Dominant forces take aim at another Mile
THE Star Doncaster Mile, the nation's most famous 1600m race, has helped forge the celebrated training careers of Gai Waterhouse and Chris Waller.
The two champion trainers have won 13 of the last 25 Doncasters and both have a great opportunity to win the $3 million race again at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Waterhouse, racing's first lady, is chasing a record eighth win in the iconic Randwick 1600m race with in-form lightweight, Arbeitsam.
But Waller is gang-tackling the big race with six starters - Endless Drama, Tom Melbourne, Comin' Through, Egg Tart, Mister Sea Wolf and D'Argento - as he tries to equal the training record of Waterhouse and her late father, Tommy Smith.
The Doncaster is the feature race on day one of The Championships that includes four Group 1 races and over $10 million prizemoney.
It comes as no surprise that Waterhouse and Waller have a powerful stable presence across most of the feature races on Saturday.
Waller likened The Championships over the next two Saturdays at Royal Randwick as two of the biggest days in Australian racing.
"The Championships have been a fantastic success and they are only going to continue to grow in significance every year,'' Waller said.
"Owners want to have their horses racing during The Championships at Randwick, just like they do during Cup Week at Flemington.''
The Doncaster Mile is a race every trainer covets and Waterhouse and Waller know a thing or two about what it takes to win the big one.
Waterhouse had been training for less than two years when Pharaoh gave the trainer her first Doncaster triumph in 1994.
Pharaoh then backed up in 1995 to win a second successive Doncaster before Waterhouse prepared Sprint By (1996) and Secret Savings (1997) to complete an unprecedented "four-peat" in a race regarded as one of the most difficult to win in Australian racing.
Waterhouse has since won the Doncaster with Assertive Lad (2001), Grand Armee (2003) and More Joyous (2012), and taking her tally of career of Group 1 wins to an incredible 137 - third only to Smith (282) and Bart Cummings (268).
"The Doncaster is so tough to win but I have been able to do well in this race over the years,'' Waterhouse said. "But your horse has to come right at the right time. They need to be peaking on the day and have to have the right preparation.
"We have been able to improve the rising star to race well in the Doncaster and I hope that is the case with Arbeitsam on Saturday.''
Waterhouse admitted if Arbeitsam can give her an eighth Doncaster, she would be happier for her training partner, Adrian Bott, than for her own record-breaking achievement.
"I would be more thrilled for Adrian if he won his first Doncaster,'' Waterhouse said. "That is what I am looking forward to more than winning an eighth Doncaster.''
Waller trained his first Group 1 winner when Triple Honour won the 2008 Doncaster narrowly. In the decade since, he has prepared an extraordinary 78 Group 1 winners to vault into seventh on the all-time list, including another five Doncasters.
He equalled Waterhouse's feat of training four successive Doncaster winners when he trained Sacred Falls (2013-14), Kermadec (2015) and champion mare Winx (2016) to win the big race.
"The Doncaster has been a good race to us,'' Waller said. "It's a race where you can beat the handicapper, particularly with a good three-year-old. Their ratings are not where they will be in six months so you can get into a big race like this with a lightweight.''
Waller has won three of his Doncasters with three-year-olds - Triple Honour, Sacred Falls and Kermadec - and his leading contender on Saturday, according to the bookmakers, is another from that age group, D'Argento.
A striking grey colt, D'Argento won the Rosehill Guineas last start and has only 49kg in the Doncaster. Champion jockey Corey Brown has obtained permission from stewards to ride D'Argento one kilogram over, meaning he will carry 50kg.
Waller could have taken D'Argento to the Group 1 $2 million Harrolds ATC Australian Derby (2400m) on Saturday but he felt the three-year-old was better suited over 1600m in the Doncaster, particularly with his light weight.
DONCASTER WINNERS: Triple Honour (2008), Rangirangdoo (2010), Sacred Falls (2013-14), Kermadec (2015), Winx (2016).
Tom Melbourne ($17)
Comin' Through ($17)
Endless Drama ($26)
Egg Tart ($34)
Mister Sea Wolf ($67)
DONCASTER WINNERS: Pharoah (1994-95), Sprint By (1996), Secret Savings (1997), Assertive Lad (2001), Grand Armee (2003), More Joyous (2012).