Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Racing: Kiwi trainer riding high

NZer has come a long way since arriving in Oz too broke to buy a car.

Chris Waller will be at Flemington this week with his hopes pinned on Hawkspur, below, a favourite for the Melbourne Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Waller will be at Flemington this week with his hopes pinned on Hawkspur, below, a favourite for the Melbourne Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Chris Waller went to Australia with little more than a credit card in his pocket. When that maxed out, the Kiwi trainer went to the bank and got another one.

On Tuesday, Waller will watch as two horses he trained vie for Melbourne Cup glory and the lion's share of a $7.1 million prize pool.

The two are Hawkspur, a race favourite, and seven-year-old galloper Foreteller.

Two others, Kelinni and Moriarty, just missed the cut.

It has been a meteoric rise for the boy from Foxton who once considered becoming a dairy farmer like his parents.

"I was either going to be working with horses or milking cows. I thought cows would make me more money, but the job satisfaction would be better with the horses.

"Racing is just an amazing sport, it's one of the only sports where everybody is on a level playing field, whether you're a taxi driver or Sheikh Mohammed."

Waller benefited from the same even field of opportunities, one in which hard work and determination could make dreams comes true. Leaving the Kiwi racing scene aged 26 in 2000, he arrived in Sydney with five horses, but little else.

"I had a credit card and I put everything on that. Then I got another one, and ran them off each other."

Wife Stephanie, a former Ford agency model who now cares for their two young children, helped with the bills, but it was three years before they could afford a car. Journeys were made on foot, or in the float with the horses.

"I never thought I was hard done by," he told the Herald on Sunday this week. "There were a lot of rewards along the way."

The hours were - and still are - long. Most days he works from 3am to 6pm, sometimes carrying on through the night to complete sales in United Kingdom.

He was coy about his earnings, describing himself as "comfortable".

But the Sydney Morning Herald reported last month that Chris Waller Racing horses won $19.5 million this season, more than any other stable in Australia - and 10 per cent of that was his.

In July, the stable also broke the record of 156 Sydney wins in a season, ending the season with 167.5 wins (the .5 was a dead heat).

Waller put his success down to "hundreds of small steps", one of them his first win in an elite group one race five years ago.

"That gave me the confidence to know I could do it. Up until then I always doubted myself."

This Tuesday, he will be at Flemington - with no doubts at all.

- Herald on Sunday

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