Horse trainer Gai Waterhouse reveals tragic last fight she had with her beloved dad before his death


Racing royalty Gai Waterhouse has revealed how she’s haunted by a furious row with her legendary trainer father Tommy ‘TJ’ Smith just before he had a fatal stroke.

On Anh’s Brush With Fame on ABC, Ms Waterhouse, 66, revealed how the pair clashed bitterly in Sydney 23 years ago when he criticised her training technique.

But just a few days after the fight, Mr Smith had a stroke and never recovered, forcing his family to make the heartbreaking decision to switch off his life support system.

‘Until someone loses their father and mother, we have no comprehension of how devastating it is,’ she admitted in Tuesday night’s show. 

Racing royalty Gai Waterhouse has revealed how she's haunted by a furious row with her legendary trainer father Tommy 'TJ' Smith (pictured together above) just before he had a fatal stroke

Racing royalty Gai Waterhouse has revealed how she’s haunted by a furious row with her legendary trainer father Tommy ‘TJ’ Smith (pictured together above) just before he had a fatal stroke

‘My father and I came to blows on the Saturday at Rosehill races. ‘He said, “you’d make a man sick – you can’t train these two year olds.”

‘And I said, “Oh you just break them down.” He said, “Well, I’ve won six Golden Slippers…”

‘I stormed off, all hot under the collar, as I used to be with him.’

On Tuesday, he suffered a stroke and he died on the Wednesday.

Mr Smith trained two Melbourne Cups, four Caulfield Cups, seven W. S. Cox Plates, six Golden Slippers, and 35 derby winners among 246 Group One winners over a career spanning decades.

On Anh's Brush With Fame on ABC, Ms Waterhouse, 66, (pictured with artist and host Anh Do) revealed how she clashed bitterly with her father  in Sydney 23 years ago when he criticised her training technique

On Anh’s Brush With Fame on ABC, Ms Waterhouse, 66, (pictured with artist and host Anh Do) revealed how she clashed bitterly with her father  in Sydney 23 years ago when he criticised her training technique

But he never regained consciousness from the stroke and died on the eve of his 82nd birthday on September 2, 1998, four days after the row with his daughter.

‘Dad was on a life support system,’ revealed Ms Waterhouse. ‘I just said to mum, “That’s it then. He would just hate it. Can you imagine him being a vegetable?

‘”We have to say this is it.”‘

She added: ‘It was devastating. It’s terribly sad.’

Mr Smith (pictured here with daughter Gai and wife Valerie) never regained consciousness from the stroke and died on the eve of his 82nd birthday on September 2, 1998, four days after the row

Mr Smith (pictured here with daughter Gai and wife Valerie) never regained consciousness from the stroke and died on the eve of his 82nd birthday on September 2, 1998, four days after the row

But only child Ms Waterhouse took the grief and channelled it into her work to make her one the greatest racehorse trainers in Australian history in her own right.

‘I had to try to address how my life would be without my father, because he was such a dominant figure,’ she said.

‘He was larger than life. My father wasn’t very tall but he threw a big shadow. 

‘I thought to myself, “What would he want?” And he would want me to continue – so I threw myself into my work.’ 

When her father and bookmaker husband were embroiled in the Fine Cotton scandal and banned from racecourses throughout the country, Gai Waterhouse (pictured) was banned from training by association simply because of her marriage

When her father and bookmaker husband were embroiled in the Fine Cotton scandal and banned from racecourses throughout the country, Gai Waterhouse (pictured) was banned from training by association simply because of her marriage

She admitted to her husband, Rob, 66, that she would do whatever it took to  pay tribute to her father’s achievements by continuing his work.

‘I didn’t care,’ she admitted. ‘I was just going to get on, short and sharp…and we won 42 races the following season.’

But Ms Waterhouse confessed she had to fight hard against sexism throughout her career.

When her father and bookmaker husband were embroiled in the Fine Cotton scandal and banned from racecourses throughout the country, she was banned from training by association simply because of her marriage.

She successfully fought to overturn the decision and sparked a change in the law to prevent the discrimination happening again.

Gai Waterhouse, (pictured with husband Robbie) has since trained a Melbourne Cup winner and more than 140 Group One winners, as well as also training horses for Queen Elizabeth II

Gai Waterhouse, (pictured with husband Robbie) has since trained a Melbourne Cup winner and more than 140 Group One winners, as well as also training horses for Queen Elizabeth II

‘People believe everything they read in the paper and straight away put you in a box that you must be guilty,’ she said. 

‘We would walk up the street and people would look at you like you were some sort of criminal. It’s very difficult. You just have to hold your head high and get on with things.

‘The Australian Jockey Club eventually capitulated and that’s when I got my [training] licence but it took two and half years so it took quite some time.

‘The Waterhouse Act went into Parliament after that and it enabled women in the workforce to be served equally – and not to be judged on their spouse or whatever.

‘It was a great thing for working women in Australia.’

Gai Waterhouse - mother of bookmaker son, Tom, 39, and socialite and NRL WAG, Kate, 37 (pictured here as children with Ms Waterhouse) - has continued to face continual stereotyping for being a woman in a male-dominated profession

Gai Waterhouse – mother of bookmaker son, Tom, 39, and socialite and NRL WAG, Kate, 37 (pictured here as children with Ms Waterhouse) – has continued to face continual stereotyping for being a woman in a male-dominated profession

Despite that victory though, Ms Waterhouse – mother of bookmaker son, Tom, 39,  and socialite and NRL WAG, Kate, 37 – has continued to face continual stereotyping for being a woman in a male-dominated profession. 

Ms Waterhouse has trained a Melbourne Cup winner and more than 140 Group One winners, as well as also training horses for Queen Elizabeth II.

But she admitted: ‘It’s been very difficult, very uphill battle. I didn’t really know if I could train but I was determined to do it and to do it well

‘If it wasn’t comments about the hats I wore or the colour of my lipstick or whatever…I know if I was a man, no-one’s going to be commenting.

‘If you go back to Julia Gillard, they’re always commenting on the colour of her dress or her hairstyle – but who gives a damn? She’s the Prime Minister of Australia.

‘People ask me what I feel about being a woman trainer, a lady trainer? I said I’m not. I’m a horse trainer. When I walk on the track, I’m a horse trainer.’ 

And she said she hoped her beloved father would be proud of what’s she’s done in the profession.

‘I think so, yes,’ she said. ‘I think he would be.’ 



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Written by bourbiza

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