By Brad Gray
Chris Waller has broken more training records than he’d care to remember and for the last seven years has been the dominant force in Sydney racing. Waller has a huge stable of horses in work and behind the scenes, a large team of staff. Integral to his success is a dedicated crew of track riders that put his horses through their paces every morning.
Riders clock in at 3:45am and finish at 9:30am and a typical morning at Rosehill involves working 120 horses and making seven or eight trips on different gallopers.
“Everything you sit on seems to have won some sort of group race,” said Daniel Cremin, who has been with Waller for a year. “It’s unbelievable.”
Cremin worked for Berkshire-based trainer Mick Channon in the UK and has been sponsored now in Australia so expects to stay for at least another three.
“They’ve got a lot of horses here and good ones. When you’ve got better horses it makes the job easier.”
“Back home we’d ride out at seven and would still be riding at half 12. You couldn’t do that here. The horses wouldn’t handle the heat, let alone us."
Then there is Ben Cadden, who the group of riders appointed as their unofficial spokesperson when approached on a rainy Tuesday morning before the Golden Slipper barrier draw. Cadden has been a mainstay with Waller and in his 10 year stint claims to have thrown a leg over every horse that has added to Waller’s growing tally of 66 Group One wins.
“Winx, Reliable Man, Zoustar, Brazen Beau, Sacred Falls, Royal Descent…” Cadden rattles off.
Cadden may have the license to steer Winx around Rosehill in the cloak of darkness but like many of the riders, counts the weather as the toughest part of the job.
“Working in the rain and freezing cold mornings in the winter does at times question your love for the sport, but we get through it,” said Cadden.
It was Hugh Bowman who rode Winx in her work on Tuesday morning in preparation for Saturday’s George Ryder Stakes, but that’s fine by Cadden.
“I actually like it when he comes in because it takes a bit of pressure off me. I’ve never, ever felt pressure riding any Group One horse that we’ve had, but with her I do,” admitted Cadden.
“The things she does you can’t explain it sometimes. Even Hughie said himself he doesn’t know what makes her any better than any other horse he has ridden.
“Her breathing and recovery after a gallop or even a race, and even vets have commented on it, is nearly instant.”
Cadden with Winx
“It doesn’t matter if they are a Winx or not though, everyone has their favourites.”
Cadden, who won the inaugural Horsemanship Award at Godolphin’s Stud and Stable Staff Awards in 2015, explained that attitude is more than half the battle when it comes to a horse realising his or her potential suggesting that very rarely do the “quirky” ones become good horses. However there is always an exception to the rules.
“Delectation,” Cadden offered. “He was very keen and erratic as a baby and it took what felt like forever to get him to switch off and relax. The first time we saw that was when he ran second to Brazen Beau in the Coolmore.”
Delectation has since gone on to prove himself a WFA sprinter
Kerry Hayward, who has known Cadden for over 20 years, says it’s the love of the animal that sees him roll out of bed and drive an hour to Rosehill every morning.
“My alarm wouldn’t be going off at half past two in the morning if I didn’t love it,” said Hayward.
“You make it your own. It’s something you get used to.
“I love the horses. I only work mornings as I have other jobs I do during the day which takes my mind off things but the horses are amazing animals to work with. It’s a bit of a thrill galloping a horse around the track and up the straight. It’s a buzz.
“You are riding for the best trainer in Australasia in one of the best horse racing countries in the world so you feel pretty privileged.”
Chris Waller currently sits on 99 metro winners for the season
Like his stable of horses, Waller’s staff come from all parts of the globe including New Zealand, France, England, South Africa and Brazil. The latter which leads us to Ben De Paiva, who rode 67 winners as an apprentice in Brazil before an untimely injury opened the door for none other than Joao Moreira.
“When I broke my leg the first time (Ben has broken it again since) Joao had never sat on a horse before and I had to go home from the race school to see my mum because there was no point me staying there.”
“He used my bed for eight months and when I came back he was already one of the good ones.”
When Moreira rode on Randwick Guineas day recently the pair caught up for the first time in 14 years.
“We talk sometimes but never see each other. I moved to England and he stayed in Brazil and then I went to Dubai for six months and he went to France.”
“It’s easy to say he is very good because he wins everything but he is just a nice person.”
Then there is Alon Gur who has been with Waller for three and a half years and speculates that he has been in racing for near 28 years, starting out as an apprentice riding in South Africa. He has also travelled Waller’s horses to Queensland for their carnival.
“I was in England for 10 years riding,” Gur said.
“The most recent job I had for the longest was with Sir Michael Stoute. It was a very good job but the money in England is diabolical. The money in Australia is good.”
Sam Goldsmith, who worked with Andrew Balding and Ralph Beckett in the UK before applying for a working holiday visa in Australia has only been here five months but suggests “it’s a lot easier to get up here”.
“Whenever the other guys complain about the weather I say it’s not that bad! In racing over here there is more prizemoney too which filters down,” said the ambitious Goldsmith.
“You gallop something pretty much every day and on Tuesday and Saturdays it can be four or five. Every day you’ll get to do something a little bit different.”
Charlotte Jenner, who also spent time with David Hayes in Melbourne, has been with Waller for a year and wouldn’t have the early wake ups any other way. Jenner was an apprentice in England and one of the country’s leading lady riders.
“I love it,” said Jenner. “It’s so different from England though. The way they do things and I like going around in a circle now rather than straight…”