How Racing's First Lady Gai Waterhouse Made Life Better For EVERY Australian Woman

Imagine being told you couldn't pursue your chosen career because of who you were married to.

Today, that would be unthinkable. But there's a famously successful Australian woman who suffered that exact fate, and the story is brilliantly told in the latest 'Short Black With Sandra Sully' podcast, which you can listen to here.

This was about the 1990s, when Gai Waterhouse fought a bitter two-year legal battle for her license to train race horses.

It seems amazing that Gai had to fight so hard just to pursue her passion, because today, she's a household name, who became the first female Australian trainer to win the Melbourne Cup (in 2013 with Fiorente).

Gai picked out Fiorente in Europe, tried to buy him, failed, then tried again, got him, and won a Melbourne Cup. How very Gai of her. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

READ MORE: Sandra Sully's New Podcast Is A Candid Sit-Down With Inspirational Women

Born to racing royalty, Gai's dad was Tommy Smith, the legendary Sydney trainer who trained Hall-of-Famers Tulloch and Kingston Town. But as Gai sought to emulate her father, she encountered a major hurdle -- and all because of who she was married to.

Gai's husband is Robbie Waterhouse, a respected businessman nowadays who in 1984 was caught up in a famous racing scandal in Brisbane called the "Fine Cotton affair", in which a fast horse was illegally substituted for a slow one. Robbie was banned from attending racecourses for life -- although the ban was lifted in 2001.

How did this affect Gai?

Well, the Australian Jockey Club, who at that time ran racing in Sydney, had rules which specifically stated that the spouse of a banned person could not be licensed in any capacity.

Gai challenged that.

Image: Getty.

And without getting too much into the nitty gritty of two years' worth of legal challenges and appeals, she eventually won.

"I won a legal battle against the AJC that I couldn't be judged on my husband. It became called the Waterhouse Amendment, it's a great thing for women in the workforce," Gai tells Sandra in the podcast.

And it's true. Thanks in no small part to Gai, no woman in Australia can be denied an employment or business opportunity because of anything their husband has done.

In a wide-ranging chat with Sandra, Gai opens up on:

  • Why she now shares her training duties with Adrian Bott (he's actually bought her business, though there's more to it than that)
  • When she'll retire (probably never!)
  • What her career goals still are (she'd love to win a Cox Plate)
  • What working in the theatre in London as a young woman taught her (voice projection and discipline, to name but two things);
  • And what she looks for when buying a racehorse (a pretty face, among other things!)
Gai, Tom and Robbie in 2014. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

She also tells a great yarn about the day Robbie bent their then very young son, Tom Waterhouse, over his knee for a good old-fashioned spanking. But did he go through with it?

Ah, well you'll have to listen to the poddie to find out, won't you? But like so many great racing stories, there's a pretty good twist to the tale.

You can catch 'Short Black' on AcastApple Podcasts and Spotify.

READ MORE: Gai Waterhouse Is The Unlikely Star Of The Bachelor's Single Date