Nobody's perfect, including star sprinter Alligator Blood. But he's not far from perfect now.
That was the message from the triumphant Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable after the five-year-old's classy one-length victory over quality galloper Private Eye in the $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm.
Make no mistake, Alligator Blood – named Queensland's 2020 Horse of the Year – is well and truly back in business.
2022 Stradbroke Handicap Replay
He's had to overcome a few hurdles on the way to winning the state's richest race outside of the Gold Coast's restricted Magic Millions two-year-old and three-year-old events.
The gelding was disqualified after winning the $1.16 million first prize in the Gold Coast Magic Millions Guineas in January of 2020, following the discovery of banned substance altrenogest in his system.
And Racing NSW has banned the bankrupt Allan Endresz from owning horses in its state, meaning the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained galloper had to make his way north to Billy Healey's property on the Sunshine Coast.
But try mentioning the word “controversy” to stable representative Neil Payne, who was delighted to see his sprinter put his name back up in lights on Saturday.
“Who cares about controversy? Everyone's got controversy, myself included,” he told Sky Racing.
“Who cares? Alligator's back – that's the main thing.”
Incredibly, it was Waterhouse's 150th Group 1 win, after notching up 134 on her own.
She now has 16 alongside Bott, and this was her first Stradbroke triumph.
“It is Gai's first Stradbroke and Alligator Blood is back to his best,” Payne said.
“As has been well-documented, the horse has had problems. But Gai and Adrian, and the staff back at Randwick and up here in Brisbane, have worked overtime to get this horse right.
“I was telling the owners before he's such a happy horse, and a great horse to do anything with.
“We're rapt that we've got him and he's come back to his best. What more can I say?”
Saturday's victory was also a bounce-back from Alligator Blood's last start, beaten on the line by Soxagon in the BRC Sprint (1300m) two weeks ago.
But the stable was thrilled with that effort.
“We knew. We were a bit wary two weeks ago, but when he put that run on the board he's improved so much since,” Payne said.
“Tim Clark came up and rode him on Tuesday and said ‘this horse is flying'
“He looked a treat in the yard. It's incredible that Gai and Adrian got him back to the way he was.”
It was Clark's 35th Group 1 triumph and also his first Stradbroke Handicap.
He was left very impressed with the way Alligator Blood sat behind the leaders before cutting loose late on the straight.
“He began well, but as expected there was a fair bit of tempo. Not only did I not have the horse to be in that speed battle, but if I attempted to be with them I'd have nothing left at the end,” he said.
“So I was able to slide across back in behind them, and it ended up working out lovely.
“I was at the back of Ayrton and that horse took me everywhere I needed to go. On the straight it was a matter of just being patient, letting him build through his gears.
“He showed a great turn of foot and I haven't had a lot to do with the horse's career, but that was a pretty special performance.
“I was a bit dejected when he drew that barrier (17), but it panned out beautiful for him.”