Chris Waller watched his first Melbourne Cup triumph in the lounge room of his family home with wife Steph and kids Tyler and Nikita, who he said were just as excited as he was for Verry Elleegant’s historic win.
Waller decided against travelling to Melbourne due to COVID restrictions which would have required him to isolate for five days upon returning to Sydney under Racing NSW protocols, and watched from interstate as Verry Elleegant steamed to victory under James McDonald at Flemington on Tuesday.
Australia’s biggest trainer, a son of a New Zealand dairy farmer who has turned into a relentless winning machine, broke down when Verry Elleegant sailed past red-hot favourite Incentivise to win the $8 million handicap.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” a tearful Waller told the Herald and The Age. “I was just at home with my wife and kids. It’s probably as good as it gets. The kids were pretty excited, they were more excited than me.”
Waller, who handled the relentless pressure of training champion mare Winx to finish her career with 33 straight wins, only won Australia’s richest race, the $15 million The Everest, with Nature Strip a little over a fortnight ago.
But the Melbourne Cup had always been the race which had eluded him, and Verry Elleegant led home his four runners in this year’s race, which included Selino (eighth), Great House (13th) and Ocean Billy (last).
The 48-year-old even treated Cup day like any other normal one, attending trackwork at Rosehill on Tuesday morning before returning home to watch the race that stops the nation.
He also stayed in Sydney last year for The Everest when Verry Elleegant won the Caulfield Cup as she lifter her tally of group 1 wins to 10.