EXCLUSIVE: Suzanne Waterhouse funeral: Who’s Who of Australia’s society elite and a Pacific Island princess gather for the funeral of matriarch of horse-racing dynasty
Australia’s horse racing royalty joined a real Pacific Island princess and some of the country’s society and political elite in farewelling Suzanne Waterhouse, the matriarch of the country’s most prominent horse training and bookmaking dynasty.
Mrs Waterhouse, who died last month aged 93, was remembered at a funeral service held at Mosman in Sydney on Thursday as ‘hysterically funny even on her deathbed’ – even attending rock concerts in her 80s.
Suzanne’s bookmaker son, Robbie Waterhouse; daughter-in-law, Australia’s best racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse; their son, businessman Tom; and Robbie and Gai’s daughter, racing fashion icon, Kate Waterhouse and her husband, retired NFL footballer, Luke Ricketson all attended the service.
Guests who gathered at the Scots Kirk Church included Princess Latufuipeka Tuku’aho of Tonga, former Liberal Party senators Bronwyn Bishop and Helen Coonan, a representative of NSW Governor Margaret Beazley, NRL WAG and Real Housewives of Sydney star Terry Biviano, Eastern suburbs socialite Angela Belle McSweeney, and racehorse owner and breeder John Muir.
Suzanne, who is the widow of Big Bill’ Waterhouse – once the biggest bookmaker in the world – went to hospital after a massive heart attack in late August and died peacefully surrounded by her family.
Called ‘Suzy’ by the Waterhouse family, she was remembered as a special friend ‘of the people of Tonga’, her late husband having served as the Honorary Consul-General of Tonga.
In a eulogy to his mother, Robbie Waterhouse described his mother as ‘a great role model and a great inspiration – she was a true matriarch’ who had encouraged generations of Waterhouses into swimming, sailing and skiing.
She remembered her ‘marvellous dry and sardonic humour’ and wisecracks.
Robbie said she was ‘actually hysterically funny’ on her death bed and remembered her by quoting the late Queen Elizabeth II: ‘Grief is the price you pay for love’.
Robbie’s sister Louise remembered her mother as being ‘ahead of her time’ enjoying karaoke and rock music.
She attended concerts including that of popstar Pink who was amazed to see ‘Mum at 85 grooving along beneath her’.
Breaking down in tears, Louise said ‘Mum … I’m sure there’s opera in heaven’.
At her funeral, a thumping 44-page order of service packed with photographs of Suzanne’s remarkable life was given to mourners, who were serenaded with an operatic rendition of Handel’s Where’er You Walk.
Both Tom and Gai Waterhouse delivered readings, and Kate Waterhouse and Luke Ricketson read the Prayers of the Faithful.
Kate and Luke and Tom and Hoda Waterhouse’s children, Sophia and Grace Ricketson and Layla, William and Rose Waterhouse all read out poems they dedicated to their great grandmother, Sophia calling her ‘the trunk of my tree’ and Layla saying it made ‘saying goodbye so hard’.
After Robbie and To Waterhouse and Luke Ricketson carried the coffin out from the church, the children skylarked on the steps, as Bronwyn Bishop, Terry Biviano and others chatted before leaving for a wake where mourners planned to drink champagne in Suzanne’s honour.
Bookmaker Robbie has earlier revealed that his mother’s humour remained to the end of her long life.
‘Mum said to the nurses, “I’m obviously dying – Rob has never visited me before work in his life!”, ‘ he said.
Speaking about the hospital staff, he wrote on Facebook about his mum’s final moments: ‘They decided, with our permission, to administer a painkiller which can hasten death,’ he wrote.
‘Mum asked what it was, I told [her]. She said, pointing her finger at me: “Et tu Brute”, which is what Shakespeare has Caesar say to his best [friend] Brutus as he was stabbed.
‘Mum laughed. What a star.’
‘She was loved by all, her children, Gai & Gunther, her grandchildren & particularly her 5 great g’children,’ Robbie wrote. ‘She lived her 93 years so fully & independently.’
Suzanne’s husband Bill died aged 97 in November 2019 after 65 years of marriage.
The couple had married twice. At her mother’s funeral, a tearful Louise Waterhouse revealed what her father’s last words to her mother were.
‘She married a dashing barrister who turned into a workaholic bookmaker, their love story had an Elizabeth Taylor twist. They were married twice,’ Louise said. ‘(Bill Waterhouse’s last words to her were): “I adore you and I wouldn’t want to live without you”.’
Bill and Suzanne’s children Robbie and David both followed in their father’s footsteps as bookmakers, as did Robbie and Gai’s son Tom. Louise has also been involved in the family business.
Tom’s sister Kate has worked as a model and journalist and is married to retired NRL star Luke Ricketson.
Gai, who is one of Australia’s leading racehorse trainers, is the daughter of the late Tommy Smith, another legendary trainer.
David, who has been estranged from the family for the past 30 years, is an options trader.
Bill and Robbie were stripped of their bookmaking licences and warned off racetracks when they were found to have had prior knowledge of the Fine Cotton ring-in.
Fine Cotton was substituted for the better-performed Bold Personality in a race at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm in August 1984.
Bold Personality won the race as Fine Cotton but the fraud was exposed in part because of its painted legs and poorly dyed coat.
At her husband’s book launch, Suzanne said the Fine Cotton affair had deeply hurt the family but still found room for a joke.
”If we’d had anything to do with it we would have painted the horse better,’ she told a reporter from The Sydney Morning Herald.
Bill and Robbie maintained their innocence over the ring-in and their licences were eventually restored.