Peter Snowden snaps at Chris Waller's heels in national battle of trainers

While negatives around Sydney racing abound, Peter Snowden's form in the home stretch of his Darley involvement is a highlight.

With Chris Waller having another substandard weekend, Snowden is closing on him in the national trainers' premiership. Before Saturday, Snowden, on 84 winners, trailed Waller by four but notched four at Royal Randwick, while Waller had a success in Sydney and one at Caulfield.

Under normal performances this was acceptable, but Waller has had so many winners his results over the past two weeks are a downer. Snowden's season promises to be one of his best.

Perhaps his Saturday winning streak with two-year-olds ended, but Occitan, the Snowden favourite in the juveniles' dash, never saw daylight in the straight. With big outfits, some observers figure the trainer is only a name in the race book and organisational assistance carries the brunt of success.

But that is not the case with Snowden; nor was it with John Hawkes at Woodlands Stud before him.

Please explain

Eight of Chris Waller's Randwick starters on Saturday were subject to stewards' questions regarding inferior performances. Most were well in the market. For instance, Dora 'n' Boots ($5.50) ended up ninth in the two-year-olds' event and Berrimilla and Caesar's Princess pulled up lame in the seventh.

Studio, albeit at $16, finished a dismal last in the final race because of ''atrial fibrillation''. Stewards also reported Waller's Field Marshall, which eased from $3.80 to $5.50 in the sixth and finished fifth, had ''no abnormality''.

Surprising. After the entire was three wide, facing the breeze in a brisk tempo, a bout of thumps (heart condition) wouldn't have been out of the question.

Changing course

Lack of grass on the Randwick course proper has forced the once-important Villiers meeting this Saturday onto the Kensington track. The inside circuit is racing well but field sizes will be restricted, particularly the Villiers, now over 1550 metres, to 14.

''The showpiece of Sydney racing - not good enough by their own admission,'' wrote Leading the Way on Racenet. ''In fitting with Sydney 'standards', perhaps they could take away all the prizemoney for the day, then they'd be guaranteed 100+ runners.

Happens all the time at barrier trials.'' He is referring to Saturday's fields being bolstered by the Waller and Snowden stables - one starter was regarded as so slow it won't be allowed to return. Yet there were 17 barrier trials at Randwick last Monday, 10 being won by Gai Waterhouse, and 14 at Warwick Farm on Friday.

Family turf tiffs

The possibility of Bart Cummings splitting his training partnership with grandson James is hardly a positive. It will be sad if long-time troops for the master, Bill Charles and Reg Fleming, are collateral damage because their contribution to his cause has been considerable.

Family breakups are hardly unique in racing and this year Pat Webster and his son Wayne dissolved their partnership.

However, Dee Dee Flyer scored for Webster snr at Canterbury and he was quick to point out: ''Wayne has nursed this horse back. He's put hours and hours and hours into this horse. I don't take any credit but I'll take the money.''

One of the great dummy spits concerned the Smith brothers, Tom and Ernie. ''My name is Smith, not Waterhouse,'' Ernie raged when it was disclosed Gai was the heir apparent. ''Ernie's got a temper but he'll be all right,'' Smith said. And Ernie was.

Hoops' solidarity

Jockeys' camaraderie was evident when Jamie Mott added to the recent spate of falls at Caulfield on Saturday. Mott was dislodged from topweight Zuma Roc at the home turn in the final event. Michael Walker, a good mate, rode in the race and later ran the length of the straight to assist Mott, who was taken to hospital.

Horse to follow

Belle Couture, the half-sister to Black Caviar, scored in an 800-metre Flemington jump-out on Friday to suggest she is ready to make her debut. Ridden by Damian Oliver, the Redoute's Choice three-year-old settled in fourth place but over the latter stages was given enough rein to score by a half-length with considerable in reserve.

''She has taken good improvement from the first jump-out and it was good to see how strong she was at the line,'' said Simon Marshall, the former jockey and manager for the owners.

Disappointing

There's no shortage of contenders; take your pick from the above items.

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