YEAR: 2007


Dave McGowan doesn't care if he's fragile and gets weepy when One Dream wins. He's past caring what other people think. And he's been told by the people who matter most - his wife Clare, driver Frank Cooney and owner Jill Smolenski - to stop the worry and start enjoying watching the champion filly race. And now, he is.

He couldn't remember a day at the races he enjoyed so much as he did at Addington last Saturday - not because One Dream won the $125,000 Nevele R Fillies Final like the trooper she is, but because he'd gone to the races and gone without the pressure. Before, he carried it inside like a friend who wouldn't leave. "As she kept winning, I felt the pressure more and more. No-one else did. It was just me, putting the pressure on myself. I was being growled at to enjoy what she was doing."

And then, One Dream was beaten in the Northern Oaks by a dropped whip and Running On Faith. "I was just waiting for the bubble to burst. I was a mess after that, not because she lost, but because it was over. I was not enjoying going to the races - I was so scared. And I thought 'Ooo, whats happening here?' The good thing was that it brought everything back into perspective for me."

With some relief from that, McGowan was able to sit back and analyse how One Dream had been racing, and he knew she wasn't quite playing the game. "She wasn't hitting the line like I knew she should. So I gave it some thought and decided to work her in half blinds. I had no need to do it, but she was being a bit casual and I knew she needed a wee tune-up." They went on last Tuesday, but not for her work on Thursday, as McGowan considered they had done what he intended. He was right. "I pulled her out on Thursday, to see if it had made any difference. Well, holy sh... I wasn't ready for it, and lost control for a short time," he said.

That was the horse that took the unflappable Cooney to a convincing win over Belletti in the Group 1 feature. "I've driven some good fillies, like Alta Serena and Oaxaca Lass, but they couldn't do what this filly can do," Cooney said. "My own belief is that she's better coming off the back of one, and she's better racing this way round," he said.

A sensitive and gentle man, McGowan had more pleasing moments to come after the race. "Frank and I were taking her back to the box, and each driver of the next race we passed on the track called out their congratulations to us. It makes you feel good about yourself, and you could tell they love to see a great horse win. She's such a sweet horse... no ears back, no swishy tail. And she gets so excited when she goes out to fast work. At home, we'll either go left to the jog track or right when we go to our fast work track. She gets that spring in her stride when we turn right and she knows what's happening," he said.

McGowan made his start in Canterbury with Brian Gliddon, when he had Frosty Lobell and Alias Armbro, followed by time with Murray Hamilton and Peter Robinson, and his first training winner was Fergie's Rocket who won eight for J X Ferguson. He doesn't think the success he's had with One Dream has been a huge success for business, but a documentary on 'The Racing Show' brought him Sue Dreamer, Alta Sirocco and Nicky Hanover. "They've all come with their little problems, but that's where Clare is so good in helping them thinking it through. I really think Sue Dreamer is the fastest horse over a furlong I've sat behind, and I think there is a lot more in her."

Another key to the success of the team is stable driver Nicole Molander. "She's there every morning, and she comes back and tells us things that only we know about. She gives you all this information, and it's all about caring for your horse and making a difference," he said.

McGowan is well aware of where he's heading with One Dream, and the program from here is simple and laid out - as it was when they started. "It's easy to plan for her, because the races are programmed. She races this week in the Oaks, then the Harness Jewels, a heat of the Breeders' Crown at Cambridge at the end of July, a semi-final, then the final, and then it's a spell for two months. Very limited mileage really, because Jill has said she does not want a tired broodmare." So nice for them too, knowing they have a half-sister by In The Pocket waiting in the wings to take her place. "And she knows what life's about. She has that same attitude and quiet aggression that One Dream has," he said.

So, has McGowan really shaken the pressure off? "On Sunday I had a lovely time taking Mum out for Mother's Day, and on Saturday night we celebrated and I had two gins. That was the first time I'd done that since Ballarat." Perhaps he has.

In the meantime, Smolenski has Fraser - her maiden name - Island, a half-brother by Island Fantasy, to look forward to, while their dam Solitaire will be going to Christian Cullen next season.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16May07

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