Mitchell Pateman grew up watching replays of his late father Michael’s famous Group 1 win with star sprinter Willougby over and over.
Now at the age of 27 and less than a year into his full-time training career, Mitchell is daring to dream of joining his dad on the Ascot Group 1 honour roll when he starts This’ll Testya in the $1.5 million Winterbottom Stakes.
Michael Pateman, a leading apprentice jockey in the 1970s and successful trainer in the 1990s, lost his long battle with cancer in 2013.
Just 18 at the time and in the early stages of fulfilling his childhood dream of being a jockey, Mitchell famously rode two days after his father’s death and saluted to the heavens after winning on Black Romeo at Belmont Park.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” Mitchell said.
“I think of him every day. I wish he was here to help me with my training, I miss him a lot.
“I was three when he won the Railway. I remember the photos on the wall and watching the replay about 1000 times.
“I always looked up to him and if I could be in the same class as him, as a Group 1-winning trainer, it would be a massive achievement.”
Mitchell followed in his father and mother Maria Hunter’s footsteps when he became an apprentice jockey at the age of 15.
His career in the saddle was a rollercoaster, battling weight problems but also showcasing his talent with multiple Albany premierships and a record-breaking season in Kalgoorlie.
“My dream was always to be a jockey, but obviously when my weight got to the point where it did, training was the logical progression,” Mitchell said.
“I’m enjoying it. It’s a lot easier on the body and my mental health.”
Mitchell bowed out of race riding a winner on Spin The Knife at Ascot last January. Just over two hours later, This’ll Testya gave him a dream start to his full-time training career by winning at the same meeting.
The fiery but talented mare had been transferred to Mitchell’s Ascot stable in a final bid to regain form after losing her way.
The Pateman family had initially picked her out at the Magic Millions Perth yearling sale in 2017.
“Mum was going to train her but after she was broken in, she was just too hard to handle,” Mitchell recalled.
“You couldn’t put her on a float. Anything in a confined space was a ‘no’. So she went to Adam Durrant.”
This’ll Testya made national headlines when winning her first two starts in 2019 by more than 11 lengths combined.
“A lot of people forget after her second start she was the third or fourth favourite for The Everest,” Mitchell said.
“The ability has always been there, she just went missing for a few years.”
This’ll Testya won back-to-back races for Pateman last summer, including the Cyril Flower Stakes, but a dismal defeat in the Marjorie Charleson Classic in April had Mitchell and connections contemplating her retirement.
They chose to persist and returning as a seven-year-old mare, the daughter of Testa Rossa has recaptured her best form to emerge as a genuine contender in Saturday’s Winterbottom Stakes (1200m).
She followed brave seconds to Winterbottom rival Miss Conteki in the Crawford Stakes (1000m) and Prince Of Wales Stakes (1000m) with a superb victory in the Group 3 Colonel Reeves Stakes (1100m).
“She’s defied the odds a couple of times now,” Mitchell said.
“I feel very lucky and very blessed that she’s come back into my life.
“She’s just loving life. She did her pre-training with (jockey) Lucy Warwick and Brandon Fiore and she’s just thrived off that.
“With any luck she would have won her first two runs this prep, so she deserved it the other day.”
This’ll Testya is a $9.50 chance with Ladbrokes and has drawn barrier nine.
“Mum was quick to text me saying Willoughby drew barrier nine and jumped from eight when he won the Railway, so hopefully history repeats,” Mitchell said.
“I honestly believe she’s ready to run the race of her life.”