The pursuit for Gai's sixth St. Leger victory

23 April 2024 Written by Patrick Bartley

She has made the race her own with five VRC St Leger wins within eight years. Will Gai Waterhouse, with training partner Adrian Bott, make it six this year?

Gai Waterhouse is the first to admit that the VRC St Leger is a race she has had some luck with. The legendary trainer has indeed made the ANZAC Day staying test a race of her own. In recent years, the stable name has become very much synonymous with the 2800-metre event.

Waterhouse and Bott scored their third consecutive VRC St Leger in 2020 when Sacramento beat Saint Eustace. Waterhouse and Bott had won the race in previous seasons with Runaway (2018) and Transact (2019).

Waterhouse also won the VRC St Leger with Hippopus (2013) and Order Of The Sun (2014) before commencing her partnership with Bott, which leaves her with a staggering win rate of five victories in eight years.

“I just love this race,” the Melbourne-Cup winning trainer said. “In fact a few years ago things just fell into place perfectly. I had five winners across five different tracks. It’s a day I will never forget.

There’s something really wonderful about winning staying races like the St Leger. It’s not that I’m against sprinting races, I love them, and I’ve won plenty of them. But to sculpt a stayer can be so satisfying. I know stayers can take a little bit longer, but in time when they start winning you are then giving your owners serious bang for their buck,” she said.

Luke Currie with Gai Waterhouse after winning the VRC St Leger on Transact in 2019. Racing Photos

Waterhouse points out that all of the behind-the-scenes work that keeps a stayer working until their day comes is all worth it when major races like the VRC St Leger, VRC Derby and the Lexus Melbourne Cup come around.

Amazingly her five St Leger winners – Sacramento, Runaway, Transact, Hippopus and Order Of The Sun – were all ridden by different jockeys.

Two of the most legendary families in Australian racing history – the father-daughter Waterhouse-Smith combination and the Bart Cummings family dynasty – have had a remarkable impact on this race, one of Australia’s oldest, with Bart Cummings training seven winners and Tommy Smith six. The Cummings streak continued last year in 2022, with James Cummings taking out the famed race with Alegron.

Will Gai Waterhouse equal her father’s record with another win again in 2024? She's saddling-up Gandbare with Jordan Childs on-board in the feature race at Flemington on Thursday.

Did you know?

The St Leger at Flemington is older than the Melbourne Cup, first run by the Victoria Turf Club at Flemington in autumn 1857, two years after the first Victoria Derby. The rival Victoria Jockey Club took over the St Leger in 1858. The two clubs dissolved in 1864 to form the Victoria Racing Club, which has run the VRC St Leger annually ever since. 

Thirteen VRC St Leger winners, including Phar Lap, have won a Melbourne Cup, the most recent being Gurner’s Lane in 1982. The race was switched from March to Anzac Day in 1972.