By Tony Megahey
For eloquent French trainer Jean Dubois striving for a breakthrough TAB Highway win at Warwick Farm on Saturday is a world away from his Group One Harness pacing glory in Europe.
Jean and his father Jean Pierre were the harness equivalent of our Cummings dynasty with multiple wins in the historic Paris Prix d’Amerique and Sweden’s Elitoppett amidst over 1500 winners and numerous champion performers over decades. Jean says the world class harness events carried similar esteem to the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate.
After a feature race winner at Melbourne’s Tabcorp Park at his first drive in Australia in late 2016, Jean amazingly switched codes to start from scratch. He embarked on a thoroughbred galloping venture with a small team based at Mittagong and trained on the Goulburn track.
“It was time to try something new and different in a new country and I was a much younger man when we won those great races,” Jean offered.
Jean has had his share of winners on provincial tracks and has been competitive in town. His major success so far is the 2017 Listed Albury Gold Cup in March with Green Sweet, ridden by compatriot Johan Victoire. Jean has been close enough in TAB Highway events. Two weeks ago at Rosehill Gardens, his consistent Gitan led and was run down in the late stages by Todd Howlett’s Magic Choir.
On Saturday in a 1600m episode at “The Farm”, Jean’s promising Mate Story with successive mid-week 1550m placings at Canterbury Park and a Kembla success, takes on Highway heavyweights, Matthew Dunn and Danny Williams. They boast 13 and 10 series wins respectively.
City performance continues to be the strongest form line for the series as Mate Story, who raced on pace at Canterbury Park, carries 59kgs (less the 2.5kg claim for in form Lee Magorrian).
Jean is likely to adopt the familiar tactics that brought him phenomenal success as a pacing driver. Mate Story will attempt to lead and dictate the pace, the plan that almost brought Gitan success.
Like Gitan, Mate Story is a natural front runner, ideally suited to the tight Warwick Farm circuit.
Mate Story will be wider in the betting behind the Williams recent Highway winners, Volpe and O’Lordy, Paul Messara’s last start Canterbury Park winner Roseito and Dunn’s Doomben placegetter Isla Tristana. In particular the talented Volpe, is ideally suited out to 1600m.