On the big race days, horse trainers are part of the glitz and glamour associated with the sport of kings. But their role is more complex than just saddling up a possible Group 1 winner at Flemington or a hopeful in a Gympie Maiden.
There’s not much glamour in the day-to-day duties of a trainer, whether preparing a blue blood for a tilt at our greatest race, the Melbourne Cup, or a bargain basement horse for a lowly bush maiden. Trainers are normally up at the crack of dawn most days preparing members of their team for their latest assignments. There are track riders, race jockeys, eager owners, staff, suppliers and media to deal with constantly. The horse mentor also has to engage with stewards, race officials and authorities regularly as well. All this while being engulfed by the heady smell of manure and the sound of clip clopping hooves.
Over the years, Australia has been blessed by champions and characters in the training ranks. From the ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings, who produced a record 12 Melbourne Cup winners and 266 Group 1 winners, to his old sparring partner, TJ Smith, who saddled up a record 282 Group 1 winners, including the legendary Kingston Town. Then there’s Tommy Woodcock, the Australian handler of Phar Lap and trainer of Reckless, who often slept in the stables beside his horses. To modern day horsemen like Lee Freedman, the head of the FBI (Freedman Brothers Incorporated) and trainer of 124 Group 1 winners or the ‘first lady’ of horse training Gai Waterhouse, who has followed in her father’s (TJ Smith) footsteps. There’s also Colin Hayes and his son David, John Hawkes and his sons Michael and Wayne, James Scobie, Jack Denham and the new boy on the block, Chris Waller.
All have left their indelible marks as trainers.
Australia’s first lady of racing, Gabriel (Gai) Marie Waterhouse, was born into the sport of kings. She is the daughter of legendary horse trainer, Tommy (TJ) Smith. Waterhouse now trains in partnership with Adrian Bott, with the pair also sharing a birthday!
Chris Waller cut his teeth with experienced trainer Paddy Busuttin in his home town of Foxton in New Zealand. He was the stable foreman when Castletown ran third in the 1992 Melbourne Cup to Subzero. Now he is known as the trainer of arguably the greatest mare to ever grace the turf- Winx.