By Ray Hickson
Trainer Jean Dubois says former Godolphin mare Ladder was purchased to be a broodmare and that’s exactly what she’ll be shortly after she makes her debut for the Frenchman at Hawkesbury on Wednesday.
That’s right, even if Ladder is first past the post in the Clarendon Tavern Handicap (1300m) she’s heading to the Hunter Valley to be served by Air Force Blue.
The four-year-old made an impressive winning debut under ex-Godolphin trainer John O’Shea at Newcastle in January and finished a close second at her only other start before being sold for $70,000.
Dubois is hoping Ladder, who won a Warwick Farm 1200m trial last week, can make a dent in that purchase price, or at least cover the $16,500 service fee, at Hawkesbury.
“I’m sure she is fit enough to be competitive and we are aiming to be in the first three,’’ Dubois said.
“She’s come up well, she trialled nicely but a trial is something different from racing.’’
Ladder wins her Warwick Farm trial - November 6
Dubois is manager of Woodpark Stud near Mittagong and trains out of Goulburn.
He said there’s no reason to wait until next spring to send Ladder to a stallion despite having only a small band of 12 horses in work.
“The purpose with her is to be a broodmare, she has a nice pedigree so she’s racing this week then she’s going to Air Force Blue,’’ he said.
“As soon as she’s ready she will be covered by him. We don’t waste any time and she can still race on for a few months.
“She’s a big Commands mare and Commands is a good broodmare sire.’’
It’s fair to say trainer Dubois doesn’t fit the mould of your typical racehorse trainer.
The French expat has been quietly building a team since taking out his training license in July 2016 but with a background as a champion harness racing trainer, driver and breeder his decision to train thoroughbreds is eye-opening.
He’s far from a novice with the thoroughbred, though, as he was actively involved in the French breeding industry through a stud farm near Deauville in the Normandy region.
He humbly describes himself as "not the worst" harness racing driver - his CV includes multiple French Group 1s and many other majors around Europe - but admits he’s learning every day about training a thoroughbred.
“I was 46 when I came here (two years ago), it was my last chance to try out something else,’’ he said.
“I was always passionate about thoroughbreds, I wanted to try for a long time and I thought Australia was the right place to try.
“I was looking for a place not too far from Sydney and the area reminds me a bit of where I was in France. It’s quite green and hilly and looks like a bit of Europe.
“It takes time but it is building slowly. At the moment we are trying a bit of everything.’’
Dubois had his biggest success to date earlier this year when French import Green Sweet won the Albury Gold Cup at his second Australian start.
The lightly raced stayer was due to resume racing in October but had a setback and is likely to resurface prior to Christmas.
Aside from Ladder, Dubois is also taking debutant Red Captain and four-year-old Rocky Ridge to Hawkesbury.
Of that pair, Dubois said he has a lot of time for Red Captain, a three-year-old by Street Boss, who ran fourth at his only trial on November 6.
He’s a little reserved about the gelding’s chances in the Lander Toyota Plate (1300m) as Red Captain wasn’t let go on the synthetic surface.
“I like him very much and I think he will be a nice horse,’’ Dubois said.
“He was a late foal and he has taken a bit of time. I put him over 1300m, I don’t know if he is fast enough or if he will be more a miler.
“He could have a second trial but I prefer to run him than trial him.’’