Chris Waller is an Australian racing success story but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
As a young New Zealand trainer with ambitions to train in Sydney, Waller tested the waters in 1998 with Party Belle, a mare he thought might be able to win a provincial race and give him a foothold in Australia.
She lived up to her part of the deal, winning a Wyong maiden and two races at Kembla Grange.
The following year Waller and Party Belle returned and she won three races and gave the trainer his first taste of Sydney stakes racing with her third in the Listed McKell Cup.
On Saturday, the Waller stable saddles up four runners in the Sydney winter staying feature on the same day the trainer strives for his 16th Group One win for the season with Delectation in the Doomben 10,000 in Brisbane.
“I brought Party Belle over in 1998 and she won three races. I brought her back the next year and she won three more races and gave me my first Sydney stakes placing in the McKell Cup,” Waller said.
“I came back in 2000 with her and a few others. Party Belle never won another race but she had done her job.
“She gave me an introduction to Sydney racing and by that time I had three or four other horses to worth with.”
Despite his record in feature races over the past decade, Waller has not yet won the McKell Cup and is up against it on Saturday.
Opinion, Beyond Thankful, Hawkspur and Murphy’s Delight will take on odds-on favourite Raw Impulse from the stable of the country’s latest heavyweight trainer, Darren Weir.
The Melbourne Cup-winning trainer is in search of his first Sydney winner from admittedly few starters.
Weir is heading to his second Melbourne premiership while Waller is on target for a record score in his sixth Sydney title.
“Opinion was awful in the JRA Cup in Brisbane so we’ll find out in this race how he is going with a view to the Stayer’s Cup,” Waller said.
“Murphy’s Delight is out of his grade because he is also going to the two-mile (3200m) race and Beyond Thankful would appreciate a wet track.”
Hawkspur is a $16 chance and the shortest betting proposition of the Waller runners and the trainer agrees he is the best of the four.
“I’m really happy with him and he ran a much better race last time when fourth in the Lord Mayor’s Cup,” he said.
“But obviously Raw Impulse is going to be hard to beat.”
The winner of one race in England, Raw Impulse has had three starts for Weir for three wins.