The butterflies were fluttering in Mat Rue’s stomach, as he walked into the Menangle barn on Sunday April 28th 2013.
He’d been away for several weeks, looking after a team of 15 horses which had been campaigning in Brisbane for the Luke McCarthy stable. Mat had been working for Luke for a short time, and had already been surprised by the generous number of drives to come his way.
He was astounded to be called up on such an important day, to drive five horses for Luke and one for John McCarthy. He had to pinch himself to believe that two of those drives were in Group 1 races.
He finished second on Luksam in a 3 year old race, and then came the unforgettable thrill of his first Group 1 win, on Lettucerockthem in the $300,000 APG 2YO C&G Final. He led and beat stablemates All Eyes On Us and Bling It On.
Then came a third placing on Ohoka Colorado, followed by another third on Waltzing With Cullen. Young Mat was right on song by the time he went out on the 5 year old mare Baby Bling for the $750,000 SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile. It’s now a matter of record that the daughter of Western Terror, travelled 3 pegs before getting out at exactly the right time. She grabbed the lead close to home and held on to beat the fast finishing Terror To Love(also by Western Terror), with rank outsider Pure Power third in 1.50.5.
“Luke rang me before I left Brisbane, and told me not to sell the mare short”, recalled Mat. “He said her work had been brilliant, and given a soft run, she was a realistic chance”. Mat was unplaced on I’m A Target, his final drive of the day- a day he’ll remember for the rest of his life.
Mat Rue was born and reared in the quaint little township of Canowindra(population 2,500 in 2016),on the Belubula River between Orange and Cowra.Veteran trotting men in the town, are still quick to remind you that two great horses were bred there in the 1960’s. The champion Halwes was foaled at the Red Shadow Stud just across the road from the Rue property, and the brilliant but erratic Idle Raider was born a couple of kilometres along the Mandurama road.
Mat’s father Ken always had two or three horses in work, so the youngster formed an early affinity with the standardbred breed. Uncle Greg Rue has been a successful trainer and horse breaker, and he too played a part in his nephew’s education.
Mat was just seventeen when a horse called Miracle In Time walked into his Dad’s stable, and this was the horse to launch his driving career. The pair combined to win eleven races on Western Districts tracks. Always keen to further his education, young Rue jumped at the opportunity to work for Bernie Hewitt, who had a big team in work at George’s Plains near Bathurst.
He spent three years working for the respected trainer, who rewarded him with many driving opportunities. Around this time, Nathan Hurst was sidelined with injury for close to twelve months, and his father Kevin put many drives the way of young M.P.Rue, who had the benefit of a junior concession at the time.
“I got to drive Tulhurst King and Tulhurst Major for the Hursts, and Bernie gave me a few chances on a very good horse called Screaman Seaman”, recalled Rue. “I got to win a 3YO race on him at Menangle one night.”
Mat had an almost obsessive desire to work in New Zealand, and rejected an offer from Luke McCarthy to work at his newly established Cobbitty property. “I really didn’t want to work at another NSW stable”, said Mat this week.”I was hell-bent on working for a top NZ stable, but I had no connections there. Luke asked me to work for him for 3 months, and if I still felt strongly about the NZ thing, he promised to help me find a job there”.
In the months that followed Mat’s NZ dream faded. He won on I’m Hoodwinked at his very first drive for McCarthy, and then followed a swag of wins on horses like Lightning Raider(Shirley Turnbull Memorial),Roman Stride(4 wins including Canberra Cup),Mandy Rambo, Our Cullen’s Crown, Garnet River, Ideal Scott. A little later Baby Bling and Lettucerockthem put the icing on the cake.
“By the time I lost my concession, I’d been with Luke for two and a half years, and felt it was time to move on”, said Mat. “I felt the time was right to explore America, and with Luke’s help we got a start with expat Aussie Noel Daly at Magical Acres in New Jersey”.
Mat and partner Gemma Hewitt actually lived in a cottage on the Daly farm. Mat worked for Noel, and Gemma got a job just up the road at the stables of Paul Reid, who specialised in 2YO trotters. Rue secured an interim race driving licence, and had 29 drives on tracks like the Meadowlands, Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Chester.”I didn’t drive a winner, but I had 5 seconds and 2 thirds”, said Mat. “A couple of those seconds were on my old Aussie mate Garnet River”.
After four months the young couple returned to Australia,where Bernie Hewitt was desperate for some help. He had no objection to Mat integrating a few of his own horses into the team, and so the training career of M.P.Rue got under way.
It didn’t take Mat long to uncover a nice horse, courtesy of well known owner Tony Pace. The young trainer painstakingly looked after a Rock N Roll Heaven gelding by the name of Fouroeight, currently the winner of 10 races.After a light 2YO campaign, Fouroeight struck form at 3 years, to win the Bathurst Gold Chalice Final beating Charlaval and Soho Tribeca. Later he ran a cracking fourth in the Breeder’s Challenge Final, after a chequered run.
He added the Gr 3 Mount Eden 4YO Stakes to his record in June 2017, followed by two unplaced runs in very fast time at Menangle, and then it was out for a good spell.
Next prep he was only a week off a trial, when disaster struck. “I’ve no idea what happened but we found him in his day paddock in terrible trouble”, grimaced Mat. “Our worst fears were realised when X/Rays revealed a fractured pelvis”.
The lightly raced gelding has been out for 7 months, and Mat is currently arranging to bring him down to the Agnes Banks Vet Clinic, to determine the state of the pelvic injury.
During that seven month period, horses like Caribbean Jack, Callmequeenbee Hammertime Harley and Sounds Like Art have helped Mat and Gemma through a very difficult time.
Just over a year ago Mat decided that his wife should take over the training role, leaving him free to concentrate on freelance driving. Gemma had learned all the basics of training and stable management from her Dad Bernie Hewitt, and is doing a very thorough job running the Rue stable.
Gemma has twenty horses in work at the old Bathurst Showground, including six rising two year olds. She and Mat are ably assisted by 19 year old Tom Pay who’s showing plenty of potential in the gig, and 73 year old Darrell Jones, who belies his years. According to Mat, Darrell “runs around like a yearling” looking after boxes and waters, handling the jogging machine, and fixing anything in the place that needs fixing.
They’re a likeable young couple these Rues. Both have the right pedigree, the right background and the right work ethic. They both love the sport with a passion. And to think one of them has already driven a Miracle Mile winner.