Waterhouse, Pinot the toast of $1m VRC Oaks
Just minutes after trainer Gai Waterhouse achieved her first VRC Oaks victory when Pinot was successful, n racing’s most recognisable identity admitted that she had brought more glamorous teams to Melbourne than the one that arrived here two months ago.
Continuing the remarkable association with jockey Stephen Baster, Pinot showed all of the grit and bravery that the trainer manages to build into her team.
However, Waterhouse and her training partner Adrian Bott admitted that their team in Melbourne this spring was nowhere near the strength and power of those in years gone by.
“We brought down maidens and restricted horses and I thought ‘Oh how are we going to get on at the spring carnival this year?’ But they’ve all blossomed,” Waterhouse said.
“It’s very special. She [Pinot] came to Melbourne a maiden, with no accolades whatsoever. She ran a piddly sixth on her first start, but since then she’s improved out of sight. She’s just a gem, a real trainer’s dream. We’ve got our American contingent here, so they’re going to have a good time tonight.
“And, take Pinot for instance, I was reminded the other day that it was her first ever preparation and I thought ‘Heck is she going to be able to cope?’ And the other morning at the track I looked at her and she had her head down enjoying life and she was so cool that I knew then she was up to it.
“I know it’s extremely hard on spring three-year-old fillies to cope with such a tough distance as 2500 metres but she just kept giving,” Waterhouse said.
While the AJC and the Queensland Oaks beckon in the short term the trainer was understandably elated when Baster said that Pinot felt very much like one of her former star gallopers.
“When he said that she was just like Tuesday Joy, who was a cracking filly, I thought next year perhaps the Caulfield Cup is not out of the question because she gets better by each run,” she said.
While Waterhouse celebrated in true Gai Waterhouse style the defeat of long odds-on favourite Aloisia was the down feature of this year’s VRC Oaks.
Given the run-of-the-race by Luke Nolen, who gently guided the three-year-old into the leading division coming to the home turn, Aloisia failed to accelerate like the winner did.
“She didn’t stick it out. She travelled well and when Blake Shinn came around us and put pressure on us, we only struggled to the line,” Nolen said. “Perhaps give her another try at 2500 metres and see how she goes then.”
However, it was Waterhouse and Baster’s day as it has been so many times throughout the spring carnival.
“I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Stevie going over 20 years. I ring him to come down to Flemington and canter one of my team at four in the morning and there’s never an argument. He’s there.
“He knows what we need. He also knows how we train our horses and how we prefer them not be ridden. He’s an excellent man and we just click together,” Waterhouse said.
Baster was also full of praise for Pinot.
“Absolutely unbelievable. She went up in the air from the gates and lost two lengths. But she switched off and relaxed, so I went to plan B and went round them. It went against everything I’ve been taught as a jockey, but we got an easy half mile and when they came, I knew we still had some gears left. She’s just a dead-set star,” Baster said.
“They’ve been amazing. I’ve been riding for them for years, but this year has just been unbelievable. Adrian’s come on board, and Roger Elliott does a great job with the horses. All the staff love the horses to death, and this one gets spoilt rotten along with a few others. So it’s great for everybody concerned.”
In the final stages, the remarkable fitness and strength of Pinot shone through again as she held off all latecomers to win the group 1 classic.
Success this spring is certain to translate into an exciting autumn carnival in Sydney for the vast Waterhouse and Bott empire.
Pinot started at $5.50 and defeated Bring Me Roses at $16.00 with Hiyaam at $12.00 in third position.