Racing?s First Lady Rocks Grafton
By TONY WHITE
IN 1946 a young, virtually unknown Sydney trainer by the name of TJ Smith saddled up a horse named Bragger on Grafton Cup day.
Bragger was ridden by a jockey named George Moore.
Unfortunately for Smith, at that time a failed jockey-turned-trainer and struggling for a quid, Bragger bled and finished last.
However, Bragger returned to Sydney, won six straight races and kick started the greatest training career in Australian racing history.
Smith and Moore went on to become legends.
Sixty years later, the late TJ's daughter, trainer Gai Waterhouse, triumphed at Grafton yesterday when five-year-old gelding Rocking On won the $160,000 XXXX Gold Grafton Cup (2400m).
Ridden by Jamie Innes, Rocking On just managed to hold off the fast-finishing Gaze On (Allan Robinson) by a long neck, with Grafton Cup Prelude winner Victory Charm (Scott Thurlow), trained by Tamworth octogenarian Merv Corliss, a short-head away in third.
Rocking On was well in the market at $7. The $4.60 favourite Le Bron was given every chance by Larry Cassidy, but wilted to finish fourth.
"It was a fabulous training effort by Gai," stable foreman Scott Aspery said. "I know she's watching from Sydney and will be really pleased.
"This horse is a genuine grinder and the 2400 metres suited him. He's only been lightly raced and has got a good future.
"It was a fantastic ride by Jamie. He deserves a lot of credit in getting Rocking On to settle and out at exactly the right time."
Waterhouse told The Daily Examiner last night she wasn't aware of the Bragger coincidence.
"I wasn't even alive then," she said, "but I know what Bragger meant to dad (TJ). "It's terrific Rocking On could win the Grafton Cup. I was keen to come up, but my foreman Tanya Rouse is overseas. Robbie (Waterhouse) and Tom (the Waterhouse's son) went up. They did their money too.
"Jamie (Innes) is riding superbly. He's got a great strike rate with us."
Innes, 38, has enjoyed a new lease of life as a jockey since relinking with the Waterhouse stable six months ago. A popular, hard-working rider with a good sense of humour, Innes recently rode a career best five winners in Sydney on one day.
"I left Gai a while ago and it was the stupidest thing I've ever done," Innes said.
"It's been great since I've been back there (Tulloch Lodge). There's only one Gai Waterhouse."
Innes began his career with the legendary tutor of apprentices, Theo Green, and has ridden more than 1300 winners during his 21 years in the saddle.
Innes was later suspended from July 20-26 on a careless riding charge arising from the cup for an incident going out of the straight the first time.
Rocking On, purchased in New Zealand as a yearling, took his record to six wins and seven placings from 19 starts and has now earned $239,000. The gelding appreciated a good racing surface yesterday and a magical, ground-saving ride from Innes.
Gaze On, trained by Rod Craig in Sydney, made a long, sustained run from near the tail at the 800m and had it not been for cramping at a vital stage in the straight, may have reversed the result.
"I don't know if I had of circled them he might have won," jockey Allan Robinson told Craig on dismounting. "He ran the 2400m right out."
Corliss will now consider the $70,000 Coffs Harbour Cup next month for Victory Charm.