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Gai Waterhouse wants better spring deal for her army of juveniles

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Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Max Presnell

Winners & Losers

Spring of discontent: Gai Waterhouse.

Spring of discontent: Gai Waterhouse. Photo: Damian White

Despite having record numbers at Randwick, it is still a spring of discontent for Gai Waterhouse because of the official policy regarding her favourite category, two-year-olds, in Sydney.

The last stable returns confirmed Waterhouse had 180 horses training there, says Lindsay Murphy, the Australian Turf Club courses manger, which easily exceeds Chris Waller's "around 140" at Rosehill.

Obviously no other trainer has had such numbers at any main racing centre in Australia. Sure, some have satellite stables, but the latest surge in Waterhouse figures is because of youngsters, badly treated by the modern system.

At this time of the year it is a regular but justifiable bleat about the good old days when official two-year-olds' heats were held at Canterbury and Randwick and regarded as features of the spring.

"I remember just three decades ago having young Tom all rugged up in my arms, me wearing a fur coat and watching 20-odd two-year-old trials at Canterbury," Waterhouse said.

"This was the norm. There were trials at Canterbury, then trials at Randwick, so horses would have two hit-outs before arriving at the Gimcrack and the Breeders' Plate in early October."

Alas, the policy has lost cohesion and the trainer produced an example.

"Wandjina trialled last year on 23 September in the first official two-year-old trials for the new season," she said. "He then competed in the Breeders' Plate on October 5, which leaves only 12 days between the trial and the race ... 12 days from a two-year-olds' first trial to such an important race as the Breeders' Plate is simply not enough time.

"It would be OK if the 12 days to the Breeders' Plate was after a second trial, but not a first. Nowadays if we want to trial a two-year-old early, we have to put them in open age heats. Records indicate an early two-year-old simply cannot keep up with older more seasoned horses.

"They need to be trialling against their own age at the start of September. And why not trial them at Canterbury? The powers-that-be certainly don't want to use the track for racing."

Anyway, increased numbers and Waterhouse's passion indicate one point. Suggestions that she was going to cut back on training and focus more on being a granny are sadly astray.

Premier pointer to Metrop

Even considering the stylish win of Stipulate in Caulfield's Bloodstock Stakes on Saturday, the depth of the Premier's Cup at Rosehill was stronger.

Waterhouse took the quinella with Greatwood and Bonfire; still, the Premier's Cup is more a pointer to The Metrop at Randwick than the Melbourne staying majors.

Two winners in the past decade, Railings (2005) and Glencadam Gold (2012), have gone onto take the Randwick staying test, which augurs well for fully tuned Greatwood.

On the subject of condition, Chris Waller reported to stewards that Our Voodoo Chief, which failed first-up in the Show County (1200 metres) at Randwick on August 23 "had pulled up well and would benefit from the run".

Our Voodoo Chief looked more like a Clydesdale than a Melbourne Cup hope, but Waller will have him trim by the first week in November.

Dissident thrives in Queensland winter

After Saturday's Memsie success with Dissident at Caulfield, trainer Peter Moody extolled the advantage of horses wintering in Queensland.

However, it was a policy of many astute southern trainers in the past, including Bart Cummings and George Hanlon. Tommy Smith, too, liked to campaign in the north but it was more in quest of prizemoney than sunshine.

Melbourne horses returning home, many like Dissident not even racing, were so successful that Terry Vine, a Melbourne Herald sports editor, wanted to stand them out with a special type in the form guide to alert punters of the advantage they had.

Stewards promise harder line

Tight, give-no-quarter racing, missing in Sydney recently because of rain-affected tracks, was a feature of Caulfield racing on Saturday when Damien Oliver and Glyn Schofield were suspended.

At least 10 other riders appeared before stewards to explain their actions in difficult situations during the day, upsetting Racing Victoria's chief steward Terry Bailey.

"We're not going to cop that sort of riding, so we'll just have to get tougher," Bailey said. "It was pretty disappointing, so if that type of day is going to be dished up then we're not going to back off."

Horse to follow

Certainly Cluster was in the shiner position of coming down the outside after being given a seemingly impossible start, but his effort to finish second in the last race at Rosehill confirmed his potential.

Disappointing

Moment Of Change, strongly supported at $5, finished last to stablemate Dissident in Saturday's Memsie Stakes and jockey Luke Nolen could offer no explanation.

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