Chris Waller on taking Winx to another Cox Plate

Source: Illawarra Mercury – Tim Barrow /

How does it feel?

He converts it into a footy comparison, which is apt, given he’s guest of honour at the Illawarra rugby league luncheon later this month.

The Dragons fans in the room can only dream of this kind of success, at least throwing back to the glory days of St George in the 1950s and 60s.

“It’s like watching your team win every week for three years,” he tells the Mercury.

The super mare makes grown men and women stand and cheer at the track and in pubs around the country.

Waller is the head coach of 150 horses, but admits a significant amount of his attention is on Winx  during her preparations.

He talks of her two “grand finals” a year, the Cox Plate, where she held off an extraordinary run from Humidor in the spring – and the Queen Elizabeth in the Autumn, where she made it 25 straight and matched Black Caviar’s streak of wins.

After deciding against a trip to Royal Ascot and dismissing suggestions of running in the 1200m The Everest, a fairytale swansong and racing immortality beckons in October.

The Cox Plate prizemoney has been boosted to $5 million with $3 million to the winner.

It would be her fourth in a row and take career earnings past $22 million.

“There were lots of temptations,” Waller said.

“Especially when you have that winning feeling and start to think about what’s possible.

“But when you’re on the other side of the world, it’s not always the same reception as playing at home, especially when you’re worrying about how they have to travel and train and adapt.

“In the end it was a pretty easy decision to make.”

While Black Caviar was unbeaten in all of her 25 starts, she was a sprint specialist, only once winning beyond 1200m in the Orr Stakes in 2012. The argument for Winx, who won her first Group 1 at the 2015 Queensland Oaks, a sixth win from 12 starts which started the famous streak, is versatility.

She’s won on any track surface, from 1200m up to 2400m.

It’s the stuff of legend now.

After all, she’s arguably the greatest, or certainly in the finals series of all-time equine greatness.

But Kiwi-born Sydney trainer Chris Waller knows it could have been very different.

Waller’s stable and Winx’s connections had a decision to make in 2015, whether to head to the 2040m Cox Plate, with Mooney Valley’s uniquely tight final turn and short finishing straight, or run in the 2400m Caulfield Cup, the time-honoured Melbourne Cup audition.

“If we’d gone to the Caulfield Cup and won, then you might look at the Melbourne Cup and wonder if she would get the trip,” Waller told the Mercury this week.

“And if not, you might question where would we go from there?

“It might have been a completely different story.

“Thankfully the right decision was made. That was the start of the dream.”

While not declaring Youngstar as the next superstar of the track, Waller and connections have a similar decision to make after this weekend’s Queensland Derby.

On Tuesday, Waller said Youngstar, who has already shown the ability to win under pressure, would start in the Derby at Doomben on Saturday, a fortnight after winning the Queensland Oaks three years after Winx.

Stablemate Another Dollar, nosed out by Youngstar who looked under pressure at the turn, will instead be spelled after they both had a gallop at the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday.

Youngstar is on the fourth line at $6, behind John O’Shea’s Live And Free ($4), which flashed home to win at Randwick 10 days ago and the Darren Weir trained Lucky For All ($4.50).

The formline is further complicated by Kembla Grange trainer Kerry Parker’s tilt at a maiden Group 1 win with Dark Dream ($5.50), a three-year-old who won the Group 3 Rough Habit in stunning fashion, before finishing third in 2200m Grand Prix Stakes on Saturday.

Waller said a discussion will be had about Youngstar about a potential Cox Plate or Caulfield Cup tilt after the Derby.

“It’s hard one, we had to make the same decision with Winx,” Waller said.

“A bit like a young player coming into first grade, you’ve got to manage their workloads, sometimes they get there too quick.

“But she’s a pretty tough type, she found a way to win under pressure.

“That’s what makes Winx so good, turning difficult situations into winning situations and getting themselves out of trouble.”

It could be a dominant day at Doomben for Waller if Youngstar salutes, with The Autumn Sun, Lean Mean Machine and Zousain leading the JJ Atkins betting markets.

Waller will speak at the Illawarra rugby league luncheon at City Beach Function Centre on June 29, with tickets still on sale, hosted by Figtree’s own television commentator Matt Russell.

Having built a racing empire in Sydney, Waller has also been able to mix with the likes of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, England and ex-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and North Queensland NRL premiership coach Paul Green.

Growing up in a dairy farming family, Waller said the South Coast was a special place to send his horses when they’re sent out to the paddock, with Kembla Grange trainer and former Great Australian Bake-Off contestant Cheryl Roberts taking a number of his star runners at her Berry property.

“If it’s a good spot for dairy cows, it’s a good spot for a horse,” Waller said.

“If I wasn’t a trainer, I probably would have been a dairy farmer.

“Spelling horses is the building blocks to being successful on the track.”

Waller also said Kembla Grange’s place in NSW racing was understated as a breeding ground for future stars.

“It’s a fantastic track and we really regard it highly taking horses there because it’s such a safe surface,” he said.

Unstoppable: Jockey Hugh Bowman on Winx wins the Queen Elizabeth Stakes during The Championships. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir

Unstoppable: Jockey Hugh Bowman on Winx wins the Queen Elizabeth Stakes during The Championships. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir