November 1 2016

Years ago I read a quote in a book, and while I must admit I had to use my literary man as to find that quote, this piece of writing still reigns as true today as when I first saw it in the late ‘1970s…

‘Countless thousands stop whatever it is they are doing on the afternoon of the first Tuesday of November each year, whether they are debating matters of great importance in Parliament House, Canberra, or washing the baby’s nappies in a miner’s hut at Cooper Pedy, and for three and a half minutes transport themselves to the rose-bedecked lawns at Flemington.’
Legendry race-caller Bert Bryant

Oh how true this is. There is nothing else like the Melbourne Cup and I can assure you all dear readers that the VRC puts on a Carnival better than anyone. The support card on Cup day is not as spectacular as that on Derby Day; the races are not worth as much money, however winning one of these races, let alone three is an unmatched thrill. No, unfortunately Excess Knowledge did not bring me my second Melbourne Cup, but boy didn’t Adrian and I have a monumental day!

It all started at 10.40am. Some people might have been just rolling out of bed after a good Cup eve out, while others would have been lining up at Flemington from when the Carpark opened at 7.30am. Last year in race one on the card, the filly Prompt Response (Beneteau x Prompt) was beaten less than two inches, and strangely a year later, on the same day, but in a later race, the filly again suffered the narrowest of narrow defeats. But never fear, the A team is here. With Adrian and myself saddling up our first ever runner on Melbourne Cup Day – the lovely filly Invincible Star (I Am Invincible x Romany Flyer), we were able to conquer last year’s demons very early in the day.

Invincible Star ridden by the Magic Man Joao Moreira was simply too fast for her rivals in the opening race on the card, the Ottawa Stakes. Rob didn’t know how to price this filly. David Hayes has a huge opinion of what was the odds on favourite, and with all the available data, Rob, with just a jump out to go by, didn’t know what price to put our filly up! I knew Invincible Star only has a small, intense spring and as such I instructed Joao to bowl out in front and save her for one run. This is exactly how the race played out and I was ever so happy for Adrian and myself, together with the big group of owners, especially David & Shiralee Lilley who were sporting their new silks for the very first time! We were one from one, and with no hope of slowing down, we moved to race two.

Not 45 minutes after Invincible Star had started our day with a bang – at a time when the clock had not yet reached midday, and the stragglers were still making their way into the track, well as quick as a flash, we had trained a double. Joao Moreira is a Brazilian based in Hong Kong – Stephen Baster is a Victorian based in Victoria! While, if memory serves, Joao and Stephen fought out a jockey’s premiership many moons ago in Hong Kong, the two have enjoyed very different careers. However after race two on Melbourne Cup Day 2016, both champion hoops had recorded wins for the Waterhouse-Bott partnership!

Stephen gave Sort After (Wanted x Patronyme) the perfect ride, and like her stablemate Invincible Star, this mare only has a short, albeit intense sprint. She travelled like Sunline for the first three-quarters of the race, and when Stephen let the handbrake off, the mare did the rest. She powered through the line, and we were two for two and feeling fine!

Following a narrow defeat to the unluckiest filly in work Prompt Response, the Melbourne Cup was run and won, and my great mate Lloyd Williams claimed his fifth Melbourne Cup victory. Less Bart Cummings, no one has put more thought, preparation and indeed money into winning the Melbourne Cup than Lloyd. And wasn’t it great to see Lloyd on track for the first time in donkey’s years! I don’t recall seeing Lloyd trackside this millennium. With his son Nick getting off his sick bed, to be at Flemington, perhaps Lloyd thought it was time to dust off the old suit and his lovely hat and make an appearance. I am sure he is glad he went to Flemington on 1 November 2016.

In many dinners with Lloyd, and plenty of phone conversations, I have learnt a lot. Less my father, Lloyd has taught me more about staying horses than anyone. It takes great patience, dedication, and one must have a certain ‘tunnel vision’ should they want to win the Melbourne Cup. Bart had this – meaning Bart essentially didn’t care about winning any lead-up races, but rather just wanted to win the Cup. As such, he could tailor make programs for his horses that culminated in them being 110% fit come Cup day. Lloyd does the exact same thing. His attention to detail is second-to-none, and I admirer this trait perhaps more than any other. Congratulations Lloyd. I look forward to taking you on again in the race that stops the nation in 2017.

Back to Adrian and I! Fabrizio (High Chaparral x Desina) is now heading to the paddock for a well-earned rest, but don’t be surprised if you see him back at Flemington in March in a certain 2000m Group 1 Classic. This gelding is a wonderful horse, and I was so thrilled for George Altomonte as to have a winner on Melbourne Cup Day is like a win on no other day. Fabrizio stepped up to the 1800m, and like I have been saying for two years in regards to this gelding, the further he goes, the better he will be. Luke Nolan, our third winning rider for the day, gave Fabrizio a perfect ride, and upon straightening I think I was halfway down the stairs. Not one to ever go the ‘early crow’ I just knew that given the circumstances of the race, once Fabrizio had the lead, he would not be getting beaten. This was my first Cup week treble since 2006, my first with Adrian, and along with all the owners, we all had a whale of a time.

Just for good measure a double at Randwick was also recorded by the stable. In the last race on the card at Randwick, Sweet Redemption’s owners along with runner-up The Bull’s owners, all celebrated together and flew the flag loud and proud at headquarters. It was a day I will cherish forever, and it will be a long time before you will see this smile off my face. Well done to everyone, and I certainly hope everyone enjoyed Cup Day 2016 as much as Adrian and I did. Speak soon. Gai Xx


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