The Metropolitan is a magnificent race; it has been a great race for 150 years and it is the race where Gai Waterhouse has enjoyed the most success. Run over 2400m under handicap conditions, it is Sydney’s richest spring staying event and over the years it has been a crystal ball race in terms coming winners and placegetters during the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
The immortal Redcraze, trained by T.J. Smith won the Metrop in 1956 then went to south to win the Caulfield Cup with a still (and never to be broken) record weight of 63kg, before being the unluckiest of the unlucky Melbourne Cup runner’s up when asked to carry a Phar Lap like weight of 65kg.
Redcraze may well be the best winner of the Metrop, although Delta and Beau Vite too have claims, but when it comes to the greatest trainer of Metrop winners, Gai Waterhouse stands alone. Gai has had 38 starters in the great race over the last 20 plus years for eight wins, and seven places. To win a 2400m handicap on eight occasions is a phenomenal effort; the next best in terms of all-time wins of the race by a trainer is two!
It has been said over the years that Gai’s greatest success has come with two-year-old’s and speed horses, and this may well be true, but it is important to note that in terms of number of victories, the Metrop is Gai’s must successful Group 1 race.
Gai’s love affair with the 2400m handicap started in 1992. The future Melbourne Cup runner up Te Akau Nick was Gai first ever starter in a Group 1 race when he contested the 1992 Metrop. He duly saluted and little more than a year later, at 160-1 he beat all but the Irish Invader Vintage Crop in the 1993 Melbourne Cup. In 1995 it was the mare Electronic who provided Gai with her second Metrop winner. Glen Boss gave the talented staying mare a charmed run and she was able to win after coming from just off the pace. Like Te Akau Nick, Electronic was a kiwi breed horse.
The following year (1996) Gai made it back to back Metrop wins with the talented handicapping mare Hula Flight. Remarkably in this year’s edition, Hula Flight beat champions Nothin’ Leica Dane and Saintly! From barrier three with just 50kg, Chris Munce gave the mare the perfect run and she managed to hold out two very special horses in the process. And yes, Hula Flight was a Kiwi at heart like Gai’s first two winners of the race.
In 1998 a mare named In Joyment won Gai’s 4th Metrop. The mare, ridden by Larry Cassidy managed to beat Doriemus, who less Might And Power, was the next best stayer in the land at the time. This was a remarkable win and a perfect example of Gai’s ability with stayers. In Joyment went from winning a three-year-old and up restricted handicap on a heavy ten track, to just three months later beating one of Australia’s best stayers in a Group 1. Gai is one of the best at progressing stayers through their grades; something she is rarely credited with.
The year 2000 was a specular year for Gai and winning her 5th Metrop with the handy mare Coco Cobanna was certainly icing on the cake. Ridden very professionally by Chris Munce from barrier 12, the mare managed to come from just off the pace and win convincingly. Yes this mare too was born and bred in New Zealand.
For the second time in her career Gai made it back to back wins in the Metrop in 2001. The victor this year was the Zabeel gelding Dress Circle. Dress Circle’s Metrop win came at the end of an eight race preparation that resulted in a fourth, a third, three runners-up finishes and four wins. This gelding was ridden by Mark Newnham and Brian York during this watershed preparation, however Larry Beasley secured the ride in the Metrop and he certainly gave the gelding every chance in the big race. And yes, being by Zabeel indicates Dress Circle too was a frm the Land of the Long White Cloud.
In 2010 the enigmatic gelding Herculian Prince provided Gai with at the time, The Lady Trainer’s most dominant winner of the race. Nash Rawiller guided the gelding to a 3.5 length win after being hassled in the lead for the majority of the race. The winning time of 2.29.95 was one of the fastest of modern times and this time reflects the amount of pressure that was on for most of the race. This gelding’s first six starts were in… you guessed it! New Zealand!
Glencadam Gold is Gai’s most recent winner of the Metrop. The English import lead from start to finish in the 2012 edition of the great race. The winning time was just a smidgen quicker than the time posted two years earlier by Herculian Prince but the winning margin was almost exactly the same. This was Glencadam Gold’s fourth start in Australia and his fourth win to boot. Unfortunately this gelding was an Englishmen through and through and not a Kiwi as to add to the strength of this article.