JUST for a fleeting moment during the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, the 18 Southland owners of contender The Chosen One thought the horse may have a chance at finishing third.
In a matter of seconds, just metres short of the finishing post, the horse was overtaken to finish fourth, with the devastation written on the faces of those watching.
Despite the result, the owners could not have been more proud.
With no crowds allowed in Melbourne, the co-owners and supporters gathered at Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill to watch their horse race at an event attended by about 200 people.
It was a true day at the races, with men in suits, ladies in dresses and hats and the obligatory bubbles being sipped.
Co-owner Neil van Schaik said it was incredible the horse had made it to the legendary race twice in two years.
“Last year he was a young horse – he was only a 4-year-old.
“We didn’t think we’d make the Melbourne Cup last year. He’s a year older now, stronger and more mature and we had a plum barrier drawing for the start. We were confident he’d go a good race.”
The race had proved very exciting for him and his family to watch.
“We were all riding him.”
Co-owner Gary Popham had a tear in his eye when he talked about The Chosen One’s meteoric race.
“It’s racing – we’re living a lot of people’s dreams at the moment and being part of this team is quite an honour.”
Breeder Ray Dennis, one of four brothers who breed racehorses in Woodlands, near Invercargill, knew the horse was something special.
“He’s ridden all the big races and he doesn’t get sore. He’s a tough horse.”
Mr Dennis said it was great to share the day with the owners.