Cover image courtesy of Bronwen Healy
Pierro, Sebring, Vancouver and Dance Hero (Danzero) are just some of the Group 1 stable stars Waterhouse has spied during these journeys and she is confident that she has found another good horse or two during her current sojourn.
“The sales are going to be very strong,” she enthused. “I have seen some absolutely lovely horses.
“And not just in one place but right across the board, in all states.”
Usually on the road for a month (setting off this year not long after cheering on Alligator Blood (All Too Hard) to his memorable G1 Champions Mile victory on the final day of the Flemington carnival), Waterhouse has visited Rosemont Stud and Musk Creek in Victoria and most of the major farms in Queensland and New South Wales - during which time she inspects over 700 horses.
Horses she will see again, noting that, “By the time the sales come along I will have seen each of the Book 1 horses at least once.”
More often when a particular horse makes an impression with Waterhouse enjoying the non-rushed inspection approach that this busy but still relaxed tour allows for.
“At the sales you can only walk them up and down and back with 30 other people watching in. Whilst at the farms you can walk them anyway you like and you have a bit of time - it makes a huge difference.
“I love to see the horses in their natural environment, to see what they are being fed, to have the time to talk to the owners and stud managers.
“And every now and then a special horse pops up and you don't always have to pay the top prices for them,” she said - recalling that the four-time Group 1 winner Dance Hero was secured for $90,000 at the 2003 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.
“I love to see the (yearling) horses in their natural environment, to see what they are being fed, to have the time to talk to the owners and stud managers.” - Gai Waterhouse
Not only can Waterhouse get an idea about each yearling but also about a breed - seeing large numbers of horses by the same stallion within a short time frame allowing her to get an overview of the type of horse - in particular the first-season stallion - is siring.
And who of those new lads has made an impression this year?
“I really like Microphone,” she said. “They are a pretty uniform group of yearlings and I like that.”
“I really like Microphone. They (Microphone's progeny) are a pretty uniform group of yearlings and I like that.” - Gai Waterhouse
Waterhouse has enjoyed success with this Exceed And Excel sireline - such as the 2013 G1 Golden Slipper S. heroine Overreach - and it will be interesting to see how many progeny of his son Microphone - winner of the G1 ATC Sires' Produce S. - she ends up with.
Not only is this trip a fact-finding mission, but also a social one with Waterhouse cherishing the friendships she has forged over the years.
“You don't get much time at the sales to have a proper chat with people but during this trip we can have lunch or dinner and really get to know people.”
There have been some memorable experiences for Waterhouse, such as staying over at the Kitchwin Hills guesthouse with its lovely views and giving horses she trained - such as the Golden Slipper winner Farnan at Kia Ora Stud - a pat.
“There are a lot of great characters in racing and we so look forward to catching up with everyone... and they look forward to us coming,” she said.
There is no doubt about that with farms using social media to highlight their enjoyment of the visits, such as...
Waterhouse gains particular pleasure from meeting and befriending generations of racing people - “I have seen people's families grow up, their kids and their grandkids, it is just lovely.
“The Nolans at Raheen Stud in Queensland are a perfect example,” she said, cherishing the moments she has shared with families as passionate about horse racing and breeding as she is.
As already mentioned, Waterhouse also enjoys reuniting with horses she trained. Over the course of her remarkable career, she has prepared 15 Group 1-winning entires who have made their way to stud in Australia or New Zealand and she takes pride when their achievements extend beyond the track.
And she likes them retiring to stud with a record that ensures they get the right support - “I like them to be champions," she said. “And to race on a bit - that way people get to know them and then they want to send their mares to them.”
“I like them (entires) to be champions. And to race on a bit - that way people get to know them and then they want to send their mares to them.” - Gai Waterhouse
Such as one of Waterhouse's favourites in Pierro, a horse who she speaks so warmly of and who she enjoyed catching up with at Coolmore Stud, noting in her travels that, “The great Pierro could not have looked any better!”