The TAB Highway series has been career defining for regional trainers and French journeyman Lou Mary can further enhance his rising reputation with a realistic fourth series win at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday with Magic Pharoah.
At a value $14 on TAB, the four-year-old mare offers compelling form with a recent powerful winning episode at headquarters and an unlucky third into a $120,000 Class 3, set weights Highway Plate (1500m) with 55.5kg for regular rider Englishman Tom Sherry.
In a relatively short space, the personable young trainer from historic Beaupreau-en-Mauges, equine and farming territory west of Paris, is operating at an astonishing 18% winning strike rate and 28% placings.
And this year, 19 wins and 11 placings, including three Highways since taking out a licence four seasons ago at Scone.
After a decade working in Europe, England and Ireland as a co-foreman or trackwork rider in racing stables or studs.
Of Lou’s small team Magic Pharaoh, a four-year-old American Pharaoh-Magic on Show mare is the most promising as Lou assessed some adversity into Saturday’s races as she rises 1.5kg from her recent win.
“She’s a really consistent and genuine mare, but barrier 14 with the rail out 6 metres means we’ll need a lot of luck in a big field,” Lou explained.
“But if we get a strong tempo, and they usually are in Highways and they string out, she’ll be really strong at the finish back to 1500m.
“After she won at a ‘mile’ at Randwick Tom said she’ll get further for sure, maybe 1800m or 2000m.
“And she’ll be a better and stronger mare next prep at five. But these are hard to win, I always respect the opposition.
“Racing is a tough game, there’s more disappointment than the good times. You just have to keep working hard and our team does that all the time.
“When you only have a small team and no stars it’s essential to place them in the right races.”
Meanwhile, the Highway series, rising in status every season, has provided profile country trainers with career highlights.
Celebrated veterans Keith Dryden with Handle the Truth and Brett Cavanough with It’s Me, won The Kosciuszko after those respective gallopers emerged through Highway winning doubles.
Also, Luke Pepper with his Group-winning mare Opal Ridge won dual episodes.
Lou has those ambitions and a strong work ethic but takes nothing for granted as he has endured some tough times.
After coming to Australia in 2009 and working at Kilmore stables and driving a horse transport truck to make ends meet, he fractured his shoulder riding trackwork.
At just 21, Lou near broke slept in his car for months before turning up at the Messara’s Arrowfield Stud in Scone asking for a job.
Paul Messara took one look at Lou’s battered old car, told him to start work the next day and gave him accommodation. He stayed for seven years as trackwork ride foreman and pre-trainer.
“It’s all I know, I started riding back home at 11, didn’t like schoolwork, my father told me if I wasn’t going to pursue studies, learn to work hard real quick.”
Stay Safe the $3.50 TAB favourite (in from $4) with Nash Rawiller ahead of Zippo Idea ($10 into $6) and Reece Jones to ride.
– Racing NSW