Chris Waller has an edge in the Humble Stakes on Aiden O’Brien, the Irish trainer rated in the genius class, and that’s weight-for-age form.
O’Brien refers to the “lads” behind his success for Coolmore, the world-wide thoroughbred operation, and Waller, too, is enthusiastic about his support group.
“The day before [the English Derby] O’Brien and the lads had won the Oaks,” Robin Oakley reported in the Spectator regarding the “self-deprecating O’Brien mould”.
Earlier this week, O’Brien notched the trifecta in the two mile Group II Queen’s Vase, with Kew Gardens giving him his 62nd Royal Ascot winner and sixth success in the race.
The O’Brien “lads” could mean John Magnier, the surviving mastermind behind Coolmore, but probably more the team effort. Magnier was the business brain forming the empire in which the equine expertise was supplied by Vincent O’Brien, a trainer rated the “Greatest Of All Time”, and Robert Sangster, who produced the financial ammunition.
No relation to Vincent, who was media shy, Aiden O’Brien has filled his shoes admirably but had a rails run in a great operation compared to Waller, who scrambled off 17 years ago in Sydney, one of the toughest turf theatres in the world, with a couple of empty horse boxes.
Waller had to develop an operation dealing with buying and developing hundreds of thoroughbreds and as many owners, not the select few of O’Brien, in a new world for the demographic in Australasia.
“Treat owners like mushrooms – keep them in the dark and cover them with manure,” Charles Whittingham, the great US trainer, opined, and that was the situation here, certainly with the reign of Tommy Smith, my focal point when it comes to the exceptional in racehorse training.
On Wednesday, Waller blitzed Smith’s Sydney premiership figures again, setting a new 170 success record from 1148 starters and eighth record in succession. Waller is getting better. Last season he had 152 from 12066.
Yet he is still dwarfed by other Smith aspects: titleholder for 33 straight and 34 in all including 278 group 1s.
Smith only had around 40 horses under his eagle eye at Randwick with a limited back-up, but Darcy Christie in charge at Flemington deserves a mention, as do Smith’s offsider Pauline Blanche and loyal strapper John (Crewy) Bradley.
But the only one he acknowledged publicly was daughter Gai Waterhouse, despite his brother Ernie having excellent results while the master of Tulloch Lodge was abroad. Old bookmakers still wince at the memory of the coups that Ernie and his punter “little Lionel” pulled off in the absence of the boss.
In those days, trainers didn’t have big stables, yet the Australian Jockey Club even considered limiting the number of Smith starters in race, hardly comparable to what Waller produces currently.
Under the title of “Wallerism” I’ve already claimed a world record for the New Zealander: stablemates beating the better performed and more favoured candidate. Still, it could be deduced this indicates all are at full throttle.
“Let your sheep out and I’ll round them up,” was the Smith catchcry when a newcomer strayed from another stable into his yard. However, as Waller pointed out, if he didn’t take Single Gaze another trainer would have.
But it gets back to the burden of being a leading public trainer involving more people, more horses, and more media that generates more pressure under which Waller oozes a rare calm. But how does he top Aiden O’Brien?
Waller would never say “lads” because, being diplomatically correct, he would include “and lasses” or just leave the plural “staff”. – Max Presnell, Sydney Morning Herald.