Written by Peter Ryan
Courtesy of The Age
Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Chris Waller became emotional when describing his attachment to the animals that have made him a household name after six-year-old mare Verry Elleegant stamped herself as a champion of the turf with victory in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup.
The New Zealand-born Waller, who found fame as the trainer of unbeaten mare Winx, said he could not believe his luck to have been given the chance to train another horse of rare quality in such a short space of time.
Verry Elleegant moved to his stable when her former trainer Darren Weir was banned from the sport for four years in 2019.
“Lightning does strike twice,” Waller said.
The 48-year-old was close to tears when asked about the horses he has trained during his illustrious career, in which he has prepared horses to win 131 group 1 races.
“You look after them and they really look after you. They are an amazing animal to work with,” Waller said.
The Melbourne Cup was Verry Ellegant’s 10th group 1 win – all have come in different races – and Waller’s first Melbourne Cup, an achievement his assistant trainer Jo Taylor said etched Waller’s name in history.
Waller, who was looking for reasons not to run Verry Elleegant after she finished third in the Cox Plate, spoke of the journey the stable went on to turn the horse into a champion. She is the first mare to win the race since Makybe Diva in 2005.
She was a caged tiger when we first got her … through maturity and nothing else she has just developed into this beautiful horse who is putting that free spirit into her racing,” Waller said.
“You need defining moments to be called a champion and if there was any doubt, there was a race yesterday.”
Cup-winning jockey James McDonald, who landed the ride after Damian Lane jumped on The Chosen One when there were doubts Verry Elleegant would run, was full of praise for the horse.
“She is as tough as boots, she is a warrior, she loves a dogfight and the harder the race, the better she goes,” McDonald said.
Waller said the horse would be spelled before returning for the autumn with her wellbeing of the main consideration when constructing her program. Taylor said Verry Elleegant had a good preparation or two in her.
Waller, who did not attend the Cup but may be in Melbourne to watch Nature Strip run on Saturday, is now racing’s biggest name, with the trainer saying he was determined to be a role model to keep the sport going for future generations.
“I think there is a responsibility to make sure that the racing industry continues to thrive and continues to be seen as a responsible sport and [is] keeping up to social standards,” Waller said.