Racing and rowing: dairy farmer caps big day with Sir Mako at Rosehill

They reckon Chris Waller is patient with his horses? Try telling New Zealand dairy farmer Jane Nugent-O’Leary, who was going a million miles an hour on Saturday to see her horse win at Rosehill and daughter Georgia claim gold as an international rower a few miles further west at Penrith.

She has been watching husband Dan, currently campaigning a steeplechaser in Victoria, preaching the patience game for years. “He always goes quietly with horses,” Nugent-O’Leary laughed.

So it is not hard to see why Sir Mako, the rising eight-year-old which perhaps booked his berth as a staying force in the spring as the first leg of a Waller race-to-race double, was only having his 15th start on Saturday.

A two-year lay-off due to a tendon injury has been the catalyst for an interrupted career. But those tangerine and white spots, made famous by Melbourne Cup placegetter Who Shot Thebarman, are again outstaying all-comers this side of the Tasman.

“Dan trained it from the beginning and we’re dairy farmers and the training is a bit of a hobby,” Nugent-O’Leary said of Sir Mako, still retained by the husband and wife to race.

“But the tracks were just a little bit too muddy [for Sir Mako] over there. He thought if we were having such a good run with Chris and [Who Shot] Thebarman, why not? Now we’re just along for the ride.”

Nugent-O’Leary’s 18-year-old daughter has been representing New Zealand in an under-age international regatta against Australia.

Hailing from a small dairy farm on New Zealand’s north island, the family used their lot to help name Sir Mako.

Nugent-O’Leary was at pains to point out that Mako is pronounced as “Marco” – a Maori word meaning small stream and used in the name of their property “Mako Iti”.

Whatever logic was used to ship Who Shot Thebarman to Waller’s yard, it has turned out to be a pretty sound one.

Seemingly struggling in the heavy going as stablemate Beyond Thankful clapped on the speed throughout, Sir Mako rallied under Tim Clark to get the better of the pacesetter and lead in a Waller trifecta. Grafton Cup possibility Reigning was back in third.

It is hard to suggest a horse in the twilight of its seven-year-old season has better days ahead, but Waller was only happy to agree with the sentiment about Sir Mako.

“I think the tracks in New Zealand are a pretty stark reminder about how heavy some tracks can get,” Waller said. “This horse was running around in some pretty decent races, but they could have been Heavy 11s. He’ll win more money than most eight-year-olds this year and the horse is thriving.”

And while Waller admitted he has a pretty good handle on the Kiwi staying breed, the Australian pioneer in buying tried horses from Europe made the admission he was still learning about them after Soviet Courage’s win under Glyn Schofield in the third.

“I’m still working out these English horses,” Waller said. “They just take an age to acclimatise. We’ve kept him in work and I’ve sent reports out saying the horse is going to the paddock after today’s run, but he’s just managed to keep going.

“You just don’t know where the next The Metropolitan winner is coming from. And we wouldn’t say there’s The Metropolitan winner there, but we know they can keep improving.”