Against all odds, Waterhouse took on Sydney, and won
Bill Waterhouse's memory for detail never faded with the passing of time. His mind remained as sharp as ever even though his body was failing him.
I called the legendary bookmaker earlier this year hoping to get his opinion on where Winx rated among the pantheon of the all-time great horses. Waterhouse had seen the legendary Phar Lap and was in a better position than most to make a comparison. He didn't need any prompting on this topic.
"As a boy, I saw Phar Lap race at Randwick, winning three times over the seven days of the (1930) AJC Carnival,'' Waterhouse told me.
"He created a huge impression on me. I 'knew' he was the greatest horse to ever race. Young eyes allow a champion to make an enormous impact.
"I have always rated Phar Lap as the greatest horse I've seen and Black Caviar as the fastest but now I have to acknowledge, Winx is, I think, superior to Phar Lap.
"Winx is the best racehorse I ever seen in my 97 years. Moreover, I'm told, she may have the 'quickest' stride ever recorded. She is the best ever!''
This was the last time I ever spoke to Bill Waterhouse. The biggest bookmaker of them all died on Friday. His passing truly is the end of an era in Australian racing.
Waterhouse was different things to different people. He had his enemies but in his business, that comes with the territory.
In his 2009 autobiography, "What Are The Odds?", Waterhouse wrote: "I don't pretend to be a 'Simon Pure'. I have sometimes cut corners to get what I needed, but I am certainly no crook.''
Waterhouse, the patriarch of the most famous family in Australian racing, was also a contradiction. He played life like he played gamblers - he took his chances.
"Dad was 6ft 4 and a half, he was overweight all his life, he would often drink too much, he used to smoke up to 150 cigarettes a day and he never did any exercise,'' his son, Robbie Waterhouse said.
"Who do you know has lived as long as him and overcome those handicaps! He has lived a truly extraordinary life.''
With loving pride and admiration in his voice, Robbie Waterhouse then rattled off some of his father's life achievements.
"Dad studied law and became a barrier, he was the largest seller of liquor in the 1940s, he was the leading hotelier in Australia in the 1950s, he was the world's leading bookmaker for 40 years, he was Australia's longest-serving diplomate, and he's written a best-selling book,'' Robbie said. "He was unique.''
In his prime, Bill Waterhouse was arguably the greatest gambler of them all. His duels with fearless punters like Kerry Packer, Felipe Ysmael, Frank Duval, Ray Hopkins and Peter Huxley is the stuff of racetrack legend.
But Waterhouse was never far from scandal and controversy. This came to a crescendo in 1984 when he and son, Robbie, were warned off for having prior knowledge of the 1984 Fine Cotton ring-in scandal.
"My numerous trials and tribulations with racing officials and court cases were all part of life's tapestry,'' Waterhouse wrote in his autobiography.
"The Fine Cotton betting scandal cruelly and unfairly took away my livelihood and almost made me an outcast, but it drew my family even closer.''
Waterhouse did not regain his bookmaker's licence until 2002. He then trained his grandson, Tom, as a fourth-generation Waterhouse bookmaker and together they became the nation's largest on-course bookmaker in 2007 and 2008.
Then in 2010, Waterhouse decided at 88 years of age to retire from bookmaking.
In his last day fielding on track at Randwick, Waterhouse was asked by a television reporter to place a mock $50 bet to camera.
When the reporter later asked for her money back, Waterhouse said: "No, the bet stands.''
The horse ran third. Waterhouse was a winner to the end.