Waller takes a turn for the best

HE’S RACED HIS WAY INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS AND IT’S ALL DUE TO MAK­ING THE RIGHT CALLS, WRITES RAY THOMAS

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Racing -

C hris Waller iden­ti­fied the race that pro­vided the stim­u­lus for his record­break­ing train­ing ca­reer.

“When we won the (2008) Don­caster Hand­i­cap with Triple Hon­our, that was the turn­ing point,’’ Waller said.

“It was my first Group 1 win and it gave me con­fi­dence in my­self, the self­be­lief I needed.

“I re­alised it was just a mat­ter of do­ing things prop­erly and when the right horses came along they would be good enough to win th­ese big races.

“Triple Hon­our’s win gave me that feel­ing I was good enough to com­pete at this level.

“I knew then I didn’t need to change any­thing, I didn’t have to worry about any­one else, just worry about what is in front of me. Then things went to an­other level again.’’

Over the past decade, Waller has rewrit­ten the record books at a Winx­like pace. He’s now trained 81 Group 1 win­ners and has climbed to sev­enth on the all-time list — with a bul­let.

The cham­pion trainer led in five win­ners at War­wick Farm on Wed­nes­day, giv­ing him 150 Syd­ney wins for 2017-18.

He is the only trainer to pass this mile­stone in a sea­son five times.

The leg­endary Tommy Smith did pre­pare 150 or more Syd­ney wins in a sea­son on four oc­ca­sions and, al­though there wasn’t as much rac­ing when he was dom­i­nat­ing the sport, it should not de­cry from Waller’s feat.

In fact, Waller this sea­son should shat­ter the all-time Syd­ney record of 169 wins he set in 2015-16 and could even break the 200-win bar­rier, an un­think­able achieve­ment un­til now.

Waller has pre­pared 10 Group 1 win­ners so far this sea­son and is poised to se­cure the na­tional Group 1 train­ers’ ti­tle for a record sixth con­sec­u­tive year. He has trained the win­ners of nearly $28.5 mil­lion in prize­money so far this sea­son and should shat­ter his own na­tional record of $30.2 mil­lion set in 2015-16.

I could go on but the records are too nu­mer­ous to men­tion.

Waller’s phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ments, par­tic­u­larly over the past decade, vir­tu­ally com­manded his in­clu­sion in the Aus­tralian Rac­ing Hall of Fame.

Waller will be among those rac­ing greats in­ducted into the Hall of Fame in a cer­e­mony in Syd­ney tonight, join­ing the elite train­ers like Smith, Bart Cum­mings, Colin Hayes, John Hawkes, Gai Water­house, Lee Freed­man and David Hayes who have al­ready been given Aus­tralian rac­ing’s high­est award.

“I’m not los­ing sight of re­al­ity, they have done a lot more than me but, who knows, we might be able to catch them up,’’ Waller said.

“I’m just very hon­oured to be in­cluded in the Hall of Fame, to be no­ticed in Aus­tralia is very spe­cial and emo­tional. The records are some­thing I used to get ex­tremely emo­tional about it and I didn’t like talk­ing about.

“But things change with tech­nol­ogy in terms of how you can train a big sta­ble of horses and I’ve got a sys­tem that helps me do that.

“Be­cause I’m in that po­si­tion of hav­ing a big sta­ble, great staff, loyal own­ers and top jock­eys, I don’t get too car­ried away about records but I’m proud of each and ev­ery race we win and if we can con­tinue to do that we can keep do­ing this for a lot longer.’’ Waller isn’t rest­ing on his lau­rels. At Rose­hill Gar­dens to­mor­row, a race meet­ing cel­e­brat­ing the 2018 Hall of Fame in­ductees, the trainer con­tin­ues his pur­suit of some of rac­ing’s revered records with 19 en­tries across seven races — in­clud­ing the early favourite in six races. They are: Race 1: Aber­corn Hand­i­cap, Press Box $2.40.

Race 2: Poitrel Hand­i­cap — Se­away $2.90.

Race 3: Mal­colm John­ston Hand­i­cap — Char­layne $3.70.

Race 7: Aus­tralian Hall Of Fame Day Hand­i­cap — Up ’N’ Rolling $3.60.

Race 8: Chris Waller Hand­i­cap — I Am Se­ri­ous $3.50.

Race 9: Colin Hayes Hand­i­cap — Noire $3.90.

The cham­pion trainer also has a big in­ter­state pres­ence, in­clud­ing six starters in the Group 1 $650,000 Doomben Cup (2000m) — Comin’ Through, Tom Mel­bourne, One Foot In Heaven, Satono Rasen, Life Less Or­di­nary and the enig­matic Egg Tart.

Waller has made an ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pact on Aus­tralian rac­ing since he moved from New Zealand in 2000 and re­vealed why he chose Syd­ney.

I was very proud when Winx was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame last year — I guess it is only fit­ting her trainer joins her

"I was at a stage of my ca­reer in New Zealand where I didn’t have any tines as such, I had a very sup­port­ive wife, Stephanie, who has been there ev­ery step of the way, we didn’t have chil­dren at the time, so we set off on a jour­ney to Syd­ney,’’ Waller said. "When I was grow­ing up in New Zealand, Syd­ney rac­ing was al­ways por­trayed as the place to be be­cause it is so very pro­fes­sional. Yes, Mel­bourne has the Mel­bourne Cup, ev­ery­one is aware of that, but Syd­ney rac­ing week in, week out sold it­self to me as it does to a lot of pun­ters, jock­eys and gen­eral rac­ing peo­ple.’’

But times were tough for Waller in those for­ma­tive years in Syd­ney rac­ing.

He only had hand­ful of horses and had just nine win­ners on all tracks in 2000-01.

The next two sea­sons weren’t much bet­ter but Waller never doubted his de­ci­sion to try his luck in the cut­throat world of Syd­ney rac­ing.

“When you are young, I was 23 or 24 at the time, you don’t re­ally look at the bank ac­count un­less you are re­ally, re­ally strug­gling,’’ Waller said.

“My main goal back then was to make sure I was pay­ing the bills, do­ing the right thing and slowly mak­ing progress.

“The beauty of Aus­tralia is that young peo­ple do get no­ticed. This coun­try is will­ing to give young peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity, for which I was very grate­ful, and through that mo­men­tum grows.

“The sta­ble was grad­u­ally get­ting big­ger from six horses to 20, then 30 and so on, which re­ally started to spring­board our suc­cess.

“Each year has been an im­prove­ment right up un­til now. ’’

Waller’s star has risen ex­po­nen­tially with his sta­ble’s suc­cess, al­though the trainer ad­mit­ted he felt his ca­reer was at the cross­roads when equine in­fluenza shut down Syd­ney rac­ing in 2007.

“I was just get­ting on an up­ward spi­ral and get­ting among the top four or five in the Syd­ney pre­mier­ship when EI hit,’’ he re­called.

“Rac­ing just stopped in NSW and at the time I thought maybe ev­ery­thing (sta­ble re­sults) might just be a fluke.

“I was very wor­ried how I was go­ing to get started again, how I was go­ing to af­ford to pay my staff. “For­tu­nately, through some very good ad­min­is­tra­tion from (Rac­ing NSW chief

ex­ec­u­tive) Peter V’landys as well as the race clubs, they got in­volved with (then-Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter) Peter McGau­ran and the John Howard Gov­ern­ment (fi­nan­cial pack­age) to save my busi­ness and the in­dus­try.’’ Just a few months later, Triple Hon­our won the Don­caster and Waller hasn’t looked back since. Waller’s train­ing ca­reer has reached new heights in the past three sea­sons with the emer­gence of cham­pion mare Winx, cur­rently the world’s high­est-rated race­horse. Winx is on a 25-race, three-year un­beaten streak in which she has won 18 Group 1 races — in­clud­ing three Cox Plates, three Ge­orge Ry­der Stakes, two Queen El­iz­a­beth Stakes and the Don­caster Mile. “She has taken my ca­reer and rac­ing to a whole new level,’’ Waller said. “I’m a rac­ing tragic and live for my rac­ing ev­ery week of the year.

“I’m in awe of the great cham­pi­ons of the past and now.

“So, to get a horse like Winx, to see what she is do­ing for rac­ing and the im­por­tance to her fans, I take that more as a re­spon­si­bil­ity rather than the en­joy­ment side of things.

“I get up ev­ery morn­ing and say, ‘OK, what am I go­ing to do with Winx to make sure she is safe, to make sure she is con­tin­u­ing on with her leg­endary sta­tus and not to dis­ap­point or con­fuse any­body’.

“Hence the rea­son why so many de­ci­sions have been made about (her) longevity. I’m very con­scious of that.

“I was very proud when Winx was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame last year — I guess it is only fit­ting her trainer joins her.’’

Waller ad­mit­ted the past 20 years had been “an amaz­ing jour­ney” but what does the next decade or two have in store for the cham­pion trainer?

“I would say pretty much the same,’’ Waller said.

“But my fam­ily is first and fore­most. I will make sure they are not for­got­ten as I con­tinue my ca­reer.

“You can work tire­lessly with win­ners and Group 1 win­ners which puts you on a high, but you have got to re­alise my fam­ily is grow­ing up, the kids are get­ting older and they are my num­ber one pri­or­ity.

“If I can take say a 10 per cent step back from rac­ing and give it to my fam­ily, that would be my next big achieve­ment.’’

Cham­pion Syd­ney trainer and Hall of Fame in­ductee Chris Waller, and two of his 19 en­tries for Rose­hill to­mor­row, Noire (left) and I Am Se­ri­ous (above). Pic­tures: AAP, Si­mon Bullard

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