COLOURFUL bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse put his pre-carnival controversies behind him when he cut a lone figure taking bets in a packed Matilda Room on the opening day of the Warrnambool carnival yesterday.
A row erupted after Mr Waterhouse told The Standard in an exclusive interview two weeks ago that Racing Victoria had stopped him from working on the rails at the carnival.
The controversy created Australia-wide coverage as Racing Victoria and the Warrnambool Racing Club engaged in a war of words after the Premier Denis Napthine, who is also the Racing Minister, came out in support of Mr Waterhouse. The bookie’s wife Gai trained Tenby Lady to win the first race on the 10-race program.
“The Warrnambool carnival is the best country carnival in Australia,” Mr Waterhouse said.
“It was amazing that the Warrnambool carnival received front-page coverage in metropolitan papers in Melbourne and Sydney last week.
“The circumstances may not have been the best but on the other hand it was great for the Warrnambool Racing Club that they have received such media coverage.
“The media coverage that the club has received has been priceless.
“I hope going forward that the matter about betting on the rails can be sorted out before next year.
“It was wonderful to be here to see Tenby Lady win the maiden hurdle for Gai.”
The Waterhouses were the story of the day until Winslow trainer Ciaron Maher stole the limelight with his third Brierly Steeplechase win in seven years.
Maher’s Palmero led all bar the run to the first jump in a dominant performance. That was the start of a double for Maher, who later won on the flat in the last race.
Darren Weir, who has stables at Ballarat and Warrnambool, also had a winning double, giving him a shot at the $41,000 Mercedes-Benz trainer’s bonus.
Brierly-winning jockey Steven Pateman had a double while Michelle Payne also had two winners on the flat.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive officer John Green said he was pleased with a crowd estimated at 5000, which was down 1000 on last year.
“It was very good due to the inclement weather,” he said.
More than 24mm of rain fell on the track within a six-and-a-half-hour period to 11am yesterday.
Today, the weather is expected to be drier with only a 10 per cent chance of one millimetre of rain.