I’m raising a glass to Gai. Her winning Slipper performance, before they even jump.

April 7, 2012

Imagine three members of the same family lining up at the Olympics, to contest the final of the 100 metres dash.

Picture four brothers wearing the green and gold for Australia in a Davis Cup battle.

How hard would the applause be poolside, if you saw half the field in the classic 1500 metres final bearing the same surname?

Impossible, right? Unless your name happens to be Waterhouse.

Check the form guide today, and run your eyes over the Golden Slipper field. The world’s richest race for two-year olds. A highlight of the Australian turf.

It’s no mis-print. You’ll see Gai Waterhouse mentioned five times. Five runners, in a field of sixteen flying juveniles.

It’s a phenomenal training performance. And four of them are genuine chances.

Unbelievably, it’s not the first time. She pulled the same trick in 2001. The year she produced the trifecta, with Ha Ha having the last laugh.

Anyone who’s ever raced a horse knows what an incredible training feat this is. It verges on the ridiculous.

Most of us battle just to get one to the track. I have friends who’ve won big races. And others who haven’t. Lots of them.

We have a three-year old, who is still to hear the thrill of a race day crowd. He’s had enough health problems to make the local vet seriously wealthy.

Don’t feel sorry for us. He’ll be winning next year’s Cox Plate. Get your bets on now. But my point here, and I do have one, is that it’s so bloody hard just to get them to the races.

It makes Gai’s effort so much more amazing. The niggles and varied dramas that strike young horses, all over the land. And the First Lady of racing manages to get five of them ready for Sydney’s biggest day.

Sometimes I wonder whether she gets the credit she deserves. Such an easy target. Her own blood lines, and that theatrical bent. All these years on, all those Group Ones, and a few clowns still manage to find fault with her. Behind her back, of course.

I’ve written about the grand dame before on these pages. I barely know her, and she wouldn’t have a clue who I am.

I interviewed her at Magic Millions many years ago. On the run. She was happy to talk. Just not standing still. Too much to do, you see.

There we were, chatting away into the camera, at a pace that would have done one of her stayers proud. Her giving me detailed answers, and me wondering how her hat wasn’t falling off.

I’m like all punters who’ve won a quid from her over the years. By backing horses that are the fittest they can be. With the best jockeys on top.

She knows how important owners are, and treats them like friends. Not fools. A walking promotion for our great sport, even if it’s at a quicker clip than everyone around her.

So today, this wonderful trainer will have the job of cheering all five in running.

And here’s a tip. As impartial as she is, I reckon she’ll be watching out for one in particular. The strapping colt with the number one saddlecloth, Pierro.

Such a typical Gai horse. Trained to the minute. Set for this six months ago. With Australia’s top hoop doing the steering.

I’ll take the Gai factor over Blue Diamond form every time. Today will be her day, again. Actually, it already is. Applaud her this afternoon, regardless of the result. We might never see such dominance again.

The perils of change. And replacement jockeys. Another way for punters to do their dough.

September 24, 2011

I loathe change.

Call me a creature of habit. And proud of it. At home, and work, and on the punt.

Giggle if you like. I don’t mind. I’m old and I can take your barbs.

I just think there’s something to be said for routine. And nowhere is it more important than the sporting arena.

My heart sinks when a halfback pulls out of a footy team. There goes the game plan.

Watch a decent cricket side when a new wicket keeper comes in. Nothing is smooth, no matter how talented the gloveman might be.

In the racing game, I would suggest that change should be avoided whenever possible. Or you’ll end up with loose change.

Late switches? Disastrous. Avoid like the plague. If it involves a jockey, run from the room and wave your arms in the air.

You know where I’m heading here. Although we’ve gone around the block to get there. Smart Missile today at Caulfield. Minus an injured Glen Boss.

His replacement is one of the world’s best. Brett Prebble is a gun. I’d back him anywhere he’s riding. But not today.

Here’s my theory. Based on absolutely no scientific evidence. Horses get to know their jockeys. They relax just that little bit more with a buddy up top. Especially the good ones.

Think Greg Childs and Sunline. Nolen and Black Caviar. Boss and Makybe Diva. Cassidy and Might and Power. They go better for those they know.

I can hear you chortling. Yes, they were champions anyway. Yes, they had other jockeys ride them. But you’re missing my point. And yes, I have one.

Smart Missile, the 3-year-old with a mind of his own, will be looking for Bossy this afternoon. His voice, and his touch. Instead, he’ll get Prebble. A bloke who was in Hong Kong yesterday.

I can hear you screaming examples to prove what a fool I am. Well, save your breath. I have my own painful story.

Yes, this policy has brought me unstuck big time before. Guess who the jockey was? G Boss.

It was the 1995 Golden Slipper. In the weeks before, I’d been following an unpredictable Freedman colt at long odds. Flying Spur.

He drew the inside gate in the Slipper. Jim Cassidy had the ride. At the time, no-one was riding better than the Pumper.

I’d declared him to anyone silly enough to listen. A major collect was looming. Until disaster struck.

The Pumper was outed the day before the big race. The infamous Jockey Tapes affair. Replaced by a young bloke from Queensland.

It was too much for me. As much as I thought the horse was the best in the field, I couldn’t bring myself to embrace the late change.

You know the rest. Flying Spur, with Boss riding for his life, saluted at 25 to 1. Beat Octagonal. I watched the tragedy unfold in a Cairns pub. And cried.

Did I learn my lesson? No. And over time, despite that horrible mistake, I reckon results have averaged my way, whenever change has been in the wind.

So, no Smart Missile for me today. It will be Woorim’s day. With his trusted jockey, Damian Browne, up top. Snug as a pair of old boots. First Group 1 for Rob Heathcote. Start chilling stubbies at the stables now.

I’m happy for you to tell me how wrong I am. Just not right now. I’m reading the papers. And you can’t change routine.

The curse strikes again!

April 2, 2011

Blame me.

How else could the second favourite in the Golden Slipper get scratched at the barrier?

Two millions dollars at stake for the winner, and Smart Missile doesn’t get to run.

The curse of the world’s worst punter.

As good as he is, the colt couldn’t carry the weight of my tip.

My apologies to trainer Anthony Cummings and jockey Glen Boss. To the owners. If only they knew.

To readers of Hold All Tickets .. you’ll get used to it. Bizarre things like this happen to my selections all the time. Wait till Cup week!

Anyway, we’ll never know if Smart Missile would have knocked over Sepoy. It was a hell of a win by the Snowden galloper. But without his main opposition.  Still, a deserved two year old champion.

Our roughie Altar ran a ripper of a race at big odds to finish fifth. The filly has a decent win ahead of her.

So, no new BBQ, and another tale of heartache. Welcome to my world.

The good news is that we’ll get to have another crack at them next week. Hopefully with a horse that actually leaves the barriers.

Why the favourite won’t win the Golden Slipper (and how to get a new BBQ.)

April 1, 2011

Million dollar babies.

For the winner of the world’s richest two year old race tomorrow, make that 2 million.

Golden Sliper day is like no other.

A capacity field of horses barely out of the barn.

They’ll scamper over a pressure cooker 1200 metres at Rosehill. A few might create lasting reputations. Others will never be the same.

It’s not my favourite race, the Slipper. Winners don’t always go onto greatness. A few don’t go on at all. Such a gut busting event for young speedsters.

Give me the the classic 1600 metre events anytime. The Doncaster. The Emirates Stakes. Even the Epsom. Such history.

For pure quality, nothing beats the Cox Plate. Then there’s the Cup carnival. And for Queenslanders, the Stradbroke.

Of course, those with runners in the Slipper tomorrow couldn’t give a hoot what I think. They’re contesting a Group One worth a treasure chest.

For all these misgivings, the Slipper has been good to me over the years. It gave us our BBQ.

Somehow I nailed the Slipper trifecta in 2005. Stratum, Fashions Afield and Media. And backed the winner as well. I can’t recall getting a trifecta since.

I think of that result whenever I’m sizzling snags. Usually with a cold drink. One of those rare occasions that a decent win doesn’t get lost on the following Saturday.

My father-in-law was so excited he was going to make me a plaque, labelling it the “Slipper Cooker”. Sadly he passed away before he got around to it.

So then, how do we find tomorrow’s result, and provide the family with an upgrade out on the deck?

Well, here’s my Slipper system. First and foremost, don’t be fooled by the Blue Diamond form out of Melbourne.

Now I hear many of you rolling on the floor laughing, given Sepoy has been a short priced favourite for weeks.

Granted, he’s a high quality colt. Some say a potential superstar. Yes, he’s been mighty impressive so far, despite his last start defeat in the wet. I just don’t think he’s the winner.

I like Slipper runners with only one target in mind. No Blue Diamond. No Magic Millions. Remember Military Rose last year? The experts had her across the line as well.

In my humble opinion, it’s too hard for these young horses to be peak twice in a campaign. Yep, now I’m giving training advice to Peter Snowden. Stop giggling, please.

Anyway, I want them to be peaking tomorrow. Horses that will be at their very best, when they arrive at the Slipper barriers.

Speaking of barriers, these babies need a good one. Forget those who’ve drawn the carpark. There are exceptions. But backing bad barriers is a handy way to the poorhouse. Especially with youngsters.

So where does that leave us for tomorrow? Who can beat the favourite? Cummings, that’s who. But not the mighty Bart.

I’m tipping his son Anthony to take the prize, with Smart Missile.

The colt lowered Sepoy’s colours in the Todman, and I think he can do it again.

Fans of the favourite blamed the wet last time. I reckon they might be underestimating the winner. He could be something special.

Glen Boss riding. Perfect barrier. On another wet track. And one target. That’ll do me.

I give Snowden’s other runner, Altar, a fighting chance at big odds, after her impressive win last weekend. The trainer hadn’t planned to run her in the Slipper. His change of heart must mean she’s doing everything right.

I’m not discounting Sepoy. If the track is no worse than dead the hot pot will be in things for a long way. But not the winner for mine.

So there we have it. Smart Missile, Altar and Sepoy.

They might make a fool of me these babies. It’s happened plenty of times before. Here’s hoping they do the right thing. A new BBQ would be great. We might even get around to getting that plaque done.