Gai Waterhouse has her sights set on a record eighth Doncaster and an elusive Australian Derby win

Gai Waterhouse has lived in the spotlight most of her life and is so famous she is recognised by her first name.

There she was politely agreeing to every request from adoring fans signing autographs and smiling for photos in between yearling inspections at the Inglis Riverside complex at Warwick Farm yesterday.

But the thoroughbred racehorse trainer who was made an “Australian Living Treasure” by the National Trust doesn’t mind some anonymity these days.

It’s one of the reasons she won’t be at Royal Randwick on Saturday for Day One of The Championships, the Doncaster-Derby meeting.

Gai Waterhouse (right) and co-trainer Adrian Bott cast their eyes over this years stock at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sales. Photo: Toby ZernaSource:News Corp Australia

“I like to watch the races on the television,” Mrs Waterhouse said. “I feel I can see more, I am more productive to the team and I can talk to my owners. It works for us.”

Therein lies another reason. When questioned about her racehorses, the champion trainer always talks about “team” and “us” in nearly every sentence.

It’s a reference and acknowledgment of her training partner Adrian Bott. They joined forces five years ago and have already prepared nearly 700 winners together including 10 at Group 1 level.

Mrs Waterhouse emphasises how integral her co-trainer is to the continuing success of their Tulloch Lodge stables.

“To be able to co-train with Adrian is very special to me,” Mrs Waterhouse said. “I’m blessed to be able to work with someone who is so talented and so gifted.

“I can be a little demanding at times but Adrian copes well with my demands. He’s very capable, he sees the bigger picture and that is so important.”

It’s another reason why Mrs Waterhouse would like her training partner to be given due credit if their stable can achieve more big-race success at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

The co-trainers have Shout The Bar, Yao Dash and possibly Dawn Passage lining up in the $3 million The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) and Yaletown in the $2 million ATC Bentley

Australian Derby (2400m).

Group 1 winner Shout The Bar lines up in the Doncaster Mile for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. Photo: Brett Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Doncaster-Derby Day is a meeting the trainer often referred to as “Racing’s First Lady” has made her own over the years. In fact, her family has certainly made its mark on the prestigious race day.

Mrs Waterhouse has already won seven Doncasters, equalling the training record set by her late father, Tommy Smith.

They also share the training record in the Group 1 $1 million Inglis Sires (1400m) with seven wins each.

Mrs Waterhouse has trained four Group 2 $300,000 Chairman’s Handicaps (2400m) which is another record, and her three wins in the race they named in honour of her father, the Group 1 $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes, has been matched only by Team Hawkes.

Tommy Smith trained more ATC (then AJC) Australian Derby winners than anyone else with an incredible nine successes.

The first major race win of Smith’s legendary training was in the 1949 Derby with Playboy. He then won the classic with the likes of Tulloch (1957), Silver Sharpe (1970), Imagele (1973) and Kingston Town (1980).

“Doncaster-Derby Day has been a great meeting for the stable over a long period of time and not just when I have been training, but also for Dad,” Mrs Waterhouse said.

“His first Derby was with Playboy who was a maiden at the time. Last week, Adrian and I won a race at Newcastle with Splendiferous, who is part-owned by (ATC Committee member) Angela Belle McSweeney.

Tulloch Stakes winner Yaletown is looking to give Gai Waterhouse her first victory in the Group 1 ATC Derby. Photo: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph

“Splendiferous races in the same colours of Silver Sharpe, who was owned by Angela’s father Tony McSweeney, when he won the Derby.”

Tommy Smith always said his daughter would break his training records one day – and she is certainly making good on that vow.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said Gai Waterhouse is a true great of racing and a wonderful ambassador for the sport.

“A champion is measured by how they dominate their sport and Gai has dominated racing over a long period of time and particularly Doncaster-Derby Day,’’ Mr V’landys said.

“To think she has won seven Doncasters already is extraordinary to stay the least. And like all champions, she also ‘champions’ her sport.”

At Royal Randwick on Saturday, the Waterhouse-Bott partnership are chasing more big-race success including in a typically competitive Doncaster Mile.

“Shout The Bar has really picked up since coming back from Victoria,” Waterhouse said.

“The track became quagmire for her last start, it was no one’s fault, it was just unfortunate, but this mare bounced back from an indifferent run before and there is no reason why she couldn’t do it again on Saturday.

“She seems to be extremely happy, her coat is gleaming and her work is faultless. I couldn’t be more pleased with her.

“Yao Dash has got a lightweight, races on-speed, and he’s in great form. He’s a tough horse that has to be ridden ‘tough’.

Tough gelding Yao Dash is in career best form as he heads into the Doncaster. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“When Nash won on him two starts back, he really attacked the line. It’s got this horse going and he has jumped out of the ground since.”

But despite Mrs Waterhouse’s many big-race successes – she has won trained 144 Group 1 winners including a record seven Golden Slippers – an ATC Australian Derby still eludes her.

Perhaps her long wait is about to end as Yaletown burst into Derby contention when he won the Tulloch Stakes last Saturday and it is worth remembering the last four winners of this race, Quick Thinker (2020), Angel Of Truth (2019), Levendi (2018) and Jon Snow (2017), backed up a week later to win the ATC Australian Derby.

“He has pulled up a treat, he looks a picture,” Mrs Waterhouse said of Yaletown.

For his part, Mr Bott revealed his training partnership with Mrs Waterhouse has already created “some firsts”.

“We won the Thousand Guineas (Global Glamour, 2016) and the VRC Oaks (Pinot, 2017) among others races for the first time together,” Bott said.

Mrs Waterhouse came very close to winning the Derby in 2001 when her young stayer Carnegie Express was run down right on the line by Don Eduardo. The Waterhouse-trained Tuesday Joy (2007) and Laser Hawk (2012) were minor placegetters in the big race.

“We have nearly won this race a few times and I would love to get our hands on that Derby trophy,” Mrs Waterhouse said.

“It would be a real highlight of my career if I could win this race with Adrian.”

Originally published asHome court advantages suit Waterhouse

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