more hurtfully was “old”.
Singleton copped a $15,000 misconduct fine on the chin, Tom Waterhouse had no case to answer and his mother continues to fight fines imposed over her failure to tell stewards any concerns over the condition of the now-retired More Joyous.
Waterhouse was almost as unprepared for the hoopla surrounding the Melbourne Cup win by Fiorente.
She has trained the winners of most of Australia’s greatest races and sent out three second placegetters in the Melbourne Cup.
Some weeks after the Cup, Waterhouse was still bringing her trophy out in public.
Although smaller than the actual Melbourne Cup, people flocked to have their pictures taken alongside the trainer and her cup.
“I can’t believe how much people are interested in it,” she said.
“They just want to see it.”
The More Joyous affair overshadowed what should have been a shining moment for the All Aged Stakes winner All Too Hard.
It capped a brilliant autumn for the half-brother to Black Caviar and it turned out to be his last race with new owners Vinery Stud deciding against a Royal Ascot farewell.
Two weeks earlier, Black Caviar had also run her last race, although no-one knew it at the time.
In one of her finest moments, in front of a huge crowd there for the opening of the new $150 million Randwick grandstand, the champion mare put on a clinic in TJ Smith Stakes which was touted as the most challenging race of her career.
She made it look easy but it probably wasn’t, and she was retired unbeaten from 25 starts after the TJ gave her an Australasian record 15th Group One win.
Of course, there were many other highs during the year including:
* After winning the two richest races of the Sydney autumn – the Golden Slipper and the Doncaster – jockey Tommy Berry hit the ground running with a Group One win on the first day of a short Hong Kong contract. His 22 wins in the tough environment has put the 22-year-old firmly on the world stage and ensures he will probably be lost to Sydney racing.
* In the fall-out from the More Joyous saga, Nash Rawiller lost his position as the No.1 rider for Waterhouse but made a successful late charge to win the Sydney premiership.
* Chris Waller powered to a third Sydney trainers’ title, bettering a long-standing record held by Waterhouse and her late father, TJ Smith.
* Maiden galloper Shamus Award won the Cox Plate with 19-year-old apprentice Chad Schofield aboard. The Danny O’Brien-trained colt only gained a start in the weight-for-age championship when star mare Atlantic Jewel was withdrawn with a tendon injury. The winner of 10 of her 11 starts, Atlantic Jewel was subsequently retired.
* Popular Queensland sprinter Buffering emerged from the shadows of Black Caviar and Hay List to win his first Group One race after 17 tries in the Manikato Stakes. Having finally tasted success, Buffering went on to win two more Group Ones. His trainer Robert Heathcote’s unbridled delight at “Little Buff’s” achievements was infectious and he and his star horse proved great ambassadors for racing up north.
* Late in the year, trainer Peter Snowden dropped a bombshell when he announced he would be leaving Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Australia. John O’Shea has been named as the new trainer for the racing operation with Snowden to train in partnership with his son Paul, his long serving Melbourne foreman.
* In a bid to reclaim the autumn and make it as big as the Melbourne spring, Sydney will host the $20 million Championships over two Saturdays in April. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to attend.