The expression “Wall of Waller” was on everyone’s lips last Saturday. Trainer Chris Waller’s domination marches on. On Saturday, he had the trifecta in the group 1 BMW with Preferment, Who Shot The Barman and Grand Marshal. So far this season he has won a personal best of 14 group 1s and there are more to come before the July 31 close. This Saturday, on the first day of the Championships, he will saddle up short-priced favourite Winx in the Donny with the luxury weight of 56½kg and plenty of others.
His nearest rival Darren Weir, who trains more horses than Waller, has won five GP1s over the same period.
It is a phenomenon.
Northern value goes south
I suspect the fashion of buying Northern-Hemisphere racehorses (NH) might have reached its zenith.
There was a strong argument for shopping north when the global financial crisis was on as the UK bloodstock prices were weak and the currency was in our favour. The pound was on the ground, they said.
Gai Waterhouse bought her Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente in England in 2012. But in Australian dollars, Fiorente might be three times more expensive today.
The following stats show the Europeans’ growing popularity:
2013-14: 235 European racehorse imports to Australia
And there would have been more last and this season (the data is not out yet).
Imports with NH suffixes have dominated our major staying race entries. Of the 10 most valuable staying races this season, the Europeans have comprised 52 per cent of starters – with19 out of 24 in the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
But the results, as Saturday’s BMW attests, don’t justify this domination. So far this season there have been 17 staying group 1s. The score is 14 local-bred winners and only three European. Last season 15 local, 11 NH.
Moreover, it must be said, these Northern-Hemisphere horses are more delicate, meaning their careers are not as long as those of our tough colonial stock. Hooves are often a big issue.
Additionally, the domestic product is much less expensive. In nine of the 10 most valuable Australian races this season the winner’s purchase price averaged only $112,000 (the tenth winner was a home bred, so no purchase price). I think we’d be shocked if we knew how much is spent on the Europeans.
Go Aussie, go!
Welcome mat too costly
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is very admirable that we encourage international horses to The Championships but this has its costs.
The international horses have been a valuable asset for the Melbourne Spring Carnival for years. Their quarantine centre at Werribee racecourse holds 24 horses and has posted the full house sign for the past couple of seasons.
By contrast, we only have one visitor to Sydney quarantine station at Canterbury this autumn, the Japanese raider Tosen Stardom, who raced here last year.
The cost is that we’ve lost our marvellous mid-week venue, Canterbury, because it is the designated quarantine centre.
There has been no racing at Canterbury since February 17 and won’t be until April 20. Apart from the drop in betting turnover, fans lose the habit of going racing midweek.
It would great if the quarantine station could be at, say, Fernhill Racecourse (south of Penrith) or Bong Bong (in the Southern Highlands).
It would be even better if the international race (or races) were held on Australia Day in January. There would likely be plenty of foreign raiders as that date fits in much more suitably for Northern Hemisphere horses and there is no Dubai to compete with.