Australia’s most famous race is back on Gai Waterhouse’s spring radar for the first time in five years.
Waterhouse revealed during a busy barrier trial session at Randwick on Monday that her recent absence from the Melbourne Cup limelight was an unwanted glitch on an otherwise outstanding training career.
“I sat there and watched the race last year without a runner and I said to myself ‘it won’t happen again’,” she said.
Waterhouse hasn’t had a Melbourne Cup starter since Mr Celebrity beat one horse home in 2005.
It’s a major anomaly for a trainer who almost enjoyed instant success in the race when her rugged New Zealand-bred stayer Te Akau Nick was runner-up in Vintage Crop’s historic 1993 triumph.
After another second placing with Nothin’ Leica Dane two years later, it appeared it would only be a matter of time before Waterhouse went one better.
Yet for one of Australia’s biggest stables, it seems remarkable that Tulloch Lodge has been represented just five times since Nothin’ Leica Dane finished fifth in the 1996 edition.
As Herculian Prince and Descarado impressed with their public returns at Randwick, Waterhouse said stayers were at the forefront of her stable’s spring plans – just in time for the 150th renewal of the Melbourne Cup 2010.
“I went through a period where I found staying-bred horses were hard to sell,” she said.
“My clients just weren’t interested.
“But this year I made an executive decision to buy a dozen yearlings in New Zealand – colts and fillies – who would get over ground.”
In tried ex-New Zealanders like Herculian Prince and Descarado, Waterhouse has gone retro.
Much of her early success after being licensed in 1992 came on the back of no-nonsense New Zealand horses who thrived on a conditioning program made famous by her father Tommy Smith.
Herculian Prince, who was unbeaten through the Sydney autumn, beat another stablemate who hails from across the Tasman Sea, Two For Tea, and the stable’s weight-for-age star Theseo in a 1200-metre heat.
Descarado, runner-up to Shoot Out in this year’s AJC Australian Derby, came from well off the pace in his 1200-metre hit-out to finish third behind Cannonball, the former United States sprinter now racing out of the Waterhouse yard.
“Herculian Prince and Descarado will be two of about six horses I am aiming at the Melbourne Cup this year,” Waterhouse said.
Article by Warwick Barr Aapracing