by Adam Hamilton
Long before Dexter Dunn moved to the U.S. and started conquering the world, he launched his driving career working alongside Kate Gath in Australia.
It was during his stint working for Gath and her husband, Andy, back on September 20, 2006 when Dunn drove his first winner – the appropriately-named The Ultimate One at Geelong.
“I had close to a year working for Kate and Andy (Gath). It’s really where it all started for me as far as racing is concerned,” Dunn said. “I was 16 when I started with them, got my licence the day I turned 17 and had my first drive for them that day… and then the first winner a few months later.”
Little did people know the greatness growing at that little property in Long Forest, about an hour outside of Melbourne.
While Dunn’s deeds need no introduction, Kate Gath’s doing remarkable things herself Down Under.
Last year, she won her first Victorian metropolitan driving title, beating Australia’s most successful ever driver, Chris Alford, in the process. She also became just the second female to win the title, following the trailblazing Kerryn Manning.
Gath, who turned 38 in June, has driven 34 Group 1 winners — the most by any female in Australia.
Remarkably, Gath has raised the bar again this season. With four-and-a-half months still to go, she holds an almost unbeatable lead in the metro title again. She’s 26 in front of nearest rival, former Tasmanian young gun Jack Laugher.
And she grabbed Down Under headlines again last Saturday night when she drove a career-best (at a metropolitan class meeting) five winners on the 10-race card at Ballarat.
“I’ve driven five before, but not at a full metro card like the other night,” Gath said. I tend to want to fly under the radar a bit, but I’m really grateful for everything I’ve been able to do in the last couple of years. You are only as good as the horses you drive, it really helps. I’ve been pretty lucky.”
Dunn remains close with the Gaths and isn’t the least bit surprised with Kate’s stunning success.
“Horses just run for Kate, they always have. I remember seeing it as soon as I started working for her and Andy,” he said. “Kate won the Hunter Cup, which is one of the biggest races in Australia, just before I started working for them. It was her first really big win.
“Her and Andy make such a great team. He’s such a terrific tutor and form student. He taught me so much about analysing races, knowing your opposition or doing your form, as they call it back home.
“Even when I came across (from NZ) to Australia for the big races long after I’d left working for them, I’d always ring Andy and he’d go through the race with me before it.
“It’s really great to see the success they are having.”
Andy Gath trained four of Kate’s five winners at Ballarat last Saturday night, which extended his lead to five wins (33 to 28) over the almost unstoppable training force of Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin on the Victorian metropolitan premiership.
Kate is in the unique position of driving for both of Victoria’s leading stables. Stewart and Tonkin’s support over the past 12-18 months has certainly helped boost her numbers and the quality of wins.
Gath’s need for speed isn’t just contained to harness racing. She admits to being “a bit obsessed” with running. She runs 10 kilometres or more most days of the week.
Her burning ambition is to run the Melbourne Marathon in November.
“The running is important to me. I think it keeps me sane,” Gath giggled.
Just a few months back she drove three hours from home to a country race meeting, competed in the first two races and used her two-gap between drives later in the day to go for a six-kilometre run at an impressive 4:30 pace.
“As any driver will tell you, you don’t have a lot of spare time between the travel and the races. So you have to make the most of it,” she said.