Gai Waterhouse, almost certainly the racing world’s best known female trainer, shoots for a record eighth win in Saturday’s (2 April) G1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) on a day which might prove historic for a number of Australia’s leading stables.
Waterhouse, who now trains in partnership with Adrian Bott, saddles up Converge in the race she first won in 1994. The Doncaster is one of four G1 races on the seven-race card which will be simulcast in Hong Kong.
The famous 1600 metres Handicap also sees the brothers Michael and Richard Freedman saddle up a runner in their joint names for the last time with their partnership dissolved after nominal favourite Forbidden Love seeks a fourth straight win with last year’s winning jockey Jamie Kah aboard.
Meanwhile, New Zealand trainer Murray Baker – who retires at the end of April – hopes to claim a sixth G1 Australian Derby (2400m) win with either Regal Lion or White Noise. Baker’s five Derby wins represent a remarkable achievement for a trainer based outside Australia. His son Bjorn, based in Sydney, has four runners in this year’s Derby.
The day’s G1 spoils will also be significant for Australia’s leading trainer Chris Waller, formerly from New Zealand, who is the leading active G1 handler with 135 wins – which is just one clear of Waterhouse.
Significantly, Waller’s first G1 success came with Triple Honour in the 2008 Doncaster Mile, which he’s now won six times.
And Kah, who last year became the first female rider to win the race, is joined this season by Rachel King, who rides Converge, and Linda Meech, who’s aboard Waller-trained Kiku along with Kathy O’Hara (Sky Lab) and Alysha Collett (Kissonallforcheeks).
Waller’s pair Kiku and Hungry Heart are outsiders in the Doncaster but the master trainer will be optimistic about the prospects of highly-rated sprinter Nature Strip in the G1 T J Smith Stakes (1200m) and the emerging Showcourt in the G1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), both of whom will be ridden by James McDonald whose winners this season have earned a staggering AUS $29.5 million (about HK$173 million).
Waterhouse and Bott have two Derby runners but their hopes largely rest with the G1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) runner-up Converge who would become the ninth three-year-old winner of the Doncaster since 2000.
Fireburn, a stunning winner of the G1 Golden Slipper (1200m) for trainer Gary Portelli, will start favourite in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes, while Victoria’s dominant trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace have the Derby favourite Hitotsu who is one of six G1 runners on the card for the Melbourne based team.