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The five best Australian racehorse trainers of all time

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Colin Hayes (left), Tommy J Smith and Bart Cummings – three legends of Australian horse racing.

AUSTRALIAN thoroughbred racing is blessed with some of the sport’s very best horse trainers.

The likes of John O’Shea, Chris Waller, Darren Weir and Gai Waterhouse continue to turn out exceptional runners season after season.

But there are a special few who have stood head and shoulders above the pack down the years, racking up records that may never be matched.

We think every one of these five highly-decorated trainers deserves to be considered among the all-time greats of Australian racing.

Tommy J. Smith

Nobody has so thoroughly dominated the Australian racing scene like the late, great Tommy Smith did during his day.

Smith won every Sydney Trainers’ Premiership from 1953 to 1985 – some 32 years in succession.

But his exploits weren’t limited to the New South Wales racing carnivals.

An unmatchable tally of 282 Group One wins includes seven WS Cox Plates, six Golden Slippers, four Caulfield Cups and a pair of Melbourne Cups.

He also trained winners in no fewer than 35 Australian derby races and turned out some of the nation’s most beloved champion horses, including Kingston Town, Redcraze and Tulloch.

No wonder he has a race named after him: the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes, run every autumn at Randwick.

Smith was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, three years after his death at age 81, and was promoted to Legend status in 2012.

Bart Cummings

Caulfield Cup betting
Bart Cummings, Light Fingers and Roy Higgins celebrate winning the 1965 Caulfield Cup.

You cannot have a list of great Australian horse trainers without the man they called the ‘Cups King’.

After earning his training license in 1953, James Bartholomew Cummings, or JB, had to wait five years for his first Group One victory – the 1958 South Australian Derby.

It was another seven years before the Adelaide native tasted success in Australia’s greatest horse race as Light Fingers and Ziema took out the 1965 Melbourne Cup quinella.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Cummings went on to claim a record 12 Melbourne Cups from a grand total of 89 entrants – also an Australian record.

His total of 266 Group One wins ranks second only to TJ Smith and includes seven Caulfield Cups, five Cox Plates and four Golden Slippers.

Galilee, Think Big, Kingston Rule, Let’s Elope and many more of Australia’s finest horses hailed from the Cummings stables at Leilani and what is now Saintly Lodge.

Already a Legend in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, Cummings was honoured with a NSW state funeral after he passed away in August 2015.

Colin Hayes

The red earth of South Australia has proved fertile breeding ground for elite horse trainers.

Originally a boilermaker by trade, Colin Hayes made a modest start to his racing career in the 1940s with the purchase of steeplechaser Surefoot for the princely sum of £9.

He enjoyed moderate success over the coming years, including the 1956 Adelaide Trainers’ Premiership, before making the bold decision to open a combined breeding and training complex in the Barossa Valley.

That migration saw Hayes lose more than half of the horses under his charge as a number of owners felt his new establishment was too far removed from the Adelaide metro racing scene.

The risk was enormous, but the payoff was spectacular.

After opening in 1970, the Hayes stables at Lindsay Park produced such champions as Almaraad, At Talaq, Beldale Ball, Dulcify, Rory’s Jester, So Called and Unaware.

In amongst 98 Group One salutes were four Adelaide Cups, four Victorian Derbies, three Cox Plates, two Melbourne Cups, two Australian Cups, a Caulfield Cup and a Golden Slipper Stakes win.

Hayes, an inaugural Hall of Fame inductee, also turned out a pair top trainers: David Hayes and the late Peter Hayes, both of whom played a part in helping Fields Of Omagh to Cox Plate glory in 2003 and 2006.

Gai Waterhouse

Gai Waterhouse

The Waterhouse name may not be the most popular in Australian racing circles, but there is no denying Gai’s credentials – not to mention her pedigree.

The daughter of champion trainer TJ Smith, wife of Fine Cotton conspirator Robbie Waterhouse and mother of ubiquitous bookie Tom, she has forged a very fine career of her own since taking over the Tulloch Lodge stables in 1994.

Waterhouse has enjoyed huge success in New South Wales racing ever since, winning the Sydney Trainers’ Premiership seven times between 1996 and 2009.

She is one of two trainers to have won the Golden Slipper on six occasions, the other being her legendary father, and became only the second female trainer (and the first Australian woman) to taste victory in the Melbourne Cup when Fiorente took out the title in 2013.

All told, Waterhouse has won 168 Group One races to sit behind only her dad and Bart Cummings in the all-time standings.

There is plenty of time yet for the ‘first lady of Australian racing’ to add to that stunning record.

James Scobie

One of the grandfathers of Victorian racing, James Scobie began his career as a horse boy and jockey at country racetracks in the state’s west.

After some metropolitan success as both rider and trainer in the early 1880s, he purchased his own stables near Ballarat in ’82 from his former employer, Robert Howie.

Scobie’s unconventional method of mixing regular track work with jumps training began paying dividends in 1885 when he won both the Hobart Cup and Australian Cup.

The next few decades saw the Ararat native establish himself as one of the first great Australian trainers.

His decision to pursue wealthy patrons throughout the 1890s reaped rewards at the turn of the century with maiden victories in the 1900 Australian Derby, Victorian Derby and Melbourne Cup.

He went on to win the Cup three more times during the 1920s and finished with some eight VRC Derby wins to his name – an Australian record that stands to this day.

Along with Cummings, Hayes and Smith, Scobie was one of five trainers honoured as inaugural inductees to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.

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