Champion trainer Gai Waterhouse openly admits to having a soft spot for stayers.
It’s no surprise then that each year she targets a traditional staying race for three-year-olds, the 2800m $200,000 VRC St Leger run over 2800m on Anzac Day Raceday at Flemington each year. And her record in the event is becoming better with each edition of the historic race.
Last year she took her record to three wins in the past six years when Runaway led throughout to win. This followed on from wins in 2014 with Order Of The Sun and Hippopus in 2013.
And she’s looking to build on that with promising gelding Transact who has been set for the race.
“I pick out one horse each year for the race and Transact fits the bill this year as he’s a dead-set stayer,” Waterhouse said.
Waterhouse said Transacts’ best attribute was that he was a dead set stayer.
“He doesn’t have a great turn of foot. That’s why I thought Linda (Meech) should have led on him the other day at Caulfield as he’s a bit
one paced. If she had I think he would have gone close.” Waterhouse was referring to Transact’s last start second in the Gallilee Series Final over 2400m at Caulfield.
Waterhouse said the VRC St Leger had always been a great stepping stone for young stayers coming through and with the influx of foreign stayers each spring the race was becoming even more important for young stayers as a win assists in getting a start in a race like the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Waterhouse pointed out that Runaway the following spring won the Geelong
Cup and gained a coveted start in the Lexus Melbourne Cup for a locally bred stayer and she was hoping Transact could follow suit next spring.
“It’s getting harder and harder for a locally bred horse to gain a start in a Melbourne Cup and that’s why a race like the St Leger is important and it’s essential that it stays a three-year-old only race,” she said.
Waterhouse is impressed by the VRC’s efforts in promoting more staying races and will look at running Transact in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes on May 25 which is for three, four and five-year-old’s also over 2800m.
The winner of that race will gain an automatic start in the 2019 LexusMelbourne Cup.
“We need more staying races for younger horses. Japan and Europe have them all the time and that’s one of the reasons they are taking the spots in the Melbourne Cup. It’s good to see the VRC making inroads with more staying races.”
Meech will retain the ride on Transact in the VRC St Leger as her Melbourne stable jockey Stephen Baster is in Europe on a cycling trip.Waterhouse purchased Transact for $220,000 at the Magic Millions Sales in 2017 and he’s by former top racehorse and now boom sire Dundeel.
“He was from his first crop and people were probably sitting back and waiting for them to hit the track. Now they have he’s going great guns as his horses can sprint and stay.”
Transact was bred by Cathy Hains, the daughter of the breeder and owners of Kingston Town’s owner and breeder David Hains and she retained a share in him.
Notable winners of the VRC St Leger include legendary names such as Phar Lap, Tulloch, Comic Court and Hydrogen.
In 1982 it was won by Gurner’s Lane who subsequently won the 1982 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and the 1991 winner Shiva’s Revenge finished second in the Melbourne Cup the following spring.
The first VRC St Leger was run in 1857 making the race four years older than the Melbourne Cup.