The Best Australian Horse Trainers Of All Time

Australia’s thoroughbred racing industry boasts some of the best trainers in the world. Season after season, the likes of John O’Shea, Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse have consistently proven themselves as exceptional trainers. There have been a few who have stood head and shoulders above the rest over the years, setting records that may never be surpassed.

The five highly-decorated trainers on this list deserve to be considered among the all-time greats of Australia’s racing history. If you are looking for additional free horse racing tips on other trainers that could one day be on this list, then check out this site, they have some pretty good details. 

1• James Scobie

James Scobie, one of the founding fathers of Victorian racing, began his career as a horse boy and jockey at country racetracks in the west of the state. In 1882, he purchased the stables of his former employer, Robert Howie, near Ballarat after some metropolitan success as a rider and trainer. 

In 1885 Scobie’s approach of mixing regular track work with jumps training began bringing him success when he won both the Hobart Cup and the Australian Cup. After establishing himself as one of Australia’s first great trainers, Ballarat’s native son continued to train for the next several decades.

As a result of his policy of seeking out wealthy patrons throughout the 1890s, he won maiden races in the 1900 Australian Derby, Victorian Derby, and Melbourne Cup. The Cup was won three more times during the 1920s, and he ended his career with an astounding eight VRC Derby triumphs – an Australian record that stands to this day. In 2001, Scobie was one of five trainers honored as inaugural inductees to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, alongside Cummings, Hayes and Smith.

2• Gai Waterhouse

In Australian racing circles, the Waterhouse name might be less popular, but there’s no denying Gai’s credentials – not to mention her pedigree. Taking over the Tulloch Lodge stables in 1994, she has built a very fine career of her own ever since. 

She is the daughter of champion trainer TJ Smith, the wife of Fine Cotton conspirator Robbie Waterhouse, and the mother of ubiquitous bookmaker Tom. Since 1996, Waterhouse has enjoyed tremendous success in New South Wales racing, winning the Sydney Trainers’ Premiership seven times between 1996 and 2009. 

She is one of just two trainers to have won the Golden Slipper on six separate occasions (her father is the other), and in 2013, she became only the second female trainer (and first Australian female) to win the Melbourne Cup. As of today, Waterhouse has won 168 Group One races, and the ‘First Lady of Australian Racing’ still has plenty of opportunities to enhance her already astonishing record.

3• Tommy J Smith

During the lifetime of the late, great Tommy Smith, no one dominated the Australian racing scene with such ferocity. Between 1953 and 1985, Smith won every Sydney Trainers’ Premiership – 32 years in a row. He had an extensive racing career that went beyond the New South Wales racing carnivals.

There have been 282 wins in Group One, including seven WS Cox Plates, six Golden Slippers, four Caulfield Cups, and two Melbourne Cups. Furthermore, he trained 35 Australian Derby winners and produced some of the nation’s most beloved champion horses, including Kingston Town, Redcraze and Tulloch.

No wonder the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick is named after him. It was three years after Smith’s death at age 81 that he was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, and he was promoted to Legend status in 2012.

4•  Colin Hayes

After starting his career as a boilermaker in the 1940s, Colin Hayes owned steeplechaser Surefoot for a princely sum of nine pounds. He enjoyed moderate success during the next few years, including the 1956 Adelaide Trainers’ Championship, before deciding to open a combined breeding and training complex in the Barossa Valley.

In the ensuing migration, Hayes lost more than half of the horses under his charge due to the fact that many owners felt his new establishment was too far from Adelaide metro racing. Hayes stables at Lindsay Park provided some of the finest horses in history. Since opening in 1970, Hayes stables at Lindsay Park have produced champions like Almaraad, At Talaq, Beldale Ball, Dulcify, Rory’s Jester, So Called and Unaware. 

Among his 98 Group One triumphs were a Caulfield Cup, a Victoria Derby, three Cox Plates, two Melbourne Cups, two Australian Cups, an Adelaide Cup and a Golden Slipper win. Hayes – an inaugural Hall of Fame member – also produced top trainers David Hayes and Peter Hayes, both of whom helped Fields Of Omagh to Cox Plate glory in 2003 and 2006.

5•  Bart Cummings 

There could not be a list of great Australian horse trainers without the man they called the ‘Cups King’. After gaining his trainer’s license in 1953, James Bartholomew Cummings had to wait five years before he won his first Group One race – the 1958 South Australian Derby. 

A further seven years passed before the Adelaide native tasted success in Australia’s greatest horse race, winning the 1965 Melbourne Cup quinella with Light Fingers and Ziema. You know the rest, right?

The Australian record is 12 Melbourne Cups, which Cummings won from 89 entrants – another record for the country. His 266 Group One victories are second only to TJ Smith’s, including seven Caulfield Cups, five Cox Plates, and four Golden Slippers. 

The Cummings stables at Leilani and Saintly Lodge hailed Galilee, Think Big, Kingston Rule, Let’s Elope and many more of Australia’s finest horses. Cummings was already a legend in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame when he passed away in August 2015. He was honored with a state funeral in New South Wales after he passed away.