Gai Waterhouse – Australia’s Female Racing Monarch

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Last race season, I interviewed Kate Waterhouse, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity when it arose to interview Kate’s mother. She is, of course, the hardworking, multi skilled woman who has been labelled Australia’s female racing monarch – Gai Waterhouse.



I have just finished reading your book, Gai: In My Words. With your extremely busy lifestyle, it is hard to imagine how you keep up with your blog, let alone find time to turn it into a book. You obviously enjoy writing; can we expect another?

I totally enjoy writing my daily blog, and it only seemed fitting to turn it into a book. Together with the help of Editor Stephen Howell, we created a book which is the product of my thoughts, philosophy and the events which were documented each day over a period of three years. As my blog is an ongoing process, there is always a possibility of a second. It is also the matter of finding the time.

With your busy lifestyle, you have a very early start; I bet you are one of the first trainers at the track. What time do you start your working day? And how do you keep your energy levels up?

I start work a lot earlier than most (laughs) – usually about 3am. You could say I am one of the first at the track. The first ride is at 4am, and then the horses start their training between 4.30 – 5am. In regards to keeping my energy levels up, I lead a quiet life, eat well and try to look after myself. Having a sleep during the day helps me, together with regular daily massages. I also like to retire at 9.30pm every night. It’s all about routine.

How do you know what the horse needs and if it has potential?

When I look at a horse, I can see if it has potential, then I focus on what can be improved. What can I live with? No horse is perfect! The horse has to get fit, but they also need rest and play time. I watch certain things. Does the horse need more conditioning? Is it on the right programme? You can’t run a horse into the ground and expect it to win. Detail is everything!

To keep up this fast pace, you must have a dedicated and loyal team working for you?

My team is wonderful and work well in all their different departments. There are people around me all of the time feeding me pieces of information and guiding me. My job then, is to process it. There are many that make it all work, and here are just a few:

My driver, Damien Gaffney. We make quite a team; we travel together everywhere. (Laughs.) You could say we are like Batman and Robin!

Jane Ormsby is one of my Personal Assistants, along with Susie Loewy. They look after my social life, organise the days at the races and schedule all of my meetings and charity events.

Natasha Kent is my Racing Manageress, who is responsible for programming the horses, booking the jockeys and putting together programmes for the Racing Carnivals.

Bruce Slade is my Racing Manager. He is multi skilled and helps buy and sell the horses. His job also entails placing the horses with the new and existing owners. He keeps me in the loop, so to speak.

Another person on the team is Sonja, my housekeeper. I may switch on the oven (laughs), but she is the one who cooks the meals and organises the house!

These are just a few, but we all work together very well to make it all happen.

With a husband and son who are both successful bookies, I can’t see you discussing much more than racing when the three of you are together!

It is true to say that when we get together we spend a lot of time discussing the racing world. All the family have always been passionate about the lifestyle; they have dedicated themselves to it. Along with enjoying the family, it’s what we love.

I have seen you in action, and you are furiously passionate about your job. Do you still have the drive and enthusiasm that you had when you started out?

It is funny you ask that, because I was looking at an old book I was given a while ago, and I can honestly say that even though the hats have changed (back then they were a bit outrageous), the photo of me smiling out with a look of total enthusiasm is the same woman I am today. I am a very driven person; obviously my family comes first, but I live and breathe the racing world.

What can we look forward to from the Waterhouse stables this spring?

There is so much to look forward to. We have just taken over the training of Rock ‘n’ Pop from Te Akau. Trainer Jason Bridgman brought him over from New Zealand, and we are going to shape his future stallion career. He already has a top class reputation, and he is a listed winner and Group One in New Zealand. He is the most exciting stallion prospect to come out of NZ since So You Think, and I intend to add an Australian Group One to his CV.  We see him with the Epsom Handicap as a spring target.

I have read that you’ve had an ongoing relationship with David Ellis, who runs the Te Akau Racing and Breeding Operation. Please tell us about that.

Yes, that is true (smiles). Actually, David Ellis gave me ‘Te Akau Nick’, who was my very first Group One Victory in 1992 Metropolitan Handicap in my first year of training.

When you take some precious time off from your busy schedule, what do you enjoy doing?

I love to spend time with my family and also enjoy travelling. If the two go hand in hand, it’s even better.

You have enjoyed another hugely successful season. What is one of your best memories of the Autumn Carnival?

There are some great memories. I predicted last spring that the colt Pierro was a potential for the Golden Slipper. I am sure I surprised a few when he delighted us all and won the $3.5 million Golden Slipper this year!

With twenty years of unprecedented success under your belt, what are your dreams for the future?

I would love to win at Royal Ascot. I love the racing and the area. I just want to train as many winners as I can and carry on doing what I love, and do it well!

On a lighter note, Le Dãin Designs has had the pleasure of designing some jewels for the Waterhouse Ladies and your charity events, and we would like to find out a few of your fashion secrets! We know you are the ambassador for David Jones; have you got a favourite designer, and who is your milliner of choice?

My favourite milliner at the moment is Neil Griegg, who is renowned for his hand designed flowers. Also on my favourite milliners list at the moment is Jane Lambert. One of the designers I love is Camilla, who always manages to capture the colours and the warmth of the Australian sunshine in her styles. She is remarkable with her designs.

You have just attended your daughter Kate’s wedding. As mother of the bride, which label did you wear for the big event?

For Kate’s wedding I wore a beautiful outfit designed by Alex Perry. He is another of Australia’s outstanding Couturiers. I also have to mention that the gorgeous bridesmaids were dressed by Carla Zampatti.

When I interviewed your daughter Kate, I asked her how many hats she owned, and she laughed and said not as many as you! Is this true? Do you need a walk in hat robe to store them all?

Well, to be honest, I think I have more hats than my daughter Kate, but I don’t keep them all … I do give a lot away to charity. Actually, I don’t have a walk in robe, but I do have a beautiful glass cabinet where I store all of them. Dressing up for the races is part of all the excitement of the day.

Finally, I would like to thank you on behalf of myself and FOCUS for your time and wish you all the best for the future. And as you sign in all of your books … happy racing!

Interview conducted by Carole Beros.

This story was published in issue 23 of the Coffs Coast Focus

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