Career win for Myrniong couple

Just Believe (Stuart McCormick)

Tim O'Connor

The husband-and-wife team of Greg Sugars and Jess Tubbs celebrated the biggest moment of their careers when a horse that only set foot in their Myrniong stables this year won the Inter Dominion Trotting Championship grand final.

Just Believe completed a clean sweep of the heats and decider with a gutsy, gritty performance in Saturday night’s $250,000 showdown at Melton, lunging at long-time leader Majestuoso in the shadows of the post to claim victory.

The half-neck success bettered the horse’s third placing in last year’s Inter Dominion decider at Menangle when he was trained by Michael Hughes, who called time on his involvement in the sport and sent the six-year-old gelding to the Tubbs-Sugars barn.

“I just can’t believe it – this is not a trophy I ever expected to be holding,” Tubbs, the official trainer of the horse, said.

“To do it with Greg is just amazing. It’s such a family effort at our stables, we’ve got such a great group of owners and this horse is just a little legend.

“And he just tried his guts out. For him to earn that title and for us to have done this as a family is just incredible.”

Just Believe progressed through the ID22 heats unbeaten after front-running wins from favourable barriers at Ballarat, Shepparton and Geelong, but some had gone cold on his chances after landing gate 12 for the final.

But a brilliant Sugars drive helped secure the champion reinsman a second-successive Inter Dominion trotting crown after prevailing aboard Maori Law for Richard and Emmett Brosnan in 2021.

Sugars rolled to a spot outside surprise early leader Majestuoso at the 1500m mark and remained there until the closing stages of the marathon 2760m event. Andy Gath’s charge skipped clear in the straight and looked the winner, but Just Believe dug deep to reel him in just before the post and snatch a thrilling victory.

Favourite Queen Elida, for Brent Lilley and Chris Alford, got out from three back the pegs and flashed home for third, with John Justice’s Mufasa Metro fourth from behind the leader.

“I didn’t have a lot of options from the draw. I had to put him in the hunt when I could, so it worked out great,” Sugars said.

“I thought my three main dangers were going to have soft trips one, two and three fence, so I knew I would get around (to outsider the leader) pretty comfortably and it sort of worked out that way.

“But I was just mindful off the back that I didn’t want to be a sitting shot for Mufasa Metro or Queen Elida because I knew they were going to be hitting the line late.

“It was just a matter of doing enough without doing too much.

“This is something special.”

Just Believe’s large, passionate group of owners were on track to celebrate the success, with the Iona Trotter Syndicate leasing the horse off breeder Pat Driscoll of Yabby Dam Farms.

The Orlando Vici gelding won eight races for former trainer Hughes and has now triumphed in seven of 10 starts since joining Tubbs and Sugars.

He has a record of 15 wins from 51 starts with prizemoney earnings now up over $390,000.