Mates come and go, but master trainer Chris Waller has best friend in darling of the turf

Mates come and go, horses stay forever. Catkins will always be the darling of the Ingham family – with an adoring Sydney racing public also laying a small claim to her now – and she is more than just a horse to Sydney’s premier trainer.

“Unfortunately you lose a lot of mates because of the horses, but they become your best friends,” Chris Waller said. “You get protective of them and defensive when they get beat, taking offence when someone says they had every chance to win and things like that.”

Luckily for Waller, he hasn’t had to do that too many times. The latest victory – a crowd-pleasing Sheraco Stakes romp which had a Rosehill crowd cheering what was supposed to be the entree like it was a main course – had records falling left, right and centre.

No horse has won more races for Waller. That’s saying something. Ironically, Catkins’ 16th career triumph surpassed the deeds of her long-time stablemate and foe Red Tracer, which denied her that long overdue group 1 in the Myer Classic two years ago.

Her record in set weights and penalties race for mares is astounding: 14 starts for nine wins, four seconds and a third. How bookmakers offered more than $7 will mystify for months.

She has also now ticked over the $2 million prizemoney barrier – with the promise of more to come.
And it even had Waller apologetic for being guarded about the six-year-old’s chances first-up in the Sheraco, particularly after Bounding blitzed her Melbourne rivals last start and was sent off an odds-on favourite before labouring in third when dipping at the top of the straight.

“Maybe I was a bit over-defensive today in saying that she was a bit fat,” Waller shrugged. “Realistically, all I can tell you is what I see and I just saw a bigger horse that was taking a while to come up. Even in the race she didn’t have that same dash today and she was out of her comfort zone [early].”

Luckily James McDonald found the comfort zone pretty quickly. And once he slipped her a little rein in the straight she cruised to a one-and-a-quarter length win from Echo Gal, triggering McDonald to stand high in the irons at the finish. A little “she’s a superstar, mate” quip to Waller upon returning to scale was all that was needed.

“That felt like a group 1,” the normally softly spoken McDonald said. “I really enjoy riding her.”
Now Catkins will take aim at the Golden Pendant, perhaps one of the only feature fillies and mares race still to elude her.

“I thought about the Rupert Clarke, but she’ll just get too much weight,” Waller said. “She’s got older and a bit heavier, but she hasn’t lost her heart.”

Said part-owner John Ingham: “They’re all special and she’s a really special one. She’s getting older and you don’t know if she’s going to keep coming back, but her work had been good. There was big raps on the favourite and all of that makes you a bit dubious. I must say the $7 looked pretty good to me. It was commented to me you won’t see that again.” – The Age