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
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