Twenty years ago when Jimmy Liu arrived in New Zealand from Mongolia broke and without friends, he lived opposite the gates of Avondale Racecourse.
From his first visit to the track across the road one thought cemented in his head: "One day I would like to own one of those horses."
The animal lover recalled those days on Saturday after stylish 3-year-old Fire Jet completed back to back Ellerslie wins in the space of the week.
Fire Jet's successes would shake your belief if you don't accept thoroughbred racing today is an international sport/industry.
The horse is owned by a Mongolian, ridden by a jockey half Chinese, half Malaysian and born in Jakata (Doni Prastiyou), by a New Zealand stallion in Tavistock from a mare by American-bred stallion Royal Academy.
Liu has to thank Prastiyou, particularly, for this latest win. The 24-year-old has made a huge impression since arriving from the South Island to join the stable of Dawn and Peter Williams and Paul Richards little more than a month ago.
His exhibition on Fire Jet on Saturday was a gem. Unquestionably, the favourite Battle Time should have won. Battle Time trailed the two leaders on the rail to the home with Fire Jet outside him.
The rider of Battle Time went to take an outward angle to ease Fire Jet out and to take advantage of the gap that move made between the two leaders and Fire Jet.
Before that could happen, Prastiyou gently eased Battle Time back in behind the leaders over five or six strides instead of suddenly bumping the favourite back in like many apprentices might attempt, risking relegation in the inquiry room.
Again, unlike some young apprentices, Prastiyou did not suddenly kick clear, he held the favourite in a pocket until the rider was forced to go back behind his heels and around him instead of propelling through the gap on Fire Jet's inside.
As soon as Battle Time made the across-heels move, Prastiyou shot Fire Jet forward and narrowly held on from the fast-closing Battle Time.
"That was a 10 out of 10 ride," said Peter Williams. "This boy is a real thinker."
Similarly impressed was Cambridge trainer Roger Lang, one of yesteryear's great riding tacticians. "He identified the horse to beat and worked out a way to beat it. A lot of the kids could learn from that."
Lang got his own success a few races later when underrated filly Alamer beat the older horses in the $22,500 Chevalier Produce 1400.
Liu didn't waste time accumulating his bank balance as a builder and a property developer and these days, although still living in Auckland, owns a boutique farm in Thames, managed by former jockey Terry Brydon.
"Jimmy just loves animals, regardless of what type. He was at the farm feeding and brushing the horses at 7 o'clock this morning [Sunday]. It's his thing."
Storming plan Z
"Well, that wasn't plan A or plan B, but it worked," said winning rider Sam Collett after leading practically throughout to take the Ellerslie Jewellers Cornwall Handicap on Storming The Tower.
"We hadn't planned on leading, but sometimes plans go out the window."
Smiling broadest was part owner and trainer John Bell, who has had his frustrations when Storming The Tower did not re-produce his early career form through at least two complete seasons. It is only lately as a 7-year-old Storming The Tower has become solid.
"He was a bastard of a horse when he was younger, he'd do just about everything wrong. Now he's a darling."
Storming The Tower now has a big future, perhaps as a jumper, something he does with great promise in training.
Sun still shining
While Cambridge trainer Tony Pike cools his heels in rain-sodden Brisbane waiting for the A$500,000 Queensland Oaks, the scant stable members are being taken to the races by his father, Wayne.
At Ellerslie a week ago, Tony Pike admitted he greatly disliked winter racing. "It's too cold," he declared even after the stable's sole runner Summer's Day took the money in balmy weather for winter.
This weekend he took that to a different level. Summer's Day won again on Saturday, this time Wayne's wife, Vicky, took the mare to Ellerslie.