By Tony Megahey
The accent and demeanour is charming, and with it comes a world renowned European horseman on a new career path, half a world away, contesting a Royal Randwick TAB $60,000 Highway Handicap (1400m) on Saturday.
While Frenchman Jean Etienne Dubois humbly says he’s “simply trying something different” at the gallops, he has just happened to have won several of the greatest Harness Racing events on the planet.
Jean has won the Prix d’ Amerique, contested annually in Paris, in 1979, 1982 and 1996, an event rated amongst the most prestigious in the world, as is Sweden’s Elitloppe (The Elite Race) also won by Jean.
“Ah, a much younger man then, but yes in European Harness, the Prix d ‘Amerique is probably the equivalent of your Melbourne Cup, and the Elitloppet is also world rated,” explained Jean from his new racing stables at Mittagong where he has ten gallopers in work.
They include four-year-old gelding Gitan who takes a strong Canterbury mid-week placing, and 1400m Kembla, Hawkesbury and Goulburn wins in against the TAB Highway dominance of the Dunn and Dale stables. Gitan carries 57.5kg for Tim Clark. Dubois has been in Australia two years, initially in Harness racing where he also won a feature race at Melbourne’s Tabcorp Park. He has had his thoroughbred licence just over a year. Eight provincial winners and a high strike rate, surprises nobody who knows the Frenchman’s horsemanship.
“Yes, we have had some success, I came here for the sunshine, the lifestyle and to try something different and Gitan is a really nice horse in form,” Jean adds after acquiring his licence and soon winning the Albury Gold Cup with Green Sweet, a European Listed winner.
“Tim Clark will ride, we were hoping for a good barrier as he races near the lead and I’m told the horses that finished in front of him at Canterbury had made the form strong.”
The winner, Chris Waller’s Awoke, and Gerald Ryan’s second placegetter The Pharoah have since been runners up in Rosehill Gardens Saturday company.
“And as his form shows, 1400m is his best distance.” Jean adds of Gitan.
Kembla, Hawkesbury and Goulburn winning form has proven right up to the mark in the Highway series. But the form criteria belongs with ten-time Highway winners Matthew Dunn and Matthew Dale.
The majority of Dunn’s series winners have come off winning form at Doomben or Eagle Farm and promising Care To Think accommodates Dunn’s near infallible theory.
Care To Think was a dominant Doomben 1350m winner two weeks ago ridden by Jim Byrne, and significantly accepts for Randwick after also nominating for Doomben on Saturday.
Dale’s Super Star Bob was an impressive Highway winner at headquarters last preparation.
They will share favouritism on Saturday in one of the strongest Highways on record, but the accomplished Frenchman is not here just to be a spectator.