WHEN Mat Rue was growing up working in his parents' stables he dreamed of one day being able to drive a winner - well he's done that and then some.
On Friday night at the Parkes Harness Racing Club meeting as Rue saluted aboard $3.10 favourite Art Legend, it marked the 1,000th winning drive of his career.
The affable 32-year-old laughed and said it was a good milestone to get "out of the road", but the broad smile on his face as he crossed the finish line showed what it meant to him.
"It's good to get it out of the road, when harness racing first put a thing about it there were 12 to go and sometimes 12 can take awhile to notch up, luckily for me it went reasonably quick," he said.
"It's pretty cool, 1,000 races is a lot of races to be in, let alone winning that many. There's been a lot of late nights and early mornings to get to that.
"When you're kicking off you don't think things like that are going to happen. I was just happy to get out there and get a win, you're never sure how it's going to go for you, so you just want to get amongst it and see where it takes you."
A third generation member of his family involved in the industry, Rue's journey to 1,000 winners has taken him to tracks across Australia, to America and to his base in Bathurst which the trainer-driver now calls home.
His first big feature win came in the 2011 Group 3 Shirley Turnbull Memorial with Lightning Raider, while the night of April 28, 2013 is one that will long live in Rue's memory.
That night he drove a Group 1 double, including taking out the Miracle Mile aboard Baby Bling.
"The Miracle Mile stands on it's own and I guess it will never be topped, but apart from that it would be Fouroeight's Shirley Turnbull win," Rue said.
"There's definitely been a lot of good ones along the way, winning the Canola Cup a few years ago, anyone's who's won that will know it feels like a much bigger race than what it probably is.
"I've had crazy support along the way, like so many people have supported me, like people throwing me drives when I first started. There's only one way to learn and that's having people put you on."
Just as the Miracle Mile win tops Rue's list of favourite wins from his 1,000, Fouroeight ranks as his favourite horse.
Together they won the Group 3 Mount Eden Stakes, the 2016 Bathurst Gold Chalice Final (Group 3) and the 2021 Shirley Turnbull Memorial (Group 2).
It's horses like Fouroeight, who retired earlier this year, that have kept Rue involved in the industry.
"There have been plenty of horses along the way that have been difficult to drive. I've been super lucky though with some of the horses I have been able to drive along the way," he said.
"Along the way there have been plenty of highs, but there's also been plenty of lows, if not more. There have been plenty of times along the way where you think 'I don't know if I want to keep doing this forever'.
"But it's just what it does, it's like a drug, it just sucks you back in. We all go through times when you think you've had enough, but it only takes you to get on a bit of a roll to think 'I can't imagine doing anything else'.
"You just never know where that next good one is."
Rue headed to Parkes on Friday night just two wins away from the milestone.
He ticked over to 999 when getting the job done with Tony Higgs' Silk Cloud ($2 favourite) and after six-year-old Art Legend began well for him to find the front, Rue could feel his moment had arrived.
"He give me a good feel the whole way really, definitely down the back I started thinking 'It could be it, I'm going pretty well'," Rue said.
"I think what made it even better was the guy who trained it, Darren Harris, it was his first win as a trainer, so that was really good.
"He's been involved with plenty of wins before with his family, but it's the first one that's been under his name, so that was good, that's for sure."
The win was the first in 21 starts for six-year-old Art Legend, gapping his rivals by 11.4m as he cruised home.
Adding to the moment was that Rue's 1,000th win came at the same venue where he notched up his first successful drive aboard Lace and Whisky.
"That was a long time ago, 2005, but I remember it like it was yesterday to be honest. So I think it was good to get my 1,000 at Parkes, that's for sure," he said.
After a special night on Friday, Saturday morning it was back to forking out in the stables for Rue.
He's thinking ahead to another week of racing and his ongoing mission to find more success.
"It's going to be a lot harder to get that second thousand, but anyway, we'll see how we go," he chuckled.
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