Eyes are pressed to binoculars, ear to iphone and the focus of both is a horse and rider 800 metres away.
“He loves that half-pace work,” says Gai Waterhouse into the phone.
“Perhaps we should give him some more of it.”
Waterhouse is in the grandstand at Werribee racecourse watching her latest Melbourne Cup import Tres Blue and talking to his rider Ryan Prendergast on the other side of the track.
Tres Blue, a young horse and veteran of only 10 starts, is being trained for the Melbourne Cup, but for him it might feel more like indoctrination.
“How many laps have you done,” Waterhouse asks Prendergast.
“Two cantering and one half pace? Good, how about another.”
Waterhouse is pleased with her purchase of a horse who follows the one she bought last year, English galloper Fiorente, and she’s hoping he can do half as a well.
At his first start for Waterhouse Fiorente finished second in the 2012 Melbourne Cup and is favourite this year.
Tres Blue is a different sort of horse, but he’s getting the same treatment from a trainer who is set to have as many as four runners in the big one at Flemington on Tuesday week.
“If he has fun here in his training he’ll come out in this Cup and run a cracker,” his new trainer says.
“That’s all I want him to do, just to have fun.”
But you have to think this might not be the sort of fun Tres Blue used to have back in France.
Tres Blue, who is four years old here but only three in France, has won four races in his short career, including a last start victory in a Group Two race at Deauville in August in which he beat the outstanding galloper Cirrus Des Aigles.
Unfortunately for him, he came to Waterhouse with a report card that said he could be a bit tricky.
“I got a tip that he could do a few quirky things,” Waterhouse said.
“So I thought, `I’ll give him quirky’.”
Rather than put a regular track rider on Tres Blue, Waterhouse brought her horse breaker Ryan Prendergast to Werribee to get the horse into line before his race jockey Tommy Berry takes over this week.
Prendergast has duly given Tres Blue some work.
Seven kilometres on Sunday, four last Friday, and a few more the previous Wednesday.
After the latest piece of “de-quirking”, Waterhouse bounces down to the fence to debrief Prendergast face-to-face.
“He’s doing it easily,” Prendergast tells her.
“And he sleeps well.”
Berry arrives in Melbourne on Sunday and will begin his work with Tres Blue on Monday.
“Tommy’ll know him intimately by the day of the race,” Waterhouse said.
The process that chose Berry for the ride ahead of experienced and accomplished jockeys such as Glyn Schofield is another example of the process that has won Waterhouse seven Sydney training championships and made her one of Australia’s all-time greats.
“He’s my stable rider and if he wasn’t riding for me he’d be riding for Lloyd Williams,” she said.
“And I don’t want him riding against us.”
Berry, she explained, also knows how she likes her horses ridden and understands the team ethos she invokes.
“And he’s young,” she said.
“Look at who won the Caulfield Cup, Nick Hall. Who wins the Cox Plate yesterday, Chad Schofield.
Happy to have discovered the new secret of success, Waterhouse turns again to her horse.
“Maybe just once more around thanks Ryan.”