IT was nearly twelve months that since Gai Waterhouse set out on her annual pilgrimage to Royal Ascot leaving the shores of Australia behind but for the three-times Melbourne Cup wining trainer, the Royal Winner’s Enclosure wasn’t to be on sole focus of her attention that week but the sales ring on the eve of the meeting itself.

Having missed out on an opportunity to purchase Café Society, a 4-year-old by Motivator the previous year, Gai (pictured with Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer) wasn’t going to miss out for a second time and was quick to snap up an invitation to attend Goffs inaugural London Sale in association with QIPCO on the eve of the five-day festival, held in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

A woman whose job is her passion will always mix business with pleasure and using the opportunity of a holiday to broaden her horizons. ‘I am a huge advocate of innovation which is why I like to visit other trainers when I holiday to Europe and the US,’ Waterhouse said. ‘My father once told me that you never finish learning because technologies and techniques are always advancing. I constantly try to think outside of the box when training my racehorses and I think that is key in any business. The Goffs London Sale does exactly this.’

‘It is very simple. In an ideal world, what do people want?  Success on the world stage and the sooner the better. The Goffs London Sale provides people with the opportunity to purchase ‘tried and tested’ racehorses, some of which have the opportunity to race at the Royal Meeting the very next day. What could be more exciting than going on holiday in England and buying yourself your very own Royal Ascot runner? Your silks will be seen by the world over and who knows, you may even get to meet Her Majesty The Queen,’ she added.

Waterhouse was en-route to the UK last week and the timing of her trip meant she had to miss Café Society’s Randwick Trial but received good news upon landing.

‘I was delighted with Café Society’s trial performance last week. He has now had two exceptional trials (a bit like a practice race) and is now ready to head to the races. My main target for him is the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November, and we will see if we can pick up a Group 1 Epsom Handicap, or a Metropolitan and Caulfield Cup along the way.’

Waterhouse finds herself at the forefront of an Australian trend to secure stayers from the northern hemisphere. In fact, over 90% of Gai’s European purchases have won in Australia already and in some cases, won multiple races, even Group 1 classics. With more and more European imports arriving in Australia each year, Gai appears to have a foothold in training these horses and it will be no surprise if Gai departs the UK this June with more stayers to add to her growing list of European imports.

‘I have said time and time again that I support the many studies that have been carried out indicating that climate affects the production of stayers vs. sprinters. This in turn has led to a more focused gene pool of sprinters in Australia and stayers in Europe. I therefore look towards Europe when purchasing my ‘Cups horses’ so the Goffs London Sale and the allure of Royal Ascot provides added interest when identifying these world class stayers.

‘Last year my husband Rob, the best student of form I have ever come across, identified and purchased Café Society and Pornichet from the London sale for a group of my owners and I can honestly say that both have been terrific success stories.’

For Gai, this success story began just four days later when Café Society romped home in third behind Ed Dunlop’s Contributor in the Listed Wolferton Handicap Stakes. Remaining on UK soil and under the care of Newmarket trainer, David Simcock, Café Society’s next few outings saw him again in the placing, finishing third in the Group 3 £60,000 Coutts Glorious Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) on Goodwood on August 1 and was beaten just over four lengths when seventh to the Marco Botti trained Seismos in the Group 3 £60,000 Betfred TV Geoffrey Freer Stakes (1 mile 5 ½ furlongs) at Newbury on August 16.

In September, his journey to Australia began and Gai’s mind was firmly set on preparations for the Group 1 $3m Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 18 and the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4.  Cafe Society had also been nominated for Saturday’s Group 2 $200,000 Sportingbet Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield to kick off his Spring Carnival.  However, his Australian debut was put on hold after Waterhouse found heat in the gelding’s leg leaving little time to recover and prepare for Australian Spring targets. 

‘These European imports, just like you and I, can take some time to acclimatise when they arrive Down Under and I can assure you that it pays dividends when you listen to them and let them dictate when they should return to the races,’ added Waterhouse.

It has been a tale of two halves for Waterhouse as her second purchase, the French-bred, Pornichet’s debut in Australia has been a different story: ‘Pornichet has had quite a different preparation to Café Society as he arrived at my Randwick stables ready and raring to go. He has raced eight times in Australia, winning four of those starts, three of which were at Group level. He culminated only his second preparation in Australia with a Group 1 win in the Doomben Cup, stamping himself as a valuable stallion prospect as well as winning his connections a large sum of prize money. Pornichet has secured his position at the head of the market in Australia’s greatest weight for age race, the Group 1 Cox Plate. This is a race I am yet to win and this year the plate is firmly in my sights.’

With Royal Ascot on the horizon and an opportunity to secure some of the Northern Hemisphere’s finest equine exports, Waterhouse will again head to Kensington Palace on the eve of the Royal meeting with catalogue in hand and no doubt husband Rob’s trained eye in tow.  Remarking on the 22 horses with Royal Ascot engagements, Waterhouse commented: ‘Having had such success from the inaugural Goffs London Sale, I will certainly take great interest in the lots catalogued this year and if there is another Café Society or Pornichet amongst them I can assure you that I won’t be far away.’

Of the 53 lots offered in 2014, the sales topper was the two-year-old colt Cappella Sansevero who sold to Qatar Racing for £1.3m. He was a runner in the Coventry Stakes the very next day and looks likely to return to Ascot this year with an entry in the new Group 1 race, the Commonwealth Cup for three year olds on Friday, June 19. However, it was the first Frankel foal to be offered for auction anywhere in the world that turned out to be the showstopper, achieving £1.15m before heading to Coolmore with the in-foal mare Crystal Gaze. Crystal Gaze has since dropped another Frankel foal and the stud is delighted with its new filly.

Goffs declared the sale a resounding success in several ways. The bare figures, 53 offered, 41 sold (77%) for £7,915,000 with an average of £193,048 and a median of £120,000 were strong and pleasing but more importantly the Goffs team were delighted that the entire industry gave the whole concept such a universal thumbs up. 

This year’s invitational sale will again be set against the backdrop of Kensington Palace’s Orangery on Monday, June 15.  The 2015 catalogue features 56 horses in training consisting of a mixture of eye-catching two-year-olds, most with Royal Ascot entries, as well as some three year-olds and older Group winning horses.  They will join the 20 Breeze Up two year olds. 


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