There’s nothing wrong with being Gai. Especially in Melbourne this Spring.

September 22, 2012

If you’re in a pub with Gai Waterhouse over the weekend, don’t buy tickets in the raffle.

You’ll stand no chance. She’s winning everything at the minute. You could buy the lot and she’d still walk out with the T-Bone tray.

Something has happened at Tulloch Lodge. It was just a few seasons back that the wheels had fallen off. Winners were hard to find.

The dazzling smile was there, but only just. What hadn’t disappeared though, was her work ethic.

It’s now clear that those in the stable put heads down and bums up. Hard yakka got them back. And some pretty handy horses.

The trainer with racing’s best hats ventured up the highway for the big Newcastle carnival during the week. Day one they knocked off the Spring Stakes, with the highly impressive Proisir.

How good is this bloke? He left them for dead in the long Broadmeadow straight. Even Gai was surprised at the ease of the victory. Not speechless, just surprised.

Twenty-four hours later, the Waterhouse colours claimed the Newcastle Cup with Glencadam Gold. An imported stayer, of course. Found by husband Rob in the UK.

Even Nash Rawiller was impressed. It’s always exciting seeing a distance horse bowling along in front, and still being there at the post.

Both winners will eventually head to Melbourne. Part of Gai’s strongest team to venture south in many years. Maybe ever.

And that prompts the question we usually hear in September. Why can’t Gai dominate over the border?

History tells us that for such a successful trainer, her returns in Melbourne have been slim.

She’s won a Caulfield Cup. No luck in the Cox Plate. Nothing from the Melbourne Cup either, although Nothin’ Leica Dane was unlucky in 1995.

Compare that to what racing’s First Lady has achieved elsewhere, especially in her home town, and it makes no sense.

There are narks out there who seem to get a kick out of it. She’s such an easy target. Always willing to put herself out there. Promoting the sport day in, day out.

This year, those smarties might be out of pocket. Because the Waterhouse team is on fire.

She has a stranglehold on the Caulfield Guineas. The winner will come from her trio of Pierro, Proisir or Kabayan.

What about the Cox Plate? The top two in the market are Gai’s favourite, More Joyous, and the superstar three-year-old Pierro.

Finally, she has some decent Cup contenders. Glencadam Gold will be well supported. Fat Al, Julienas and Strawberry Boy are being talked up.

There is confidence in the camp. The team is flying. It would be a brave punter to leave any of her top hopes out in the coming weeks.

Winning form is good form. Whether it’s Group Ones, or pub raffles. Don’t be surprised if Gai is celebrating with those T-bones by the end of the carnival.

Getting the timing right. Should Black Caviar be retired?

July 21, 2012

When it comes to giving it away at the top level, timing is everything.

Champions deserve to go out as winners. But they don’t always get the chance.

Footballers want to finish with a premiership. Few do. Cricketers dream of a bagful of wickets or a dashing century. It rarely happens.

Of course, Warnie is the exception. He’s going to play forever. He’ll be the main man in Five/Five games in twenty years, rattling stumps. And the hair will still be perfect.

It’s different on the racetrack. Often, the stars of the show don’t get a say in calling it quits. Trainers and owners make the decision. Horses rarely get consulted.

Black Caviar’s time is almost up. The greatest mare you and I will ever see is just about ready for the good life. So the question is, when should she give it away?

Peter Moody insists his pride and joy WILL tell him. There’ll be signs. And he’ll be watching, and listening. He loves the animal. Would never think about making her have one run too many.

The owners have made a fortune from her 22 straight wins. They, too, have nothing left to gain. And an awful lot to lose.

The easy way out would be to pull the pin now. With a record that won’t be matched in our lifetime.

Fans will remember her final run, as one of her bravest. Out of sorts, she got home, on foreign soil. Just. In front of the Queen and some delirious Aussies.

They could send her off to make huge, expensive babies. And charge big dollars for the boys to get anywhere near the breeding barn.

Yep, it would be all so easy. Except for one thing. What if she has more left in the tank?

That’s the problem. The nagging suspicion, that it doesn’t have to be over just yet.

For all the glory of Royal Ascot, a hometown farewell must be mighty appealing. One final fling in Melbourne. With a country cheering.

Imagine the Spring Carnival this year, with Black Caviar involved. She’d run on Derby Day Saturday, and Flemington’s attendance record would be smashed.

The nation would come to a standstill on that afternoon, to farewell a champion. It might even end up bigger than the Cup itself.

Picture Luke Nolen bringing her back along the fence, with the crowd going wild. Moody might even shout the lot of them. XXXX Gold, of course.

Could it get any better? I doubt it. A sporting moment we would never forget.

One small thing though. She’d have to win. And therein lies the great trainer’s challenge.

He won’t risk her, regardless of how much we want to see such a finish. So he’ll be watching, and listening for those signs.

Maybe the great mare will get to decide her own fate after all.