Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Racing

Marine's Off To A Flying Start

We've had the pleasure of having Marine Moussa working with us for the last two months. Marine is 25 and hails from Normandy, France. Marine has been in Australia for just under a year, and after spending time working with weanlings and yearlings at Segenhoe Stud in Scone, she made her way into the city to experience the thrill of working in a bustling racing stable.

Sadly for us, Marine departs in a week's time because she's about to embark on a fabulous adventure as part of the 2020-2022 Godolphin Flying Start. But before she left, Marine posed some interesting questions to me and I thought it would be nice to share these. It's been a pleasure having Marine work with us, and we wish her all the very best for the future and look forward to seeing her again for the Australia stint of the Flying Start program. 

Marine with a weanling at Segenhoe Stud

So my first question would be when you inspect yearlings what are your criteria? How do you look at the horse and what are the major assets and weaknesses for a horse for you? 

I’m looking for the athlete. The horse cannot read its page and if you like what you see, it’s half the battle. I like a horse with athleticism, one that moves well, and I’m not so concerned with the walk. It’s a fashion item. My father used to say you’re training them to gallop, not walk. I like a horse with character, a good eye and one that’s in proportion, namely not too heavy. Most of my Champion 2 Year Old Colts have been on the lighter side as yearlings, Sebring and Vancouver being two examples that jump to mind. They were tall, leggy and even a little narrow gutted as young horses but my gosh did they blossom into spectacular types. The overall picture has to fill your eye, catch your attention and last but not least if you’re the purchaser, the price has to be right. If you’re an agent buying for your client, you must make sure you don’t overstep the boundaries. You have to believe in what you’re buying. I call it sex appeal. When I see a horse I truly like, it plays on my mind and I can’t get it out. What I don’t like is a horse that is too long backed, as they have problems, and I like them to be strong behind. English bloodstock agent, Amanda Skiffington says they must have ‘push’. I don’t like long sloping pasterns because it doesn’t suit Australian racing as we mainly race on firms tracks. I prefer Australian pedigrees as overseas ones just haven’t been successful over a long period of time. No one can really say why, but why not keep to the formula that works. Let others take that chance and keep the odds in our favour.


My second question is: when the sales season arrives, how do you and your team prepare for it?  Do you do a pre-list or do you inspect every farm?

We inspect yearlings at as many farms as we physically can, which probably enables us to cover two thirds of the catalogue before they arrive at the sales ground. Adrian and I arrive at the sale very early and we go around looking at every horse on the complex. As you can imagine it’s time consuming. I like to see how a horse is handling a sales prep. If they fall away in condition or become flighty and nervous, it’s not a horse I’m looking to buy, but as George Smith (an agent I worked with for over 10 years) says, first impression is the most important thing. My husband does a rating on all of the new stallions, our veterinarian goes from stud to stud inspecting and once the homework is done, we all meet. Very much as Mark Johnston does in England. My husband says, “He who has the gold has the final say,” so we can only advise and whoever is buying the horse has to say that’s the one I want.


I noticed that you are keen to purchase progeny by Sebring, Vancouver and Merchant Navy: do you reckon it is more interesting to train the progeny of a stallion that you trained and raced?

It’s not essential. The mare is the most important part of the pedigree. She has the most influence as the foal is in her womb. With an old mare, the blood flow to the developing foal is reduced so I see that as a disadvantage. You can often make comparisons to humans and this one is clear cut. Women over the age of 35 are at greater risk of complications and birth defects due to hormonal changes that affect the reproductive system. That’s not to say that they cannot have a child, it’s simply a riskier prospect. The winner of the Golden Slipper is the superior racehorse. It’s stronger, faster and has great mental strength. Over many decades they have produced the most Champions so this is part of the reason why we buy multiple horses by the likes of Sebring and Vancouver.


Finally, do you adapt the training of a horse according to his conformation weaknesses and assets? 

The horse really tells you. You start them in the early stages in a certain way – being broken-in, educated, then light work, but at the end of the they have to be able to stand training. Time is a great healer and in Australia we are prone to putting our horses in the paddock after being broken-in to give them the necessary time to fully mature. The sunlight and feed in Australia help them to develop rapidly. Keeping the horse in regular, light exercise, and not being stuck in their box, can certainly help with soundness.