By Ray Hickson
What is it about the record breaking machine Chris Waller that has seen him reach the seemingly ever-increasing heights he has?
As the soon to be eight-time champion Sydney trainer sits on the cusp of bettering the 169 mark he set two seasons ago, on his home track at Rosehill on Saturday, we asked syndicator Denise Martin – who provided that record breaking horse Pioneering on July 30 in 2016 – that very question.
“His exceptional talent and his remarkable work ethic,’’ Martin replied.
“His capacity to identify talent in a horse and remain in training for an extended period is something I’ve not seen before.
“He combines the total package that allows him to perform at the level he does. He sets the pace in Australia now, in my view, quite clearly.’’
Martin’s Star Thoroughbreds teamed with Waller in 2014 after a 20 year partnership with Gai Waterhouse.
Waller is about to pass the 300 winners for the season nationally, a personal best, he’s already smashed his own prizemoney record (now over $32 million), won 13 Group 1 races and of course was last month inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame.
"It’s a remarkable achievement to reach the level Chris has, to be inducted in the Hall Of Fame after a relatively short time of training. It appears he’s going to go from strength to strength,'' Martin said.
Pioneering was an in-form three-year-old filly when she took Waller past his 2012-13 NSW metro record of 167.5 two years ago and it seems certain the familiar Star Thoroughbreds colours will be instrumental once more as he kicks off the meeting on 167.
Progressive three-year-old Gresham is one of three Waller runners in the Ascot Restaurant Sale Handicap (1400m) and is $3.10 favourite with TAB to complete a hat-trick.
Star’s colours will also be seen on Chatelard ($7) in the Winter Racing Handicap (1800m) and it could well be history repeating if Waller has drawn level with the record as The Avenger ($7) carries the purple with white stars in the Sydney’s West App Handicap (1300m) to close the program.
Martin said Gresham reminds her a lot of stablemate Cellarman who charged through the grades this season culminating in a Group 3 win in March.
“To think that Cellarman could develop into a stakes horse last November when he started his most recent preparation wasn’t something the owners could have imagined at the time,’’ she said.
“Chris told Gresham’s owners about 18 months ago he felt in time he could reach a good level of competition, he needed time to allow him to work it out and mature.
“He took a long time to win that elusive maiden and he’s now flying along.
“If he continues to progress in the same vein there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t become a horse that might find his mark during the spring.’’
On his weekly stable update Waller said he feels Gresham faces an important test on Saturday as he comes back 100m from his dominant all the way win at Rosehill two weeks ago.
The gelding ran 34.24 for his last 600m (Punters Intel) last start as he accounted for Chalmers, who was successful at Warwick Farm midweek.
“He’s coming back in distance and has a big weight to carry so that’s the negative. Blake Shinn rides, knows the horse well and the horse is going obviously well,’’ Waller said.
Stablemates Sparky Lad ($21) and Snitzel Day ($34) are both unwanted in betting to beat Gresham but Waller’s comments on both suggest he’s expecting at least competitive performances.
“I’m a bit bullish about (Sparky Lad). He’s been a work in progress, is just taking a bit of time. He needs to be ridden quiet. It’s the right type of race, right weight he’ll be hard to beat,'' he said.
“Probably forget (Snizel Day’s) run at Scone, it was a pretty firm surface and he might be best ridden a bit conservative. His work has been good, he’s trialled since his last run and he should run well.’’
Aside from Gresham, Waller has pre-post favourites on the Rosehill card in So Splendid ($3.10, race 3) and Dagny ($3.80, race 6) and runners in seven of the nine races so there’s every chance we’ll leave the course wondering what number he could establish as the new record.
There are 13 city meetings remaining this season so a mark of 200-plus is within reach.
Of course Waller welcomed the world’s best racehorse, Winx, back into his stable on Wednesday while Martin said Rosehill Guineas winner D’Argento is also back in work.
“He’s a a Group 1 winning colt, it’s what every owner dreams of and we’re very hopeful of a wonderful spring with him,’’ she said.