Gai Waterhouse has blamed officialdom for the demise of the Australian thoroughbred stayer as she became the latest trainer to tap into the European bloodlines that threaten a clean sweep of next week’s Melbourne Cup.
As the nation prepares for an unprecedented number of northern hemisphere-bred horses contesting Australia’s richest race, Waterhouse said the Australian stayer was on the endangered species list.
“Our (race) clubs should pull their socks up,” she told reporters during Flemington trackwork on Tuesday.
“All the Cups have come back in distance … it’s a travesty, it’s really a shame.
“You know people love staying races and they bet on them.
“Look at this Melbourne Cup … it stops a nation. It runs for two miles (3200m) and we love it.”
Waterhouse has won nearly every major Australian staying race but a Melbourne Cup victory has been elusive.
Now Waterhouse has been forced overseas to source potential Melbourne Cup winners for her Tulloch Lodge stable.
Results from the first day of the famous Tattersalls Autumn Horses-In-Training Sale in England revealed Waterhouse had joined a growing list of Australian trainers trying their luck with overseas horses.
Capitalising on a fragile UK racing economy with the backing of a strong Australian dollar, Waterhouse’s representatives signed for two horses.
The more expensive of the two at almost $230,000 was Glencadam Gold, a three-year-old son of Darley stallion Refuse To Bend, a half-brother to the 2002 Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle.
“European horses have done such a great job in Australia and she wishes to be part of that success too,” Waterhouse’s racing manager Bruce Slade told Tattersalls officials.
“These horses are well performed, lightly raced and the right sort for the Cup races.
“Gai has had New Zealand-bred horses before and they are produced in much the same way as European horses are.
“Her owners were quick to jump on board with this plan.”
By turning her focus to Tattersalls, Waterhouse is following a relatively new path to success in Australian staying races.
Chris Waller is now the leading trainer in Sydney and much of the foundation for his 2010/11 premiership win was established in the Newmarket sales ring a few years earlier.
He created a niche market for himself in Sydney racing, buying inexpensive, staying-bred horses from the annual sale billed as the world’s biggest for tried thoroughbreds.
With almost $800,000 in stakes off a $14,500 outlay, Hawk Island, a Melbourne Cup runner next week, has been just one of many Waller overseas success stories.
Bargains like Hawk Island might be harder to find now but paying $200,000 for a horse with some proven form over a distance in England could be considered good buying against the lotteries that are the Australian yearling sales.
European horses dominate the latest Melbourne Cup order of entry with 19 of the first 30 bred in the northern hemisphere.
Waterhouse expects to have two Melbourne Cup runners on Tuesday – Tullamore and Older Than Time – placegetters in the Caulfield Cup and Sydney Cup respectively.