Some people working in Gai Waterhouse’s say that it is good luck when you “strap” or take a horse to the races for the first time for the yard.
In my case, this was in fact true; perhaps the luck of the Irish contributed as my first trip to the races in Australia resulted in me being lucky enough to have the opportunity to lead up a potentially high-class horse to the winners’ enclosure.
The horse Liberation, a two-year-old colt by Fastnet Rock, won a strongly contested race in Rosehill on Saturday in tremendous style, breaking the course record for a race of that class. Rosehill is one of the major tracks in Sydney; New South Wales racing is divided into provincial and metropolitan tracks. In New South Wales there are four metropolitan tracks, all based in Sydney, which are Randwick, Rosehill, Warwick Farm and Canterbury.
As it was my first experience taking a horse to the races over here I am sure I looked a bit out of place leading in the horse and getting directions where to take him in the ring once he won, as it is different to Ireland where there is a clearly marked winners’ pole in the ring. In Rosehill an area of the ring is cordoned off for the winner, similar to some American tracks. But one thing that was very similar to Ireland was the excitement beaming from the group of cheering owners as the horse had won on only his third start.
The racing here is set up for the racegoers to get as much as possible out of the day in all aspects. The facilities in the two tracks I have been lucky enough to make it too have been next to none in standard, all aimed at an accessible and enjoyable day.
In Randwick, down by the winning post, there is a large open area with tables and chairs so the racegoers can enjoy a relaxing evening in the sun while taking in the action. Most meetings would consist of racecourse gallops too, which take place throughout the day in between races, rather than after the races like at home.
This gives the people to opportunity to witness high-class horses on a day with racing of not the strongest calibre, as it is not until August the Spring Carnival commences and it is then when the big races in Australia take the spotlight.
On Saturday, Gai brought two very useful European imports to gallop at Rosehill. Tres Blue the winner of the Prix De Deauville was one, while Michelangelo the St Leger third-placed horse behind Encke and Camelot was the other.
This opportunity for racegoers to see these high-class horses and possible Melbourne Cup contenders gallop throughout the day is one that should be noted. Of course we do a similar routine occasionally after racing in Ireland but it is the frequency of this opportunity in Australia that is an attraction for the day to day racegoer.
Another great opportunity for the spectators, horses, owners and trainers are the regular trials which occur here. The trials are set up like a race day at the larger tracks and the jockeys even wear the owners’ silks.
The horse goes through the full routine from exiting the barriers to racing over the set trip of that trial. This is excellent for the horse and a great chance for owners to see their horses run.
Trainers utilise this opportunity to the maximum, with Gai sending almost 40 horses to the recent trials at Randwick last week.
As you can imagine this required all hands on deck in the yards! This time of year the practice races are amazing because as we creep closer and closer to the first day of the Spring Carnival we see some pretty flashy types making appearances at the trials. The trials days are regularly televised and are part of the form guide for all the horses.
Although I am only here a couple weeks I firmly believe there is much to be learned from Australia about the “racing experience”.
It is a fantastic country with huge opportunities and the Waterhouse stable is of course one of the best places to experience this wonderful industry under the guidance of a great talent.