For every horse racing fairy tale, there are thousands more stories of disappointment and heartache.
Fortunately for the Kay family of Traralgon, their’s has been one of incredible success against the odds.
Last weekend the horse the family part owns, Niwot, stormed home to win the 3200-metre Sydney Cup just 12 months after returning from a career threatening knee injury.
According to Steve Kay, in Niwot’s usual style he held back and then came from behind to win.
“Three years ago we never thought we’d be where we are now, but we had faith and now he’s done more than we could have imagined,” Kay said.
In 2008, the now seven year-old gelding fractured his knee in a paddock accident, and trainer John Hawkes believed Niwot’s career could be over.
“John rang and said it’s really sad, but this might be it for him,” Kay said.
“But John had a plan – he said I’m going to put him out in a paddock and see what happens, no operations, just water walking and time.
“He said if you’re prepared to be patient, so am I.”
A staggering 86 weeks later in February 2011, Niwot was fit for racing and promptly started winning, including the Lexus Group 3 race on Derby Day, which qualified him for the 2011 and 2012 Melbourne Cups.
“To have a horse run on Melbourne Cup day is the stuff you dream about as a kid,” Kay said.
“And after everything (Niwot had) been through, he’s just extraordinary.”
In the cup, Niwot came eighth and was the first Australian horse past the post.
As Niwot has already qualified for this year’s Melbourne Cup, Kay said his 2012 preparation will be more relaxed.
“Because of his age, he won’t be racing as much this year,” Kay said.
“For the cup we’re hoping for a wet track, and that his age will keep his weight at about 52 or 53 kilograms.”
Kay has owned less successful horses in the past, and said he enjoyed the social side of horse racing.
“We own the horse as part of a syndicate, so we go to the races with friends and family and it’s just great,” he said.
“I can’t describe how lucky I am to be part of it, especially with this horse.
“A lot of people would have given up on him, but John and the other owners were prepared to wait and it’s shown how things can turn out.”