For Chris Dubois, harness racing has always been in the family. Although Chris admittedly didn’t “grow up in the barn” like a lot of members of the racing community, his father Billy was a trainer his whole life. By the time Chris turned around fourteen, he started to take a liking to horses and began making trips to his dad’s stable a lot more regularly. Soon after, Chris went to work for another stable up in Maine where he also learned a lot about horses and the sport of harness racing. Last year, at the young age of 19, Chris decided to go out on his own.
He didn’t have a lot of money behind him but comprised his barn of cheaper horses to race throughout the State of Maine. Midway through his rookie year, Chris met owner Bob Kluchevitz while the two were in the grandstand at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts. Kluchevitz took a liking to Chris and said that if he could find a horse or two to buy or claim that the pair could have a couple of horses together.
The two acquired a pair of pacers, Time For George and Rockaholic, who enjoyed success right away after moving to the barn of Dubois. Late in ’21, Kluchevitz claimed Roll With Dom for $10,000 on closing day of the Plainridge meet. The talented pacer wound up racing for a month or so at Cumberland in Maine before the conclusion of their meet in December. Dubois finished third in Cumberland’s trainer standings in what was a fantastic rookie campaign for the young conditioner.
When the meet wrapped up, Dubois made the decision to relocate to Saratoga. His uncle Todd had a stable here and gave Chris a couple of stalls. Roll With Dom wasted little time giving Chris his first Spa victory when he prevailed in a claiming race on opening weekend in February. The five year old has continued to climb the class ladder and the nine-time winner in ’21 is on pace to eclipse that mark in the 2022 campaign. On Saturday night, the Dubois stable star competed in the $16,000 Open Pace, a level where he has spent a bit of time of late.
While not necessarily an “Open horse,” Roll With Dom has beaten some top-flight horses at the Spa this summer and did so as recently as August 6th when he prevailed in the $13,750 scoring in 1:52 and change for the second time is as many months. The talented pacer has enjoyed a strong first full season under the guidance of Dubois and looks to have a promising future both in the short and long term.
While Roll With Dom has turned into an upper echelon competitor, there is another Dubois trainee that has thrived throughout the summertime at the Spa. Always Watching had won three times in her previous five tries when Kluchevitz pulled the trigger to claim her in mid-June. Much like new stablemate Roll With Dom, Always Watching won the first time she competed at Saratoga under Dubois and continued to be formidable despite racing up in class after graduating out of the claiming ranks.
Always Watching has spent her month of August competing in the Fillies and Mares Open and while she, like Roll With Dom, is probably a little notch below the caliber of a traditional Open horse, the young mare has had a couple of strong showings against the track’s top ladies. Drawing the rail for her debut in the $16,000 feature for distaffers, Always Watching was aggressively piloted by Jordan Derue while dismissed at odds of 10-1. Always Watching almost held on but had to settle for being the runner-up in her first Open try. She has put together a strong summer and competed most recently on Sunday night in the Fillies and Mares Open.
When I talked to Dubois, I asked him what prompted a 20 year old youngster like himself to make the move from his home state and relocate to Saratoga to race.
“I had family here. My Uncle Todd and my cousins Wil and Sam Dubois train here as well. They all enjoy racing here. I was just getting started and had claimed some pretty good horses. My owner didn’t want to shut down and I had the ambition to race so we decided to come down here,” Dubois told me.
“We were racing in Maine with average quality of stock I’d say but getting some improved horses meant we needed to come here and race for some better money.” To say that move has been a success would be an understatement. Now almost seven months into his first local season, Dubois currently sits ninth in the trainer standings in just his second year as a full-time conditioner and has clearly set himself apart as the favorite for the Peerless McGrath Award, an honor bestowed to the top track’s up-and-coming trainer for that year.
Chris acknowledged knowing about the award and that it would be an honor if he were to win it, but admitted that “while it’s a great goal, I just want to race and do well, continue to grow the business. When we discussed his successes, he was quick to give credit elsewhere.
“My dad Billy has spent his whole life training and taught me everything I know. My owner Bob Kluchevitz has been incredible as well. When I have my eye on a potential buy or claim, I always mention it to him and he is great about it. He trusts me- really has faith in me for as young as I am. That’s not that common.” Kluchevitz, who lives in Blackstone, Massachusetts, usually comes to town on weekends to watch his horses race, Chris says.
“He’ll come to the barn with carrots. He’s got eight horses with me right now so he definitely keeps the barn full. He really enjoys it and we’ve done pretty well so it works out great,” Dubois said of his primary owner.
Dubois has found a home here at Saratoga which has resulted in success business wise and personally as well. Chris is cousins with Saratoga regulars Brett and Jordan Derue and although they are cousins, they’ve lived five or six hours apart for most of their lives and therefore were never really close.
“Now that I’ve been here for the last eight months or so, we’ve gotten close. It’s been really cool,” Chris acknowledged. “Settling down here has been great. It’s a wonderful place to race, great people.” As far as future plans for the ultra-young conditioner, Dubois says that while he loves it here, it’s pretty much every trainer’s dream to be a top guy at the Meadowlands.
“That would be awesome and yeah, that would ultimately be a goal of mine. To race on the biggest days on the big stage,” he admitted. As for the time being, Chris Dubois has not only made a home here at Saratoga but has established himself as the clear front-runner for the Peerless McGrath Award this year as he no doubt, to this point in the season, has been the track’s top breakout star among trainers.
Live racing takes place this weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening starting at 6:45pm each night. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!