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5 trainers to follow in the 2019 Spring Racing Carnival

Aaron Hamilton in News 17 Jul 2019
  • Weir and Winx exits leave the door open.
  • Newcomer to Victoria could be the one to watch.
Trainer Ciaron Maher (left) and jockey John Allen after Kenedna won the Doomben Cup (PA Images)

In the past few years, Darren Weir dominated racing in Victoria and was the most successful trainer during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

Likewise, in NSW, Chris Waller has had a stranglehold on Group 1 racing during the Sydney Spring and Autumn Racing Carnivals with superstar mare Winx winning everything she contested.

However, in the spring of 2019, Winx has been retired and Weir is serving a four-year ban, and the spring riches are there for the taking.

Here are five trainers that are ready to step up and can be followed throughout the 2019 spring carnivals:


This training partnership could be the next big thing in racing as they have set up a colossal operation. In addition to their training facilities at Caulfield, beach access at Balnarring and Pakenham pre-training farm, Maher and Eustace have taken over Weir’s Forrest Lodge stable and have opened a stable at Warwick Farm. They were the beneficiaries of most of Weir’s top horses including Humidor, Kenedna, Extra Brut, Cliff’s Edge and Yogi. Maher claimed 10 Group 1 wins before partnering up with Eustace, and the pair had their first success as a partnership when Kenedna won the Group 1 Queen of the Turf (1600m) at Randwick. The mare was then sent north and took out the Group 1 Doomben Cup (1800m). They have had time to assess their spring options with their new cattle, and with the structures in place, it wouldn’t surprise to see Maher and Eustace take over from Weir and dominate the spring carnival in Melbourne as well as claiming a few Group 1s in Sydney.


In the 2018-19 racing season, Waller claimed 13 Group 1 wins in NSW, four in Victoria and one in Queensland.  However, of those 18 elite level victories, Winx and The Autumn Sun, who have been retired, accounted for 11 wins between them. Waller’s other Group 1 winners included: Patrick Erin (The Metropolitan 2400m), Shillelagh (Myer Classic 1600m), Verry Elleegant (Storm Queen Stakes 1600m and ATC Oaks 2400m), Nature Strip (The Galaxy 1100m), Shraaoh (Sydney Cup 3200m) and Invincibella (Tatt’s Tiara 1400m). Even without Winx and The Autumn Sun, Waller trained six individual Group 1 winners, and he, like Maher and Eustace, was also a beneficiary of some former Weir stock that includes Verry Elleegant and Nature Strip as well as Night’s Watch, Kings Will Dream and Perth topliners Arcadia Queen and Enticing Star. The master trainer has some a couple of big holes to fill in the stable, but without the extra media pressure that came with Winx, Waller’s sole focus can now be on what he does best which is train horses.


The grandson of legendary trainer Bart Cummings has just posted his best season since taking over the helm at Godolphin Australia, and he looks set to go on with the job. In Victoria, Cummings trained two Group 1 winners from 26 runners for a strike rate of 7.69 percent. David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig had the worst strike rate (2.22 percent) last season in Victoria, followed by Kris Lees (7.14) and then Cummings. However, Cummings had one winner and four placegetters from 11 Group 1 runners in QLD, and he claimed five wins and seven placings from 32 runners in Sydney Group 1 events. His winners included: Hartnell (Epsom Handicap 1600m), Best Of Days (Cantala Stakes 1600m), Alizee (Futurity Stakes (1400m), Kiamichi (Golden Slipper 1200m), Avilius (Ranvet Stakes 2000m & The BMW 2400m), Microphone (Sires’ Produce 1400m) and Trekking (Stradbroke Handicap 1400m). Cummings would be especially keen to keep the ball rolling and kick off the new season with some Group 1 wins in the spring, and he has the cattle to do it. Look for his horses in the Sydney Group 1s.


Of course, the spring carnivals aren’t just about Group 1 racing, and when it comes to punters making a profit, there is no better trainer to follow than O’Brien. In the top 50 trainers in the country, only five have been profitable last season, and O’Brien tops the list in Victoria and NSW with a massive 26.88 percent return on investment (ROI). O’Brien has been training winners for 20 years and has tasted Group 1 success on 16 occasions. In VIC metro alone, O’Brien saddled up 152 runners this season for 29 winners and an impressive ROI of +39.6 percent. He has added the former Weir galloper Iconoclasm to his arsenal, and the up-and-coming Grinzinger Star could play a big part in the spring as well as Vow And Declare who may target the staying features following his Tatt’s Cup (3000m) success. A master of placement and one that make sneak under the radar.


While O’Brien impressed with his ROI stats on the eastern side of the country, Smith was a force to be reckoned with in the west and boasts the best ROI of any leading trainer at +31.32 percent. Smith has recently set up a satellite stable at Warrnambool having taken over Weir’s former property. He has also been able to entice former Weir employee Maddie Raymond back to Warrnambool from overseas, and all this adds up to a solid grounding in the new environment. Smith has had an immediate impact in Melbourne having saddled up nine runners for five winners, and he recently scored with Olympic Oath and Saone who will potentially be aimed at the Victoria Derby and three-year-old fillies’ races respectively. Smith has brought Black Heart Bart out of retirement to see how he measures up in trials before pushing on to the spring, and he has acquired Malaguerra who Smith believes will benefit mentally from the change of environment.

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5 trainers to follow in the 2019 Spring Racing Carnival

In the past few years, Darren Weir dominated racing in Victoria and was the most successful trainer during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

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