Castlereagh Kid and Damien Oliver kick clear in the Autumn Classic

New kid on the block favourite to win $750,000 Alister Clark

Just six months ago Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott contemplated selling Castlereagh Kid. A son of Snitzel who was given to them by prominent owner John Singleton, Castlereagh Kid was a “plodder” as described by co-trainer Gai Waterhouse and couldn’t get out of his own way in training.

But while he may have appeared uninterested in his work late last year, he has since turned the corner, winning his last three races in a row and now comes into Friday night’s DCE Alister Clark Stakes as the warm pre-post favourite.

“That plodder has gone from, what do they say? From an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan,” Gai said in typical Gai fashion after he won the Group 2 Autumn Classic last start at Caulfield.

With the blinkers on for the first time, a masterstroke by the stable, he was able to dictate terms from the front and kick away for a strong one-and-a-half length victory under the urgings of champion jockey Damien Oliver.

It is those well-known front-running tactics that have become synonymous with success with the Waterhouse & Bott stable, something they have always been eager to teach their horses and a tactic they are certain to employ again with Castlereagh Kid on Friday night.

“We teach them to sustain a solid tempo in their work. Not hard but solid. And we get their breathing right so when they’re asked to cruise – they can do it very easily,” Gai said during the week.

“That then breaks the hearts of their opposition in a race. They can’t keep that speed up and sustain it over a trip.”

Castlereagh Kid is yet to race here at The Valley but after hugging the rails in his recent Caulfield win, he does appear tailormade for the tight Valley circumferences this week. He had a look around the course proper in a gallop on Monday morning and while only a light hit out, he looks primed to tackle the famous 2040 metres come the main event on Friday.

“I think he’ll handle Moonee Valley very well. He can bounce off that turn and it’s an exciting track to be on.”

“Damien Oliver partnered him there on Monday and he was very happy with him.”

This year’s DCE Alister Clark Stakes received a prizemoney boost to a lucrative $750,000, up more than double last year’s total pool of $300,000 and has attracted the Waterhouse/ Bott yard to target a Victorian Autumn campaign culminating in the Group 2 DCE Alister Clark this week.

A key incentive for not only the stable but also for sole owner John Singleton of Strawberry Hill Stud, who Gai says is enjoying the ride as much as anyone in the twilight of his career.

“Prizemoney means so much in terms of the direction you take a horse. It’s a substantial amount of money.”

“John is at a stage of his life where he wants to really enjoy his horses. He’s always lived life to the full and the same with his racing.”

On February 27 after Castlereagh Kid won the Autumn Classic, Gai Waterhouse posted on her Instagram account a brilliant video of the day. It included the likes of Damien Oliver, John Singleton and herself discussing the race before, during and after – a video that went viral on social media and one fans are starving to see more of.

“I think it’s important. Not only do the owners enjoy it but the public find it very interesting.

“My job is to make sure that I introduce racing not only to the racegoers but also to the people that don’t know it exist.  

“It is an interesting sport with interesting people in it” – and none are more interesting than Gai herself.

We hope to see her in her usual jolly spirits this Friday night at The Valley, and with even luck we may be talking to her again after she claims the Group 2 DCE Alister Clark Stakes with Castlereagh Kid.