Colin Webster is a racing traditionalist as befits a man who has had his trainer’s license since 1961.
He would dearly like to win a Perth Cup and was a staunch defender of that race remaining as a 3200m race, although it has been run over the 2400m journey since 2009.
Last season the veteran trainer claimed his second Oaks classic win when Pop Culture (Troy Turner) proved the superior filly over 2400m and was then unlucky when she finished 7th after being squeezed out in the WA Derby at a crucial stage around the 600m mark ruining her chances of being in the finish.
Back in work, this once barrier rogue, now totally compliant, proved she could come back to her 3yo form as a mare.
Having run third first-up over 1400m from a spell, Webster sent Pop Culture over the 1600m journey at the last Belmont meeting for the year on October 13.
In a driving tight finish Pop Culture prevailed over Jappaloop and Keepers Court and Webster may increase her distance to 1800m next start.
Certainly she won’t go back below the mile this preparation, according to her trainer. “She can’t sprint now-she is pretty dour and when she gets over longer distances she will get even better.” He said the 2400m distance would be her best journey.
Troy Turner had the mare racing comfortably midfield, down the back, with others breaking the strong headwinds for him. When the jockey wound her up from the 600m Pop Culture responded and her two runs back as a 4yo showed she had not lost her ability, something that is not always automatic with young gallopers reaching maturity.
Webster’s previous best effort in a Perth Cup was with Rogan Josh, a close second to King Of Saxony in 1999.Rogan Josh then went on to win the Melbourne Cup, the same year, after being sent to master trainer Bart Cummings, on Webster’s recommendation.
The veteran Ascot trainer said he had learnt from earlier experience that hit and run raids to the East are rarely successful. They have to be planned.
With Pop Culture the mission is very much a home one and the mare is as sound as a bell and has already won over the Perth Cup distance. The mare also has the benefits of the famous Webster planning and patience –attributes that have been commented on by diverse racing people such as Bart Cummings and owners Wendy Green (Rogan Josh) and John Burt.
18 October 2012
Burt, the WA Trotting Association president, who has raced various gallopers with the trainer (in the famous Tulloch colours), summed him as follows: “Colin is a model for any trainer to follow. So many of them can’t be bothered with owners but he is the type of bloke who will cross the street to talk to an owner who had taken a horse away from him five years ago!” Patience and consideration are fine attributes for anyone. For a horse trainer they can be a devastatingly effective combination.
Combining with Troy Turner to win a Perth Cup would no doubt be deeply satisfying for the trainer as Turner is one of dozens of quality riders that Webster helped to educate. Some other apprentices who became fine jockeys after passing through his hands include Peter Knuckey, Mark Grigsby, Craig Staples, Ken Bradley, Tim Stubberfield and Brenton Trinder, to name just a few.
Colin Webster, as a life member of the Australian and WA Trainers Associations, and a recipient of the Centenary Medal from the Queen, has some interesting observations about racing after being keenly involved for over half a century.
On the positive side he described the improved stake money and Westspeed Bonus system as a huge asset for owners and trainers and helped make racing cleaner. “Stewards now look for interference rather than for those not trying.”
A couple of years ago he told this writer that he didn’t have much time for the new whip rule -“animal liberationists have taken over a million dollar industry”- citing the fact that stewards have always had the discretion to deal with riders who excessively use the whip.
Webster said then that Michael Rodd had been one of 17 jockeys fined for riding a horse out to the finish. “It is somewhat ironic that in the old days you got dealt with for not riding a horse out to the finish and then the reverse applies and jockeys get fined for doing it.”
The trainer predicted weights would continue to rise and that 55kg would eventually become the minimum.
One thing is for sure, if Pop Culture does claim the 2013 Perth Cup, a race that the 72 year old trainer would dearly love to win, then there will be a genuine outpouring of delight from those elements of WA’s popular culture that are involved in the racing industry.
That would be because, in an industry not known for handing out bouquets, racing insiders universally respect Colin Webster as being a doer, as well as decent, friendly and an approachable man.