Chris Waller didn’t tell Bob Ingham who his runner was – or even what race it was in at Rosehill – during the pair’s weekly phone hook-up on Friday. Just that it had a “very good chance”.
The wintry climes of Rosehill in the middle of July isn’t the place for tears after big-race victories, but Waller was close. Just because it was the first time he had won the race named after one of his strongest supporters with a horse raced by the family of Australia’s chicken king.
“He’s given me so much confidence and it’s like talking to your grandfather,” Waller said after Rory Hutchings’ rails-hugging ride on Japonisme landed victory in the two-year-old race.
“He’s such a successful businessman, he’s been through everything in racing. He’s had the Octagonals and the slowest horses as well, the dry spells and the good times. He’s mixed with everybody from royalty and prime ministers to young people like myself who he gave a chance.
“You can see his family in him and they know what he would do in that situation and they would act accordingly. They were supportive of me prior to winning a group 1 race and they are just as supportive of me when Catkins doesn’t win a group 1 or at Warwick Farm on a Wednesday. They’re just beautiful people.”
Waller reckons he has won races named after Ingham before. He may even have had the first four one year when it was a staying event. But no victor has carried the famous cerise colours like Japonisme did on Saturday.
“We’ve had multiple runners in it before and to win it now gives us some great excitement,” Ingham’s son John said.
They’re over the constant debate over whether Waller will land a group 1 for the family. Grey mare Catkins, who has flirted with top-level success during a stunning sequence of form stretching back to early 2013, has been the latest family project.
And Waller just wants to keep on training winners, headed by Japonisme after the gelding wore down favourite and runaway trial winner King’s Troop to win by a length after the latter travelled sweetly in the lead under Brenton Avdulla. Tatoosh was a long neck back in third.
“It’s a great time of year for our horses, in particular,” Waller said. “We’ve left them alone, to some degree, as two-year-olds and they’re now starting to tell us where they’re going to take the next step.
“Horses such as Triple Honour have come out of these types of race meetings. You don’t really know, but it’s a good stepping stone.”
Also for Hutchings, who chalked up his third win since crossing the Tasman to link with Waller.
“The race experience probably helped,” Hutchings said. “He jumped perfectly and trailed the leaders and we took bad luck out of the equation. With the fitness he was able to kick strong and run down the leader and I knew if I went wide I would have lost a couple of lengths.”
Japonisme has now strung together back-to-back wins after five starts.
King’s Troop’s trainer Gerald Ryan and owner John Messara were buoyed by the effort of their debutant in the heavy conditions.
“He did everything right, but the conditions just got to him in the last 60 metres,” Messara said. “We’ll keep going and he’ll go to the San Domenico because we think he’s a nice horse.”