Apart from interviewing the amazing multi-skilled lady trainer Gai Waterhouse, I have also been lucky enough to adorn the Waterhouse ladies with Jewells from Le Dãin Designs. Recently I had the pleasure of including Natasha Kent and Jane Ormsby in a photo shoot for my designer jewellery business. So, seeing it is the start of the Port Macquarie Racing Carnival, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview these two energetic, bright young women, who are part of a dedicated team which helps make the Waterhouse Stables run like clockwork.
(Race and Jockey Programmer).
How long have you worked for Gai Waterhouse?
I have had the pleasure of working for Gai for almost two years.
Have you always been involved in the racing industry?
You could say I have, as my first role in the industry was working in a stable when I came straight out of university.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the level of responsibility associated with the role. I totally enjoy being part of an incredibly enthusiastic and successful team; I also thrive in playing a small part in a horse’s career.
Who do you admire within the industry and for what reasons?
Gai, without a doubt; she is the hardest working person I have ever met. Her drive and ambition is next to none, and her love for the sport inspires not only me, but anyone who is or has been associated with her.
Do you or have you ever owned a horse?
I have previously owned a small share in a filly that was unfortunately never able to get to the track. I look forward in the future to getting involved again as an owner. The thrill of owning a racehorse, even like in my case where she never made it to the track, is something really special.
Do you enjoy getting dressed up for the races? Who are your favourite designers, and have you a milliner of preference?
I love nothing more than getting dressed up to go to the races. There is nowhere else you can feel elegant, timeless and get to wear fabulous millinery. I actually don’t have any particular favourites with designers or milliners, but I also enjoy buying vintage or plain headpieces and adding to them myself. I am actually commencing a millinery course this week, as I have a real passion for it.
What does a typical day in your position entail?
My day starts with nominating and accepting horses for races. I liaise with jockey managers and our stable jockeys on a daily basis to book them for races and get feedback on particular horses.
I attend the trials and report on both them and the races to provide feedback to the owners. I pick suitable options for each individual horse for Gai’s perusal and put together programs for carnival horses.
Have you ever attended the races at Port Macquarie, Natasha?
Yes, I have had the pleasure of attending the races in Port Macquarie on quite a few occasions. This was mainly to attend the Port Macquarie Cup and the Queen of the North Stakes. This was when I was working for Patinack Farm, who is a major sponsor of the club. I love the town and totally enjoy the races there. I have gotten to meet some great people.
I was fortunate enough to visit local trainer Wayne Wilkes’ stable on a number of occasions, with Les Tinkler and Donna Dennis of Serene Lodge Racing.
I know you have a heavy workload working for Gai. Do you ever visit the area for just a holiday and get to forget about work for a while?
Port Macquarie is a beautiful place, and I love the restaurants. I enjoy visiting the town to have a break and catch up with Les and Donna.
What can we look forward to from the Waterhouse stables this spring?
I am really looking forward to the Spring Carnival. To see a champion mare like More Joyous race is truly special. Champion 2 year old colt Pierro is also an exciting horse. Others to keep an eye on include: Driefontein, No Looking Back, Fat Al, Landing and Nobby Snip, to name a few.
How long have you been with Gai Waterhouse?
I have worked for Gai for approximately 18 months, and I am enjoying every minute of it.
What is your favourite race course?
Randwick in Sydney is closest to my heart, as it feels like home. I have been there so often and have fond memories from a very early age. It is also the home track for Gai. Royal Randwick is currently undergoing huge renovations, which is so exciting for the sport and will give it world class status. I absolutely love the history embedded in the course. There is such romanticism to the Champagne Bar and Member Grandstand. It is fabulous to watch the races from there.
Do you or have you ever owned a horse?
Since I was born, I have been surrounded by horses. My father dabbled in breeding while owning race horses. After growing out of my pony club ponies, I went on to compete in events as a serious sport. Although I don’t own any horses now, I still ride often, and it’s definitely on the cards to own another in the near future.
The career life of a race horse is short, and I would love to rehabilitate them off the track for their life after racing.
Do you enjoy dressing for the races?
Absolutely! The races are the one event where I can be daring and explore trends and styles I would ordinarily never wear. I love the tradition of hats in racing. It is fabulous how a sport can evoke such a fashion culture, and this really should be celebrated! What woman does not like getting dolled up and looking the part?
Have you any fashion tips, and do you have a milliner of preference?
I believe that elegance is a must for race days, but you can merge the old with the new. I am lucky enough to have a mum who has a wardrobe of vintage suits and hats from her past race going days, which I can borrow.
I think Nerida Winter’s hats are divine, but there are some very talented up and coming milliners. I sported a head piece from Jack and Jill in Melbourne, which I wore on Doncaster Day.
Who do you admire in the racing world, apart from Gai of course?
Of course, aside from Gai with her inspiring work ethic, dedication coupled with her infectious charisma, I admire the stable hands and track work riders. They are really the soldiers on the battle front who facilitate the trainers’ (Generals’) orders. They start at extremely early hours (2.30am), and the work involved is incredibly physical and tiresome. Having worked in a racing stable, I can sympathise with what is involved.
With Gai’s office at the stables, I see how much love and commitment they invest into looking after the horses; they become their best friend and nurse, and the horses depend on them for 100% care. The trainer must rely on these staff to communicate how the horses look and feel. They work almost every day, rain, hail or shine!
Do you get to travel with Gai in your role as Personal Assistant?
It is not necessary that I travel with Gai to all race meets. Part of my job, however, is to attend the large interstate race meets, and I will be there for her and the team to support and attend to errands if need be. This also includes a lot of ‘relationship building’ with fellow industry people and also to be there for her owners.
Once a year prior to the Melbourne Cup, Gai holds a large function at her stables in Flemington for approx. 300 guests. I am required to attend to the organisation, set up and facilitate in all areas, to have the event running smoothly. Hardly a chore, when Melbourne is the only place to be at that time of year!
On the lighter side, can you share any hot tips? In regards to tips, if you asked me during the recently passed Autumn Carnival, I would have said any of Gai’s runners … and I would have been your best friend (laughs). She had an enormous season and dominated the track.
Looking forward, her two star standouts of the season: colt Pierro and mare More Joyous are back at work in their preparation for spring. No doubt they will continue their winning form. They are truly living equine legends in their own right
I do have a small flutter on most races … it ensures I don’t miss the fun!
On behalf of myself and Greater Port Macquarie FOCUS, we would like to thank you both and wish you all the best.
Interviews conducted by Carole Beros.
Photography by The Mil Studios.
This story was published in issue 82 Port Macquarie