|After scoring a quinella in the
Magic Millions with Excellerator and Miss Bussell in 2001 and winning the race with
Assertive Lad in 2000, Gai is chasing a hat-trick in the glamour two-year-old race this
year and she has plenty of depth with which to do it.
her top chances is classy Snippets colt Snowland, a $90,000 purchase for Eduardo
Cojuangcos Gooree Stud, who won the Listed Canonbury Stakes second-up after placing
in the Breeders Plate.
"Hes exceptionally fast and professional and he
should have won the Breeders," she says.
Gold Coast businesswoman Yvonne Smith, who has enjoyed
racing Assertive Lad among others, has her hopes pinned on Obsession, purchased by Gai for
"He was second in the Breeders Plate and he is a
huge horse who can only go forward from here," Gai says of the Last Tycoon gelding.
Smith also has exciting Marscay colt Power Surge, a
$100,000 purchase who reminds the trainer of Excellerator.
Others include Marscay gelding Marzurro, Unbridleds
Song filly Blazing Bridles, Spinning World gelding Sabre Knight, Rorys Boy, Fiery
Venture, Thunder On and Danehill filly Chuckle.
Gai will also race a Danehill filly
that will carry the same colors as Ha Ha for John Singletons Strawberry Hill Stud
"I gave (wife) Julies dad Gordon Martin a half
share for his 70th birthday," says Singleton, "I gave Bob Hawke 25 per cent of
Belle Du Jour and she won the Slipper so I thought it might be lucky!
"We put 10 names down on the registration form and the
last one turned out to be the one that got the green light."
The filly, from Cult Figure, is called Gai.
Gais relentless work ethic she rises at 3.15am
daily extends to yearling sales: long after everyone else has retired to the shade
of a marquee for a cool drink, Gai will be on the march, scribbling furiously in her
catalogue as she inspects every yearling.
Leading buyer at Magic Millions for the past seven years,
Gai outlaid $2,985,000 on 32 youngsters for an average $90,469 in 2000. In 2001 a total of
35 yearlings worth $4,022,500 were knocked down to Gai, at an average of $114,929.
Tommy Smith pioneered buying on spec and Gai
hasnt been afraid to continue the tradition, although in recent years her numbers
are substantially bolstered with yearlings purchased by others and sent to her to train.
"The lovely thing about Magic Millions horses is they
come to hand so quickly; they probably show their breeders this precociousness. They are
affordable, and I spec so many horses. I have not really had the luxury, with the
exception of (owner) Tony Huang, until the last 18 months, of going and buying a million
dollar horse," she says.
"When I am going to spec 60 horses a year I have to be
mindful can I carry it?"
"I think in many ways Magic Millions is abreast of the Easter
sale but it has got a different product, very much athletes. You go in there prepared for
a slightly weaker pedigree but you are buying an athlete, like Danglissa and Assertive Lad
those horses, they made their pedigree. Magic Millions grows in strength every
While many buyers go to a sale with a catalogue shortlist,
Gai reserves her judgment until shes seen them all.
"We look at 1500 horses a year, with George Smith,
Steve Brem and John Walker," she explains.
"And all those horses in the sales, weve seen
them before, we go to the paddock, and we already have in our minds eye horses that
might be good value, beautiful pedigrees, lovely types, but for some reason or other they
might just fall short. Everyone loves particular stallions and you think they are going to
be too expensive but often they are not."
Gai often leads the way with the annual barrage of progeny
by freshman sires; recent purchases have included youngsters by Helissio and Timber
Country as well as a liberal sprinkling of yearlings by her perennial and proven
favourites such as Marscay, Royal Academy and Last Tycoon.
Asked where she draws the line, Gai says she is not
prepared to forgive a horse that she considers has suspect knees or a potential suspensory
"I loathe bad-temperamented horses, I dont mind
if they are skittish or bullish but I want a horse that comes out and shows me he is an
athlete," she insists.
"Excellerator didnt walk out, he fell out in front of me.
But he landed and righted himself immediately and I thought, you are a real athlete, and I
made up my mind I would buy him," she says of the $50,000 purchase whose current
earnings are $1,380,185.
"If Johnny Walker says hard to train I
wont buy. We may examine the horse several times and call in a second vet, but that
is the bottom line."
While many of Gais purchases are in the mid-market
range, shes bid confidently for horses such as Magic Of Sydney and Nothin
Leica Dane and in 2001 landed a sensational coup when the star Sunday Silence Joie
Denise filly was knocked down to her on behalf of John Singleton.
"She was a standout. She had everything. She could
have been in any sale
Europe, Japan or America. Her grandmother I knew intimately
because dad trained her, Denises Joy, and she was so like Denises Joy. I
cant see why she wont be a two-year-old. She has got a definite precociousness
John Singleton believes Gai is among the nations
business leaders: "She gets 10 out of 10 for everything," he says
enthusiastically, "if you look upon her as a supplier of a service it is the best run
and most productive. She is the leader of all suppliers I have ever dealt with."
"She is in her element at the track but she is also in
her element when she inspects yearlings. She runs a very well-oiled machine. They all
compare notes and you get a typed up summary written with honesty and flair in her own
flamboyant, colourful style."
"She would have been a wonderful writer. Her track
flashes are great. And dont forget before she goes to the track she organises lunch
for the kids," he says.
"In the owners room after a win, shell be
the one taking the glad-wrap off the sandwiches and pouring the champagne no wonder
she goes to sleep at 8pm!"
Can Gai continue her current momentum?
"There is no reason
why she cant win more races than anyone else for a long time," Singleton
responds confidently. "She is TJs daughter and success breeds success."
But that very fact initially went against Gai: "A lot
of people, and I stress, myself included, thought there could only be one TJ and we sat
back and waited. We said, sure she is going well with the stayers. I had horses with TJ
for 20 years. I thought Gai wasnt having success with the two-year-olds. But then
she got better yearlings."
Gai started out with four horses, won her first race with
Gifted Poet at Hawkesbury, and recalls: "I didnt really have any expectations.
I just wanted to do well, thats all. I was lucky I had a hugely successful father. I
didnt want for anything and I had a lifetime in the racing industry, being born and
bred into it. But I didnt have any expectations."
"The most important thing when I started was winning
the races. I just wanted to win the races," says the trainer who has since amassed
191 black type trophies and 39 Group One wins with 22 individual horses, including six
Metropolitans, five Doncasters, two Magic Millions and a Golden Slipper.
Gai acknowledged a year ago that in the wake of her
fathers death, shed reassessed her strategy with her two-year-olds.
"Ive changed my training methods. Ive just
thought about things that Dad said; he always said you have got to keep young horses fresh
and treat them like young horses," says Gai.
"Dad just literally
dominated two-year-olds; there was no better trainer in Australia and he was always saying
you are not training them right, you are doing too much with them'."
"He was super-critical and it wasnt until he
passed away I thought about doing it his way. Youre young, you think you know best
and I was going well enough with winners everywhere else, milers and middle distance
horses," she says.
The turnaround, of course, resulted in a Golden Slipper
Gai won NSW Telstra Businesswoman of the Year in 2000, a
gong she was genuinely surprised to receive. "It was such an honour to be considered
among a group of very accomplished women from a range of fields, it really meant a
lot," she says.
Now, the sky is the limit for the seemingly unstoppable
horsewoman, but Singleton says her success has been the result of hard work rather than
luck and circumstance.
"Gai has earned it," says Singleton.
"Shes really had to prove herself. And she is
not only an amazing trainer, she is an amazing businesswoman."