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Image: Bruno Cannatelli

Chris Waller isn’t packing his travel bags just yet … but he does have some exciting plans for doing so next year with the likes of the Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant, The Everest winner Nature strip and the Coolmore Stud winner Home Affairs all in the frame to undertake overseas assignments.

Waller confirmed those plans when he made a featured guest appearance on the UK Racing TV show, Luck on Sunday, but that wasn’t only that revelation that was of interest in a wide-ranging interview in which Australia’s top trainer gave his learned, always well thought out opinion on a number of issues.

Firstly, (from the Racing TV program) these are Chris Waller’s views …

On travelling Verry Elleegant next year:

“It is on the agenda. Some of the owners raised the idea last year and I wasn’t quite as keen, but I think now is a good time to do it. The beauty of Verry Elleegant is that she is adaptable over all distances. She has won a Group 1 race over 1400m all the way through to 3200m and she has won on all conditions … a firm surface is no problem and, on a very wet surface, she is almost as effective. She is a very clean-winded horse. so she doesn’t need a lot of work. To me, that is the right type of horse to travel. The owners have got their heart set on the Arc which is obviously a very hard race to win. We wouldn’t come there expecting to win an Arc, but to be part of it is one thing, and with her having won so many Group 1 races in Australia, she is obviously at the level required to at least be competitive, while, of course, respecting what we will be taking on.”

On why Winx never took up an overseas challenge:

“Winx was a different horse. As much as she was loved all around the world, she was idolised in Australia … and she had some big targets there … to win four Cox Plates which had never been done before. As would be the case with Verry Elleegant, to take a horse to Europe is one thing, then you are expected to bring them home and still have them race at that high level. You have got to travel the horse twice which is very hard, especially with mares, and with Winx we didn’t want to take that risk. There is always critics in every part of life, but I think we made the right decision and I’m pretty proud of the job my team did with her … and what an amazing experience it was!”

On the increased restrictions and fitness screening criteria imposed by Racing Victoria on the international horses wanting to travel to Australia:

“It is very important that we don’t have too many injuries in racing in general. In the modern day, we have got to abide by social standards and what the community expects because there are always challenges involved with that. So, they needed a change. The changes have been very aggressive and I’m sure they will be reviewed because there wasn’t enough horses that came out this year. We need the international horses, not just for the Melbourne Cup. I think there will be a lot of reviews taking place now. The last thing we want to do is slow the influx of horses coming across … not just for the Melbourne Cup. We need them in the Cox Plate’s, we need them in the Queen Elizabeth and the new race The Everest. We need international representation here because it gives us a chance to showcase our sport to the rest of the world. As much as it is easier if they are not here, I, as a trainer, need them here. It is great for racing.

On the state of racing in Australia and Waller’s opinion on the so-called ‘pop-up’ races:

“Australian racing is so strong at the moment … in terms of prize-money and new races getting put up every year. There is a bit of rivalry going on with Victoria and New South Wales creating pop-up races, as they call them. There is one on my home track called the Golden Eagle. It’s worth $8 million … that puts it up above the Melbourne Cup. That is run on Derby Day. Some people just hate the idea, but the fact is these races are generating wagering turnover which is passed on to racing participants which makes for stronger racing. So, there is method in their madness. The Golden Eagle, the All-Star Mile, the Gong, the Everest … It will only be a matter of time before the European horses come down for these races.”

And … ending where it started … anything more on the overseas travel plans:

“We’ll try and bring a couple of other horses as well as Verry Elleegant. We’ve got a very good sprinter called Nature Strip and a very exciting colt called Home Affairs. We might not just bring one. Nature Strip … I think he sits on the world rankings right up near the top in terms of sprinters. He is a very good straight horse as well … and Home Affairs, he is a rocket, so watch out for him.”

As the host of Luck On Sunday said in closing the segment … ‘we are standing by for this three pronged attack’ … as we all will be when the time comes around.

All things being equal we could be getting close to writing the next, overdue chapter in the tale of Australian horses taking on the world away from home in Europe … following the path where the likes of Choisir, Miss Andretti, Takeover Target, Scenic Blast and Black Caviar have found glory before.

Exciting times ahead.

 
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