The First Lady of Racing: Gai Waterhouse


If there’s one thing Australia’s first lady of racing isn’t afraid of, it’s showing her emotions. Not to mention her emojis.

“Officially in love with #Lot 370,” tweets Gai Waterhouse about a newly acquired colt a week out from Valentine’s Day, adding a smiley face with huge love heart eyes. She’s “speechless” with love hearts and evangelical palms for #Lot134 and emoji claps #Lot668 as a filly who is “really something special”.

For a lot of people, this much love for their work might seem over the top or artificial. But Waterhouse positively bubbles with genuine excitement about the horses she trains while all the time being deadly serious about her role as one of Australia’s best horse trainers. The daughter of legendary trainer, TJ Smith, Waterhouse has now carved out her own place in racing history, with her 120 Group 1 wins putting her third on the all-time winners list behind her father and Bart Cummings.

It’s little wonder then that her favourite part of the day is seeing another of her horses cross the line first.

“The Winner’s Circle is always so exhilarating,” says Waterhouse, “It’s also nice to be with the owners before the race, with the anticipation and expectation of what is going to happen with their horse.”

Two wins a dozen years apart stand out for Waterhouse as being particularly special. “I would have to say my favourite racing memories would be my trifecta in the Golden Slipper in 2001 and my Melbourne Cup win with Fiorente in 2013,” she says, “They are experiences one dreams about on the race track and memories I will never forget.”

The Golden Slipper, that Waterhouse has won a record six times, equalling her father, is one of her most loved days on the racing calendar.

“I always look forward to Golden Slipper Day,” she says, “It’s such a wonderful event and a race I have had great success in. I also love the Spring Carnival in Melbourne and the Warrnambool Carnival in May. They are always a lot of fun and the crowds get bigger and bigger every year.”

But getting to that position doesn’t come without serious effort. Her euphoric smile and irrepressible outfits and hats might be the images most regular punters are familiar with but they belie a tough business mind and a steely work ethic.

“My advice now to my younger self would be to always to keep your nose to the grind stone,” she says, “And make sure you have the investors in your business to sustain the running of the stables or buying of the yearlings.”

For those coming to the track purely for pleasure not business, Waterhouse has some simple advice for making the most of the day. “It’s always enjoyable to dress up for a race day,” she says, “It’s something you don’t get to do in your everyday life and as long as you dress smartly, you’re ready to go. Three things people should experience would be to try and back a winner, see the horses parade before their race and to look at all the beautiful and unique fashion.”

Away from the track, it’s the simple things in life that Waterhouse enjoys more than anything else. Pastimes you imagine would be tweeted with a double thumbs-up.

“There is no better way to spend my down time than with my family and beautiful grandkids,” says Waterhouse, “I also love to go for a swim at the beach and take Bello, Poodle cross King Charles Cavalier – a Capoodle! – for a walk with my husband Rob.”

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