Gai's riding pair put a smile on her dial
Hoopla: Gai Waterhouse has a strong relationship with her regular jockeys Nash Rawiller and Tommy Berry. Photo: Darren Pateman
GAI Waterhouse left Randwick racecourse on Saturday elated at her record-breaking day and confident she had an unprecedented grip on Melbourne's spring carnival.
In fact, no trainer, on the eve of Australia's most celebrated five weeks of racing, has ever shaped to have so much influence.
Waterhouse has pre-post favourites in the Cox Plate and the Caulfield and Melbourne cups, and prepares the shortest-priced favourite in Caulfield Guineas history with Pierro at $1.30.
Waterhouse's remarkable mare More Joyous will also be favourite for the group 1 Toorak Handicap at Caulfield on Saturday, as she has her last run before being one of three runners that the Sydney trainer intends to start in the Cox Plate.
While jockey managers across Australia have Waterhouse's phone number prominently displayed, she yesterday spoke of her relationship with stable rider Nash Rawiller who will shoulder the bulk of her hopes this spring.
''I asked Robbie [Waterhouse's husband] a few years ago to give me the name of the best heavyweight jockey and the best lightweight. He came back with Blake Shinn and Nash Rawiller,'' she said.
''Shinn got straight on a plane to Sydney to speak to me, but Nash wanted time to discuss the proposition with his wife.''
While a relationship with Shinn was successful for several seasons before coming to an end, Rawiller's continues to flourish and the pair remain one of racing's most dominant and strongest partnerships.
But Waterhouse admitted she had doubts even until the end of the first 18 months. ''What most [jockeys] don't understand is that I train differently to many other trainers. While they like to get them ready with a run or two, my horses are ready to go from the start.
''I like them to be dominant, I like them to be on the pace, and some jockeys don't get it. But after a time Nash and I worked out a good relationship with the team.''
Waterhouse's father, the late Tommy Smith, was one of Australia's finest horse trainers and had, seemingly to the public, a strong relationship with former jockey George Moore. The duo won hundreds of major races.
''No, I didn't follow on that style that dad did. Dad and Moore were pretty feisty customers. They had many arguments and I didn't see the need for a trainer-jockey relationship to be as confrontational as theirs was.
''I'm not a yes person, but confrontations can be negative and if I find a person like that in my system, I weed them out.''
Rawiller was known to be a patient and old-style jockey who liked his horses to settle and come home late. Waterhouse says Rawiller has refined that and rides as she wants, but takes his input on board.
''He's a deep thinker and I'm also a thinker, and it's a good way to be as we're always working towards the best for the horses. I know some of my jockeys think, 'here she comes again with another idea', but that's the way it's got to be; looking ahead and getting the best out of horses.
''Again, I'm a bit different from dad whose jockeys were worked hard as he believed they were extremely well paid, better than any horse trainer, so they had to do their share.
''I let Nash cut his cloth to suit himself. He probably rides three mornings a week and he's a terrific worker, but I've always got to remember that a jockey's lifestyle is not easy and they are wasting to get down in weight and it's got to tell on them.''
Two years ago Waterhouse saw a jockey whose talents she believed could be moulded into the upper echelons of Australian riding ranks.
At the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast, Waterhouse approached local Sydney jockey Tommy Berry and offered him a position at Tulloch Lodge.
On Saturday, that belief materialised into Berry winning the Epsom Handicap and Metropolitan double.
''Tommy is another who has fitted in well. His instructions [on Saturday] were to be positive and what happens, he's successful on both after he went whoosh at the top of the straight.''
In the next five weeks, Waterhouse could have upwards of 15 horses leave Sydney for Melbourne.
She said yesterday she wanted to let the dust settle on making premature plans for horses, but it would appear she will have a mixture of horses ranging from speedy two-year-olds to stayers this spring.
But Waterhouse maintains that her two jockeys will fly in and out of Melbourne on the one day during the spring carnival.
''They're only an hour away, they can come in, ride and go home, sleep in their own bed, be with their families and their routine is unaltered. I worry that jockeys coming down to Melbourne for all that time will live in a fishbowl existence.
''They'll eat too much, drink too much and party too much, and it's like having a flower in a hothouse, it's a pressure you don't need.
''They've all got diets and they've all got set ways of going about things, so I'm happy for them to stay at Randwick.''
If, according to corporate bookmaking firm Centrebet, Waterhouse is a $61 chance to win the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup this spring, her efforts at grooming jockeys will well and truly be worth it.