Tom and Gai Waterhouse slug it out in Sydney with John Singleton
Australian actor Gai Smith (now Waterhouse) was Presta in the Dr Who serial The Invasion of Time (1978)
Melbourne, observers say, is the Australian state capital most like London, a city of couth citizens. Paradoxically Melbourne’s establishment has aired its dirty linen in public more than its perennial foe, the brasher Sydney establishment. That was until the feud between the Waterhouses and the Singletons in old Sydney town.
To be accurate, it is only, so far, one Singleton but John is a dervish in a stoush so you can be forgiven for thinking there is more than one of him.
Singleton is also known as Singo, for those who buy into the myth of the lovable larrikin, as each of his six wives must have done at some stage. The wealthy race-horse owner said publicly 30-something bookmaker Tom Waterhouse had known Singo’s millionaire mare More Joyous could not win Saturday’s All Aged Stakes at Randwick. The bookmaker’s mother, Gai Waterhouse, trained More Joyous along with a brace of other Singleton-owned neddies.
You could see where Singo was going with this which he aired at Randwick itself on Saturday’s big race day. Just in case the inference was beyond those who had imbibed too much cool champagne or warm beer, Singleton elaborated. “It’s too much. It’s a conflict of interest.”
He sacked trainer Gai Waterhouse and removed seven horses from the stable on Sunday. Well he did not actually remove them himself but it sounds more dramatic that way.
On Monday, Tom Waterhouse said he was talking with his lawyers about defamation action against Singleton. Tom did not call him Singo.
Randwick chief steward Ray Murrihy wants to see the feuding parties at an official inquiry next Monday.
The media and the public are lapping it up. The media likes to call the Waterhouses “racing royalty”. But that is just cheap consonance, no drilling into national sentiment – Australia is not fancy enough to have Zeitgeist. Most of the public is not talking sides. The more literate are saying “a plague on both your horses”.
The Waterhouse racing royalty, on the paternal side, is actually bookmaking royalty – not much consonance there.
The first king bookie in the family was Charles Waterhouse, who took out a licence in 1898. Son Bill and Grandson Robbie continued the family business. Tom is the son of Robbie and Gai Waterhouse, herself the daughter of legendary racehorse trainer Tommy Smith.
In 1984 Bill and Robbie lost their bookmakers’ licenses for 18 years when it was found they had “prior knowledge” of the Fine Cotton ring-in when a superior horse was substituted for an inferior one.
The ring-in was a bit of a shambles when, as soon as the substitute horse Bold Personality won, a few people were racing up and down Eagle Farm racetrack screaming “ring-in”. It had the earmarks of a classic double-sting. There was no suggestion the Waterhouses had a part in the ring-in, only that they knew it was on and forgot to tell anyone.
Anyway, Robbie was able to survive the 18 years on his savings and whatever slings his wife Gai, a successful trainer, gave him.
Robbie has a significant financial interest in his son’s bookmaking business, mainly conducted through the internet. Tom Waterhouse, unlike his Dad and Grandad, is not licensed by Sydney racing authorities. His book is registered in the Northern Territory.
We are talking serious money here. Tom ponied up a photo of his book on the All Aged Stakes which he said showed a $300,000 worse result on the winner All Too Hard than if “mum’s horse” – a favourite expression of Tom the son – had won.
He said he had “backed” More Joyous. What he meant by that is unclear. What we do know is that Waterhouse did declare before the race he would “take on” the second favourite All Too Hard. Taking on “All Too Hard” is not quite the same thing as backing More Joyous. The relative outsider Rain Affair was narrowly beaten in the race. How much would Waterhouse have won if that horse had got up?
Owner Singleton is not short of a dollar. He said he was going to put $100,000 on More Joyous until three mates whispered in his ear on the day of the race that Tom Waterhouse had told them it could not win. Of course, Waterhouse strenuously denies this, hence the lawyers.
Singleton maintains Gai Waterhouse never told him the horse had received treatment during the week before being cleared by stable vet Leanne Begg. But More Joyous was also cleared to run by Singleton’s vet John Peatfield. Was anyone telling Singo anything before his three mates saved him a hundred grand?
The answer to this and other fascinating question may or may not be revealed at Monday’s inquiry.
Our song needs no intro…