Growing up in a trotting family in remote Port Pirie, Kate Gath watched in awe and envy as her father drove so many winners.
“Postman” Peter Thompson – as Gath’s father was known – was a bit of a legend on the South Australian circuit and Gath dreamed of following in his footsteps.
Fast-forward 25 years and the wheels have turned full circle. Thompson is now humbly and proudly known by most as Kate Gath’s Dad.
Nobody will be watching with more joy, satisfaction and maybe a dash of nerves than “Postman Pete” when Gath takes the reins on Australasia’s most exciting pacer, Ride High, for the first time when he chases his 16th win from just 17 starts at Terang tomorrow night.
Gath upstaged greats like Chris Alford and Greg Sugars to “win” the drive on Ride High after regular driver Kima Frenning this week announced she was stepping aside from race driving to focus on training.
Theoretical betting markets were framed on who would replace Frenning and Gath wasn’t even mentioned. It was slightly disrespectful in retrospect, but also underlines the magnitude of the surprise when Gath landed the plumb gig.
Gath, 37, was just as surprised as anyone when trainer Clayton Tonkin rang her at 8.30am on Thursday.
“It was completely out of the blue and I couldn’t quite believe it. My heart started to beat out of my chest when Clayton told me,” she said. “I remember when he (Ride High) won at Bendigo (and smashed the track record), Andy and I were the only two people in the grandstand watching and he gave us goosebumps. He’s something else.
Ride High winning at Melton. Picture: Stuart McCormickSource:Supplied
“I’d like to thank Clayton, Emma (Stewart, co-trainer) and Peter Gleeson (owner-breeder) for this opportunity.
“I’ve had the privilege of driving some nice horses for them before and I have nothing but respect for the job Emma and Clayton do. I can’t wait to drive him (Ride High) for the first time.
“And I want to say how remarkable this great sport is that you can be a 37-year-old female and just getting to your prime. That’s pretty awesome I think.”
Tonkin and Stewart have used Gath on their horses previously with success and she obviously impressed.
“We’ve gone with Kate. There’s a heap of mutual respect between us, Kate and Andy (Gath) and we know the horse will get well looked after (in his races),” Stewart said.
Tonkin added: “This has been a long and stressful decision with a horse as good as him. We worked through so many options and changed our minds a few times along the way.”
Beyond tomorrow night, Ride High’s main target is the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 10. He’s TAB’s $2.10 prepost favourite.
Gath is no stranger to driving star horses in major races, having won a string of features, including the 2018 Inter Dominion trotting final on Tornado Valley at Melton.
She’s also won Victoria’s two biggest pacing races, the Hunter Cup on About To Rock in 2006 and the Victoria Cup on Caribbean Blaster in 2012. Both trained by her husband, Andy.
Originally published asKate is ready for the Ride of her life
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