Chris Waller can’t rely on all-time great Winx anymore but that hasn’t stopped the trainer continuing to dominate feature racing.
Sydney’s champion trainer ended his first spring carnival without the mighty mare when Mister Sea Wolf won the inaugural $1 million The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange yesterday.
Mister Sea Wolf’s win was the 98th Waller has prepared on all racetracks this season. He has already trained the winners of six Group 1 races, The Everest and Golden Eagle, and now The Gong to take his stable earnings soaring over the $26 million barrier – and the season is not yet four months old.
Charlie Duckworth deputised for Waller at Kembla and was asked about the stable’s extraording run of success this spring in the post-Winx era.
“When Winx was racing we had plenty of horses running second to her,’’ Duckworth said. “With or without her, we would still have won Group 1 races. But on Epsom Day, to have four Group 1 wins everyone realised, ‘holy hell, Waller is here to stay regardless of Winx’.
“Then we won The Everest and Golden Eagle and Chris had awesome Flemington carnival, where he was leading trainer.
“It’s great to finish it off with The Gong. Mister Sea Wolf is a horse who runs to a high standard from 1400m to 1800m.
“He was the class horse in the race and it was a pleasure to see him get the chocolates. We will be back here year in, year out to try and win this race again.’’
There was a reminder of champion Winx with Mister Sea Wolf’s win as Peter and Patti Tighe, part-owners of Winx, also race Mister Sea Wolf.
“This is super, mate,’’ Peter Tighe said after the race. “He’s an old battler, Mister Sea Wolf, and that was exciting to watch.’’
Mister Sea Wolf ($21) finished strongly under topweight of 59kg to edge out Quackerjack ($6) by a head with Star Of The Seas ($6.50), a stablemate of the winner, a neck away third.
Military Zone and Luvaluva were sent out $5.50 equal favourites and seemed to have their chance before running fourth and sixth respectively.
Champion jockey James McDonald won’t mind if they put on $1 million provincial races on a Saturday every week.
McDonald followed his win in the inaugural The Hunter on Savatiano last week by claiming the first running of The Gong with Mister Sea Wolf.
“I’ve had a good association with this horse, he’s my old favourite,’’ McDonald said.
“I thought he was going to be up against it with 59kg and a firm track but he soldiered it out very well.’’
McDonald said the inaugural Kembla Grange stand-alone meeting had a real carnival feel.
“The atmosphere is incredible,’’ he said.
“Right down to the 300m there are people, I’ve seen that on this track before.
“Like I said last week after winning The Hunter the spring just keeps rolling on, it is fantastic.
“It’s great to win the first running of The Gong. These races are giving everyone an opportunity to get involved and it’s great fun.’’