Mackinnon Mackinnon and sometimes Mackinnon again

Originally posted on A Turf Fascination:

Hello everyone

The Mackinnon Stakes, run over 2000m at WFA every Derby Day since 1869, it a magnificent race. Upon scrolling through the old records, it is very interesting to note, that the race has been won many times on multiple occasions, and the horses to have achieved this were all really really good. Just over the last few years, the Mackinnon has dropped away just a touch; but it is still worth a million bucks and it eventually good horses will be aimed at this race with the Melbourne Cup as a bonus (the Mackinnon winner gets a free ride into the Cup). Enjoy the story of the double and triple winners! Oh and Side Glance is the defending champion and he is going there again. But he is not in the class of any of these repeat winners, so he really will have to lift if he wants…

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Nick Smith

Originally posted on A Turf Fascination:

Hello everyone

Please enjoy the below interview I recently conducted with the Royal Ascot head of recruiting Nick Smith. This bloke might have the best job in the world. He travels the world and entices the owners of champions to bring their horses to run in front of the Queen. He was in Australia recently to try and convince Gai to take Fiorente to Ascot to race. Enjoy the interview!

Begg, Nick Smith, Cummings and Waller

Begg, Nick Smith, Cummings and Waller

Q. Your job titles (after a little help from google) included Head of Communications at Ascot and Equine Recruiter. Can you please take us through what your normal day involves?

My job title has appeared as all sorts of things but that’s about the gist of it! It’s actually Head of Communications and International Racing so it’s a bit more than just looking for horses to come to Royal Ascot – for example I…

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Kenny effing Powers

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Very busy today, so just minimal wisdom. In fact Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down can give the deal out the wisdom this week. Here is Kenny’s justification for not turning up to marriage counselling. Oh and the background track is by an artist who is ripping apart Australia as we speak. Tye Segall…

Whoever the lord of the internet is probably won’t let you watch this video via this website, but it is a must watch so click the screen or type the title into youtube or do whatever. Just watch it!



R1. Ottoman (win). Godolphin in association with John O’Shea are having a ripping run with early season two year olds and this one looks to be the best of the crop so far. Trialled at Warwick Farm on the 9th of December and looked very professional. Drawn in barrier 8 which gives in form jockey James McDonald plenty of options. Should be winning here.

R3. Pythagorean (win). Huge third last start when kept finding the line hard up against the rails, which was not the place to be (it was the only horse to find a place all day from hard on the rails in the straight). This race is really weak and a performance similar to the one a fortnight ago should see him right in the finish.

R8. Vashka (win). Visually the best performance of any runner two weeks ago at Rosehill. Blake Shinn stays on board and is riding in career best form. Wide barrier gives him the option to either push forward and lead, or take a spot in the in the front half of the field. Should win again.


R3. Crinklecut (each way). Last two runs have been completely luckless after a solid maiden victory at Kilmore first up. Steps up to 1400 which looks ideal and Glen Boss jumps on. The 3 looks like a handy horse but at the odds happy to back crinklecut on an each way basis.

R8. De Little Engine (win). Impressive at Sandown last start when got a mile back and still flew down the outside to win. This race is filled with plodders so the horse wouldn’t have to expel any extra energy to settle closer and is the only horse in the field with any turn of foot at the end of the staying trip. Should easily account for these.

R9. Agent (each way). Last few times it was on a dry track ran third behind Our Boy Malachi and Dothraki after that. Forget the horses last run in Doomben as he doesn’t go as well on the wet. Never seen the Flemington before but Dwayne Dunn counters that factor and at $10 appears good each way value.

Good luck and stay tuned.

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Just fell in

Hello everyone

As Mr Turf is officially on holidays, the blogs will be short and sweet now for the next three weeks. Don’t worry dear fascinators, there will still be tips and wisdom on Fridays and the form will still be studied. How about last Saturday? Four 2nds, a 3rd or so and a winner at $6. Not too bad.

Did anyone see the win of Able Friend in the Hong Kong mile on Sunday? Here it is for those who missed it. This might just well be the most dominant non-Black Caviar Group One win I have seen for quite sometime. Here it is…

This gelding that is now a world renowned champion was born and bred in Australia. He is proof that a horse can break its maiden in the bush and get better and better over time. Able Friend started his career at Rosehill where he was beaten by a horse named Balzac. Here is the run…

He then went to Wyong and broke his maiden. It was a good win, but nothing really special…

Now he is close to the best miler in the world. The lesson is, that if a horse wins in the bush, it is not simply destined to remain a bush horse. Horses gain confidence from winning. Sending a horse to the bush to win gives it a confidence boost. If a horse gets knocked down in the city at its first or second start, then it generally won’t win. In the bush, a horse can make a mistake, but still win and still get the confidence it needs to go onto bigger and better things.

One of my favourites of all-time Grand Armee started its career in a Newcastle maiden where it only just won. Here is what Grand Armee did later in his career…

Notice the horse that runs second, beaten six lengths!

Takeover Target started his career in a Queanbeyan maiden for entires and geldings. Races don’t get of a lower quality than this! We all know what Takeover Target went on to do later in his career…

Bentley Biscuit started his career at Kembla Grange. He went onto huge heights and was a true gun sprinter…

Weekend Hussler broke his maiden at Cranbourne. He went on to do things like this…

And of course the Diva broke her maiden at Wangaratta and we all know what she went on to do… this was her best win…

So if you own a horse, and it does not start its career in the city, then never fear. Some horses are great at two and fire in the city straight away. Others get better at three and four and others like the Diva start getting really good at six or seven.Horses run on confidence and a good trainer will always look for an easy win as to build a horse’s confidence rather than put them in un-winnable city races simply for the sake of it.

Good luck and stay tuned.



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What the hell is My Sharona?

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I love a good politically or culturally or racially motivated song. Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel is one of the best. However, here lies the issue. How many times in your life have you sat around and listened to a song and heard the lyrics and deciphered the words to find a hidden story?  Personally I have always liked lyrics with a secret meaning. Yet, since first hearing the song Mrs Robinson, well maybe since listening to it as a teenager, one lyric has really bugged me. In a verse Paul Simon sings ‘where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.’ Joe DiMaggio was an all time great in the sport of baseball in the United States. However when he played, he was known as a bit of a hard doer. He was a champion, perhaps one of the best ever, but he had no flair, no personality and did very little for anyone else other than himself. Paul Simon is asking where people like Joe DiMaggio have gone in the Tipsy-Topsy world they now live in (the sixties). But DiMaggio played mostly in the 30s and 40s. Yes it was a time of war, but America certainly was not lost or certainly did not have ‘lonely eyes.’ I always wondered why Paul Simon did not use Micky Mantel in the song instead of DiMaggio. Mantel was the biggest baseball star of all time and he played during the 50s and 60s when America was going through huge racial, cultural and political upheaval. Mantel was a hero to all young people at the time, and it was  a time when America had ‘lonely eyes.’ Yet Paul Simon did not mentioned Mantel but instead DiMaggio. Mantel would have made much more sense and would have added strength to the song considering the song is about political, cultural and racial upheaval. Remember this is a time (the sixties) which remains the most famous decade in-regards to cultural change in the history of the United States.

But as it turns out, Paul Simon was just using words that fit his melody. Words that had nothing to do with anything really and Joe – Di – Magg – i – o had enough syllables to fit the melody! It is all about the melody, so for the millions of kids like me who over the decades have sat around and tried to work out what the lyrics meant, they meant whatever you made of them. They were in a particular order as to suit the melody and nothing else. So there. How about that for a kick in the teeth! And it has happened hundreds of other times over the years also…

For years  I wondered what John Lennon meant when he was singing ‘Dig a Pony.’ I mean, what the hell does dig a pony mean? Maybe he enjoys or ‘digs’ the horses? Maybe he hit a pony with his car and had to bury it? Nope…


So in an era now where people sing about shooting guns, slapping women, selling drugs and about being rich, it is still better to go back and listen to the old stuff. Some songs are actually about things, serious things and others are simple drug influenced masterpieces that keep you guessing. After-all; I am the number walrus, and its nothing to get hung about, so why don’t we do it in the road because she’s so good looking shes looks like a man!


It is a pretty average week this week, but of course the form has been done and here is what we have come up with.

Best of the day – Calming Influence (Flemington race 2 number 1). Should have won last start, and the bigger track here will suit. Should be $1.50 and is almost $3. Enough said.

Second best – Sir Moments (Randwick race 6 number 6). $6 is overs. In fact, back Sir Moments and also have a saver on 3. Strawberry Boy.

Can turn the tables – Dothraki (Randwick race 5 number 2). This boy can turn the tables on the hot pot Our Boy Malachi in this race. He loves the wet and it is hard to seeing him miss the top three and he is $4.

Brilliant trial – Kimberley Star (Randwick race 4 number 13). Gai’s only Sydney runner for the day and has trialled nicely. $15 is huge value for a Waterhouse two-year-old in a $250,000 race.

Always overs – Terai (Randwick race 3 number 7). Will have to beat a borderline Hall of Famer in Saigon Tea, but she did last time and can again. $5.

Will win this and then his next start too – Tried and Tied (Flemington race 8 number 2). $3.50 is extraordinary value. Even if he does not win this, stay with him for his next start.

Group One bound – Berisha (Flemington race 9 number 8). Lightly raced and despite being close to $7, he is better performed than many in this race.

Dramatic weight turnaround – Deiheros (Morphettville race 7 number 9). Has the talent and is finally getting some weight relief. $6.

Four 4ths in a row – Raks McLaren (Morphettville race 8 number 7). Consistently misses a place but this is easier.

Good luck and stay tuned.

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Lets all go to the Kentucky Derby

Hello everyone

Mark Newnham is Gai’s 2ic. He is a trainer in waiting and a ripping bloke to boot. Next year he is hosting a tour to the Kentucky Derby. I am going to try get on it (hopefully Mark needs a minister of entertainment!), and I urge anyone who can go to go. Here is Gai and Mark describing the trip…


For 18 years, almost daily, in fact… absolutely daily! I have worked closely with Mark Newnham. Mark rode his first race for me in 1996 and since, there is barely a position within Tulloch Lodge that he has not occupied. After Mark hung up the race saddle, he worked exclusively as my most trusted trackwork rider. He then became a stable foreman (while still riding trackwork), and over the last little while Mark has graduated to become my assistant trainer. Since 1996 there is not a Group One winner that has passed through Tulloch Lodge that Mark has not had a major impact on. Grand Armee, Pierro, Fiorente just to name a few. Mark has looked after them all and has had a major impact in their success. The young man certainly knows his racing.


Needless to say, there is probably no one else who you would rather lead you through the United States. What does this have to do with racing you may ask? Well Mark is leading a tour together with Ambassador Travel to the 2015 Kentucky Derby. In Australia we have the Melbourne Cup and the Golden Slipper, in England they have the Epsom Derby and the Grand National; France has the Arc, Japan has the Japan Cup and Dubai has the World Cup. The Kentucky Derby is America’s greatest race. It is the race that stops the United States. The race, which is a 10 furlong test of stamina for three-year-olds, takes place in what the Americans refer to as ‘the horse capital of the world.’ The race itself is run and won at the famous Churchill Downs, but in the lead up to the race, Mark will take you to Lexington to visit the rolling hills that dominate this part of the world. Here you will find world famous stud farms including the iconic Three Chimneys.


The race itself produces champions that after they win, generally become champion sires. In T.J.’s day horses like Secretariat, Northern Dancer and Seattle Slew won the race. All three of these stallions were immortal champions on the track, and went onto great things in the breeding barn. Secretariat would be listed in the top five greatest thoroughbreds of all-time to run anywhere in the world. What is rarely mentioned is that Secretariat at stud, sired 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule. Kingston Rule still holds the record for the fastest Cup ever run. Still today when I am trawling through the pedigree pages of the hundreds of yearlings that I inspect every year, rarely do I not see Northern Dancer listed, sometimes on both sides of the pedigree page. Northern Dancer is a generation defining stallion and his rise to fame started with victory in the Kentucky Derby. In recent years horses like Big Brown and Fusaichi Pegasus have won the great race. Both these stallions have had success in Australia, with the progeny of Big Brown getting better and better as we speak.

Mark will take you on a trip that brings together the best of what American racing has to offer with a dash of historic precedent thrown in. There is no more exciting ten furlong race in the world than the Kentucky Derby, and with Mark’s knowledge of the industry, his determination to achieve and his ability to entertain the masses, this will be a trip for the ages.

I will now pass the pen to Mark to detail the finer points of his tour. Have a blast. Gai xxx


It is regarded as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport” and is the pinnacle of the North American racing calendar. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic races and sporting events in the world and 2015 marks the 141st running of this time honoured event. It is my pleasure to extend you a warm invitation to join me on the 2015 Kentucky Derby Racing Tour.

Gai Waterhouse Racing is very proud to be involved with Ambassador Travel – Australia’s leading provider of thoroughbred racing tours.

For this tour we will have the pleasure of enjoying the many scenic highlights on offer throughout the United States as well as some of the most spectacular thoroughbred racing North America has to offer.

To begin we travel to Los Angeles to experience a day of racing at Santa Anita Park which is the host track for the 2015 Breeders Cup. I have visited Santa Anita on a previous occasion and also know one of the leading trainers there and so I am very much looking forward to returning. Upon arrival our tour will enjoy a sumptuous lunch in the clubhouse restaurant situated in the historic art deco style grandstand overlooking the track. With its beautiful backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Santa Anita is one of the most picturesque racetracks in the world.

We then travel to Las Vegas, “The Entertainment Capitol of the World”, where we will have ample free time to try our luck in the casinos, get pampered in the world class day spas, shop til we drop at the premium outlets or perhaps take in one of the many world class shows on offer along the Las Vegas Strip. My wife Donna will be coming on the tour also and she is very well versed on the best shopping in Las Vegas and will be more than happy to assist those in search of a bargain.

Our tour will then make its way to horse country, Lexington Kentucky, which is situated in the magnificent Bluegrass Region and frequently referred to as “Thoroughbred City” or “Horse Capital of the World” This beautiful region is made up of gently rolling terrain, fertile soil and has extremely favourable weather conditions thus making it the perfect environment for breeding and training champion thoroughbreds.

We are currently making arrangements to visit some of the world renowned stud farms whilst we are in the area, including Three Chimneys, Ashford (Coolmore) and Jonabell (Darley) which are home to some of the most famous and successful stallions’ ever seen including Big Brown, Fusaichi Pegasus and Thunder Gulch, all of whom have stood in Australia in recent seasons. Lonhro stood a couple of seasons in the US at Darley and is of course the sire of Gai’s best horse in Pierro.



Traditionally around Derby time these stud farms are not usually open to the general public however thanks to the solid relationship that Gai Waterhouse Racing has formed with some of these farms, we are fortunate enough to not only gain access inside, but take a tour through the grounds and observe the current crop of champion stallions that are standing.

Another unique experience our tour will enjoy is a relaxing breakfast at Keeneland Racecourse whilst watching morning track work before embarking on a sightseeing tour of Lexington and a stop at one of Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Distilleries to sample “America’s Official Native Spirit”.

Of course the main event is the “Run for the Roses” – The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs; which is one of the oldest and most famous races in the United States and the first leg of the American Triple Crown. It is the US equivalent of our Melbourne Cup as it is the only horse race that attracts attention outside the racing community.

We will enjoy excellent reserved seating above the winning post and an unforgettable day at this memorable event. Take the opportunity to soak up the party atmosphere whilst soaking up the traditional Derby drink, the mint julep.

Choice is the key on this tour and apart from designing your own itinerary around the Kentucky Derby; you will also be able to choose from a variety of optional day tours as well as having the option to extend on to some of the many other exciting destinations that North America has to offer with the assistance of one of Ambassador Travel’s experienced consultants.
I look forward to welcoming you on to what will be a most memorable tour.

Mark Newnham

Assistant Trainer
For more information please contact
And now for some great Kentucky Derby wins…
War Admiral 1937
Secretariat 1973
Seattle Slew 1977
Good luck and stay tuned.

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Interview with Apollo Ng

Hello everyone

Hong Kong racecaller, breeder, owner and racing historian Apollo Ng caught up with A Turf Fascination at a recently. The pair discussed all things racing from champion thoroughbreds to the advent of racing in South China. Enjoy this chat with Apollo Ng; one of the most fascinating racing people in the entire world.

  1. As a racecaller, breeder, owner and a bloodstock manager your life appears to completely revolve around racing, not just in Hong Kong but worldwide. What is it about the sport that drew you in in the first place?

It was the flood lights during morning trackwork at Happy Valley and the tic-tac sound of horses walking up & down of the Shan Kwong Road stable to and from the track which mesmerized me as a child. I have seen HK Champions like Australian bred “Silver Lining” (ex-Vintage Moon) and “Co-Tack” (ex-Brash Prince) conquering the Hong Kong turf in the 70’s & 80’s, but it was not until in the mid-80’s when I moved to Sydney to study and lived and studied at Randwick where my passion in racing really took off.

  1. What horses are you involved with right now, that are under the care of Gai Waterhouse?

While our best galloper Nobby Snip (Snippetson x Pine Away) has now been exported to HK, Gai is now training around 10 of our horses in Australia, Fast Choice (Redoute’s Choice x Pravada), Long Shadow (Lonhro x Grand Mosque), Able Boy (Oratorio x Cladagh), Front Fun (Holy Roman Emperor x Front Lady), Rainbow Bridge (Ekraar x Original Sin), Queen Invader (Henrythenavigator x Pace Invader) and a few unnamed two-year-olds.

  1. Why did you choose Gai for your Australian interests?

Her knowledge in racing and her exceptional ability in communicating effectively with owners. Of course, she also has a marvellous team of staff to assist.

  1. What is the greatest horse you have ever called in a race?

Quite a few; Black Caviar, Makybe Diva and “Lammtarra”. I have also called the Cox Plate where Super Impose won (1992) and a few of Better Loosen Up’s Group One wins.

  1. What is your favourite horse from a racing lover’s perspective, of all time?

Lammtarra — by champion “Nijinsky” out of Oaks winner “Snow Bride”. Himself also an undefeated champion of winning the Epsom Derby, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and the Prix de Le Arc D’Triomphe. I had the honour to call both the Epsom Derby and the Arc live back to Hong Kong for viewers.

  1. What is the best horse you have ever owned?

I have owned a few good ones, but my heart will go to Amo (Danehill Dancer x Rhythm and Romance), a near black gelding with a baldy face. He raced 103 times for me until a ten-year-old, won nearly AU$900,000 in prizemoney in Hong Kong, and won the Community Chest Cup and also the hard-fought Happy Valley Million Challenge for me. Being from the first crop of Danehill Dancer progenies in Australia (same crop as Choisir), he’s now retiring at Coolmore Stud.

  1. What is your roll at the Honk Kong Racehorse Owners Association?

Honorary Secretary (Administration)

  1. As well as having a passion for the current racing industry, you are indeed a bit of a scholar interested in the introduction of thoroughbred racing in South China that dates back to the late 1700s. Can you tell us about this?

Racing in South China originated in Macau in 1798, in a place called Areia Preta (very close to the border of China). It was the British instead of the Portuguese who started racing there; at that point in time, Hong Kong was still a fishing village under China rule, and while the British merchants were trading in Canton (now Guangzhou), the wives and kids were not allowed to move there. It was in the Portuguese colony of Macau where the family reunion would take place during the New Year break. What else, other than racing, is a better way to celebrate a gathering with friends and families?

  1. The history of racing is very important because many of the traditions that we enjoy in our racing today are based on the thoughts of people that lived centuries ago. What is your favourite racing yarn (story) from the past?

Too many of them. I could write a book of 300 pages.

  1. What horses from Gai’s stable should we keep an eye on in the coming months?

Fast Choice (Redoute’s Choice x Pravada), won trial by 7 lengths at Randwick. This gelding is closely related to Oaks and Champaign winner Samantha Miss.

  1. How would you compare Melbourne Cup week with the big meetings in Hong Kong?

It is the Cup carnival atmosphere which fascinates me at Flemington. The food, the fashion, the horses and the activities.

  1. China is an untouched ‘conundrum’ in regards to wagering. If even one precent of Chinese people bet into the Australian or Hong Kong betting pools both industries would be set for life. Is there any way this can happen? Is it starting to happen? Is China the world’s racing industries White Knight?

Mainland China money unofficially started moving into the Hong Kong pool a few years ago as both places speak and read the same language. But for official large scale wagering, I think it is still a long way to go, as the current government is still conservative regarding wagering policy and it is unlikely to change in the next 5 to 10 years. I’d rather consider Middle East money as the ‘White Knight’ of the racing industry, as most of these investors have the right concept in thoroughbred racing and breeding.

  1. Do you have a bit of a punt?

Wagering… yes on a small scale. I have once won a 2000-1 Caulfield / Melbourne Cup double back in 90’s.

  1. How about a hit of golf? It sounds like a lot of your clients might enjoy a round in between race meetings.

I’m most definitely not a golfer!

Good luck and sty tuned.


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