Waller triumphs are overwhelming to the degree that he is a worthy contender for trainer of the century, with the emphasis on his skill in producing healthy, super-fit horses off a conveyor belt as opposed to the hands-on practitioner. Yes, a suit off the rack these days compares favourably with the tailor-made item.
When playing the numbers game, Waller has had considerable opposition from Godolphin, under James Cummings, the Lindsay Park operation under the control of Colin Hayes’ offspring, and the Ciaron Maher-David Eustace outfit. The big outfits are getting bigger and the lesser lights diminishing every year.
When it comes to mass production, John Hawkes, now in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne, has been successful with horses both impressive to the eye and balance sheet for decades. On Saturday at Randwick’s Kensington circuit, consider their Snowfire, which did it tough out wide last start and showed the benefit of their preparation by hanging on commendably.
However, small outfits have given the industry a balance. South Australian Gordon Richards, who is doing so well with outstanding sprinter Gytrash, is an example.
“It just doesn’t make sense to lose touch with each individual horse for the sake of having large numbers,” Richards, who has a 20-horse limit, divulged.
Preparing numbers is more of a team operation. Big stables here rival those in the United Kingdom and United States, which are more playgrounds for the wealthy, whereas the turf in Australia has never been the sport of kings but of the people, some rich and many poor.
Character has been a mainstay, as epitomised by Takeover Target and Janiak, a taxi driver who took an unwanted gelding to greatness and international fame.
Jungle Edge isn’t a Takeover Target but a 10-year-old mudlark transformed by Bell from a country cuddy to the winner of the group 3 Monash Stakes at Caufield last July ridden by Jade Darose, hardly a saddle headliner.
Maybe Gosford’s Angela Davies doesn’t break records, but she produces excellent results conditioning her small team on goat tracks. Hitting the target is the key – once the policy that sustained most trainers.
Davies pulled off a $26 to $7.50 coup with Salina Dreaming at Randwick last start. Salina Dreaming is again a strong chance on Saturday at Randwick, but hardly at the same odds.
And Mark Newnham, who is more top echelon now with a team of around 80 under his eye, shone with the recent Villiers (Greysful Glamour) and Summer Cup (Spirit Ridge) double– not group 1s but emphasising the knack of having a horse primed for the occasion.
Showing the benefit of the Gai Waterhouse education, Newnham is improving every year. His German-bred stayer, Skymax, is one of the more intriguing Kensington acceptors on Saturday.
Waterhouse is now in partnership with Adrian Bott and maintains her skill with horses, although perhaps not as many as she used to. Many have done well from the experience gained under her. Even Billy Slater had more get up and go after a stint riding trackwork at Tulloch Lodge.