It takes a lot dedication to get up at 3am each morning to watch and train horses on a race track, but that’s what the very best Melbourne Cup trainers have had to do for years. Horse trainers are given the very demanding job of ensuring each owner’s horse is capable of performing at its best for each race it competes in, but they put in a particularly special effort for the horses they train for a Melbourne Cup run.
There are many different ways of training a horse for the race track, however the one thing all these trainers have in common is passion. Although there is a lot of money to be made as a horse trainer, the best horsemen are those who do it for the love of the horses and the racing industry. For many, the jockey and the horse are the only two factors which affect a horse’s chances of succeeding. However, those in the know are aware that a horse has no chance at winning their races without the right training first.
The following is a list of the best trainers in the Australian horse racing industry, past and present:
The biggest name in the Australian horse racing industry is undoubtedly Bart Cummings, the 12 time Melbourne Cup winning trainer referred to by many as the “Cup’s King”. The legendary trainer has come a long way from the 23 year old strapper who worked for his father Jim Cummings. After establishing Saintly Place and Leilani Lodge stables, Cummings went on to train over 265 winning horses including five quinellas in the Melbourne Cup. As a great trainer for both sprinters and stayers, Cummings became a lifetime member of the VRC in 2004 and was also inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame as the only trainer to achieve the status of legend.
Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman has idolised Bart Cummings since he first began his racing career as a 14 year old. With over 130 winners to his name including five Melbourne Cup wins, Freedman is one of the country’s greatest horse trainers. After establishing Markdel stables in Victoria, Freedman made history by training Makybe Diva for her 2004 and 2005 Melbourne Cup victories. However, for Freedman this isn’t enough as he now has the ambition to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France.
In a world dominated by men, Gai Waterhouse is one female who refused to bow down to the social norm and instead established herself as one of the best trainers in Australia. Following in the footsteps of her father, the legendary TJ Smith, Waterhouse began helping her father when she was 15 years old and has never looked back. The Hall of Fame inductee has trained over a hundred winners, including 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente!
James Scobie raised eyebrows when his training involved combining standard track work with riding over jumps. However the method must have been successful with four Melbourne Cup wins, eight VRC Derbies, 12 Ascot Vale Stakes and 10 Bendigo Cups to his name.
Etienne de Mestre
As one of the first successful trainers in Australia, Etienne de Mestre was an outstanding trainer who won the first Melbourne Cup with Archer in 1861. This matching proved successful again the following year when Archer took out the 1862 Cup title. De Mestre went on to win another three Melbourne Cups with Tim Whiffler in 1867, Calamia in 1878 and Chester in 1877.
After working for John Tait and becoming a jockey, Walter Hickenbotham thought he might try his hand at training. This proved to be a very clever move with four Melbourne Cup wins from Mentor in 1888, Carbine in 1890, Newhaven in 1896 and Blue Spec in 1905. A man dedicated to his horses, Hickenbotham spend the night of Carbine’s win in the stables tending to the horse’s injured hoof rather than celebrating with his friends.