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Published: May 2017.
Growing up at historic Segenhoe Stud, Adrian Bott was surrounded by thoroughbreds, so it was no surprise he always wanted to be part of the world of racing and breeding and has worked hard with this aim in mind. The 29 year-old is living the dream these days as co-trainer with Gai Waterhouse at Tulloch Lodge, the famous Randwick stable started by her father T.J. Smith more than 60 years ago.
AT JUST 29 years of age Adrian Bott was given one of the most coveted positions in Australian, if not international, racing when he became co-trainer with the incomparable Gai Waterhouse.
For more than 60 years since being established by Gai’s father, the late T.J. Smith, Tulloch Lodge, at Randwick, has been a place where legends are made.
Named after the mighty Tulloch, the stables were also home to such stars as Redcraze, Gunsynd, Blazing Saddles, Mighty Kingdom, Lowan Star, Kingston Town, Red Anchor, Bounding Away and Star Watch during T.J.’s era. During Gai’s years the likes of Nothin’ Leica Dane, Dance Hero, Grand Armee, All Our Mob, the courageous Desert War, Pharoah, Tuesday Joy, More Joyous, Pierro, Fiorente and Vancouver have graced Tulloch Lodge.
The yard has produced 14 winners of the ATC Doncaster Handicap, 12 of the Golden Slipper Stakes, seven MVRC Cox Plates, three VRC Melbourne Cups, countless Derbys and most of the nation’s feature races, plus 41 Sydney training premierships.
Yet Gai, who has an association with the Bott family going back several decades, only needed Adrian on her work force for two and a half years to realize his potential. To be acceded such a rare privilege, especially for someone so young, is a tribute to his thorough grounding in the horse industry. This began with his father Tony at the famed Segenhoe Stud. After a diversion to university, his journey continued through a year on the Racing New South Wales stewards’ panel to a Darley Flying Start scholarship and then to Tulloch Lodge.
“The way the past six or seven years have unfolded has been truly amazing,” said Adrian, who is totally dedicated to the task ahead. “To join Gai’s operation, which is so immersed in history due to her level of success, is a great privilege.
“To be given the opportunity to train in partnership, with someone so successful, is something for which I will be forever grateful for. Her work ethic is like no one else I have ever known, which inspires you to throw everything in to what you are doing.”
The situation became even better when the combination immediately clicked. Within days they had their first stakes winner and in a matter of weeks the partners had registered two Gr.1 successes with the Star Witness filly Global Glamour. Adrian believes sharing of the burden and responsibilities of dealing with large numbers of horses and even larger numbers of owners is a key factor in enabling a stable to prosper.
“There is a tremendous amount of pressure involved in a training operation of this size,” he said. “Apart from the more visible aspect of dealing with owners and the media there is a lot to be done behind the scenes such as arranging training schedules, programming, organizing staff, looking after financial affairs and so on. That’s why I think training partnerships are becoming more commonplace and they have been hugely successful.
“You only have to look at David and Ben Hayes with Tom Dabernig, Peter Snowden and his son Paul as well as John Hawkes and his sons Michael and Wayne. I think it is a trend we are going to see more and more of as the years go by.”
While it was no surprise that Adrian elected to have a life in the thoroughbred industry his birth did come as a surprise even to his mother Glen. “Believe it or not I was born on the bathroom floor at Segenhoe Stud, which is now Vinery. I was born on September 2, 1987 and how my birth unfolded has always been quite an interesting, entertaining story at least.”
The previous year his father had, in partnership with George Parlby, purchased Segenhoe Stud from Lionel Israel. The deal had included the stallions, Kaoru Star, Aurealis, Hula Chief, Danger’s Hour (USA) and Zoffany (USA), who were on the roster then plus the broodmares and their progeny. Four year later the historic property was on-sold to a group including Michael Sissian.
However, Tony stayed on as manager at Segenhoe before later going on to found the boutique Evergreen Stud Farm at Heatherbrae in the Port Stephens region north of New South Wales. The graduates of Evergreen include BTC T.J. Smith Stakes-Gr.1 winner Sizzling, who now features on the roster at Newgate.
“I was very fortunate to grow up on an iconic stud such as Segenhoe,” Adrian said. “It is one of the most magnificent studs in the Hunter and as a young kid I was able to absorb so much knowledge and information on every aspect of the operation, which was pivotal to my understanding of the industry.
“I loved horses from a young age and always had ponies with my brother and sisters. I was taught to ride by my brother Aaron and Frank Daly, who was one of the stockmen on Segenhoe. He had a lot of nice stock horses for me to learn to ride on. My younger sister Aneeka, who I am close to in age, was very much into eventing and dressage. From time-to-time I would attend pony club camps with her at Murrurundi and what not, but predominantly I just rode on the farm.
“At that point in time it took me a while to have a full appreciation for the work being done at Segenhoe from a breeding aspect. In fact looking back I was fixated on racing but as the years went by, and I became more involved in racing, I felt the need to develop my knowledge of the breed itself and to understand its significance to racing.”
His interest in the racing side was fostered by going to early meetings at the then new racecourse at Scone, which was opened in 1994. “From about seven or eight years old I would attend the meetings at Scone with the family and as I grew older I was fortunate to be able to attend a lot of major meetings, not only in Sydney, but also internationally.
“I also helped with yearling preparations at Evergreen and went to the sales with my father each year. My introduction to Gai was through my father who had horses in training with her, after originally having horses trained by T.J.”
After doing his primary schooling at St Mary’s in Scone Adrian went in 2000 as a boarder to St Ignatius College, Riverview, on the Lane Cove River on Sydney’s north shore. Coincidentally that was the year Segenhoe became Vinery.
“My brother Aaron had finished his schooling at Riverview the previous year, just as I was about to start. It was daunting at first, but that was quickly overcome with friendships made. I feel privileged to have had that opportunity and it has certainly helped shape the person that I am today.”
Although he believed his future would be in racing, his parents persuaded Adrian to enter the University of Sydney on leaving Riverview. “My parents were very keen for me to complete a university degree before stepping into the industry, as something to fall back on in case things didn’t work out as planned. I had a look at all the options open to me and I decided on doing a course in the faculty of architecture at Sydney University. I enjoyed doing the three-year course and completing my degree, but in the back of my mind I didn’t have any doubts that I wanted my career to be in the racing industry. At the same time I appreciated the importance of having a degree which I could fall back on, if I needed to.”
During the years Adrian was at university his father began racing, in partnership with some of Evergreen’s South African clients, the smart Royal Academy (USA) gelding Royal Discretion out of Gai’s stable. A winner of the AJC South Pacific Classic-Gr.3, STC Darby Munro Stakes-LR and Hawkesbury Guineas-LR in the 2007-08 season, he went on to capture the MRC Moonga Stakes-Gr.3 and to finish third behind Danleigh and Light Fantastic in the AJC All-Aged Stakes-Gr.1 in 2009. That year Adrian joined Racing New South Wales as a cadet steward.
“I worked under chairman of stewards Ray Murrihy as well as Marc Van Gestel and Greg Rudolph,” he said. “It was a great experience to be able to develop an understanding and knowledge of the racing industry from a different perspective. It gave me a much greater exposure to the rules of racing and among the other things I learned were how to read and analyse a race. After spending a year with the stewards, I realised that it wasn’t the type of position I was looking for because, given the nature of the role of a steward, you have to be quite removed from the industry itself and I wanted to be more hands on, more involved in a practical way.”
His ambitions led to Adrian applying for, and being selected, to undertake the two-year Darley Flying Start Scholarship. “The scholarship, which is sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed, gave me the opportunity to work and study on the Darley properties all around the racing world.”
This led to him having stints at Dalham Hall, at Newmarket, Kildangan Stud, in County Kildare, Jonabell Farm, in Kentucky, as well as Darley, at Kelvinside in Scone. Other benefits featured attending a Dubai World Cup, at Meydan, and working with Newmarket trainer Jeremy Noseda, who had spent a number of years as an assistant trainer to John Dunlop, John Gosden, at Godolphin and had worked at Winstar Farm which is one of America’s most progressive studs.
“Being a combination of both practical and theory the course was quite intense. Mostly there were early starts working in various yards, stables or studs and then having university lectures and business courses in the afternoons. It was a great mix in that sense because you had the chance to see the different practices being carried out all over the world.
“I had only had experience in Australia prior to being selected for the Darley Flying Start course so I had a lot to learn and it really opened up my eyes and my mind to what was possible within the industry. It also inspired me to look at what practices I could apply at home in Australia.”
As those around Adrian and viewing on television appreciate he is comfortable in the media spotlight, which comes from tuition during Darley Flying Start program. “A significant amount of importance is placed on presentation and in the course a module of study was dedicated to dealing with the media. While in the UK we were taught how to conduct ourselves in interviews and the skills necessary to achieve this.”
As well as being a brilliant introduction to the thoroughbred industry, the Darley Flying Start course extends into finding places in the business for graduates. “When the students are close to graduating from the course opportunities opening up are looked into,” Adrian said. “As a result I was put in touch with Bruce Slade, who was Gai’s racing manager at the time. I was told a position had just become available at Tulloch Lodge as an assistant racing manager and I opened the lines of communication with Bruce.
“There was an exchange of emails and I was told to start as soon as possible and to be prepared to roll up my sleeves. I was also told to have an open mind. I soon found the role was very dynamic and that the title didn’t really reflect the types of work that were covered, as you had to wear many different hats.
“From the time I joined Gai I was soon across all aspects of the business. This revolved around starting in the yard at 3 am, mixing feeds, walking horses in the stable and at the track and then doing office work outside of stable hours. I really threw myself into the role, which continued to grow and allowed me to progress in my position within the business.”
He entered Gai’s training establishment as the careers of superstars More Joyous and Pierro,– both winners of more than $4.5m, were coming to a close but before long Fiorente and Vancouver were rising to the heights. After finishing second to Green Moon in the VRC Melbourne Cup-Gr.1 in 2013 at his first start in Australia Fiorente went on to score a comprehensive win from Red Cadeaux and Mount Athos the following year.
A $185,000 purchase by Gai Waterhouse/James Harron Bloodstock at the 2014 Magic Millions Vancouver, by then, was on his way to glory following a brilliant performance in the ATC Breeders Plate-LR. He went on to capture the ATC Canonbury Stakes-Gr.3, Todman Stakes-Gr.2 and Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1 before being retired to Coolmore.
“To have an association with the stable at such a time was an absolute privilege,” Adrian said. “I will never forget the progress of Vancouver from his selection at the yearling sales, being broken in at the stables, winning the Breeders’ Plate and going through to winning the Golden Slipper. Being part of the team when Fiorente came out from England and came back to win the Melbourne Cup after being second at his first Australian appearance was another real achievement. It made me realize just how fortunate I was to be dealing with such quality horses.”
Quickly appreciating Adrian’s talent Gai further expanded his horizons by sending him to spend time at the Keeneland and Florida stables of Wesley Ward, who was an Eclipse Award winning jockey before becoming a trainer. On June 16, 2009 Wesley became the first United States-based trainer to win a stakes race at Royal Ascot when his Strike the Tiger won the Windsor Castle Stakes. The following day he scored an even more important triumph when Jealous Again powered away to a five-length win in the Queen Mary Stakes-Gr.2. His highlights since have included winning the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and Prix Morny at Deauville in 2013 with No Nay Never, winning two Breeders Cups and bringing up his fifth Royal Ascot victory in the 2015 Queen Mary Stakes with Acapulco, who was ridden by Ryan Moore.
“Gai has the utmost respect for Wesley Ward and his talent as a trainer, particularly the results he has had taking early two year-olds from America and producing them to win on the world stage at Royal Ascot. I found Wesley to be an incredible horseman and I was very fortunate to be able to spend some time with him. I was able to see his operation first hand and how everything worked, as well as being able to tap into his knowledge.”
It was not long afterwards that the most treasured opportunity of all came along when Adrian was offered the chance to become Gai’s co-trainer. The combination started together on August 1, 2016 and within six days their first winner came up in stakes company, when Thronum, by Snitzel, won the ATC Rosebud-LR. “We could not have kicked-off our partnership in a better way,” Adrian said at the time.
But that was before Global Glamour emerged. A $65,000 purchase by James Bester for the It’s All About Girls Syndicate at the 2015 Magic Millions, the filly won the ATC Flight Stakes-Gr.1 at Randwick just eight weeks later. Then seven days after that she accounted for her rivals in the MRC 1000 Guineas-Gr.1 at Caulfield.
“I have a huge amount of sentimental feeling towards Global Glamour for providing the partnership, and me, with our first Gr.1 winner. For me she will forever be a very special filly.”