All Black coaching great Steve Hansen had to control his emotions today as he watched his racehorse Nature Strip win the A$15million Everest sprint from a quiet corner of a Tokyo airport.
Hansen shares in the ownership of the stunning thoroughbred sprinter who won the invitation-only 1200m race at Randwick in Sydney for ex-pat Kiwi trainer Chris Waller and champion New Zealand jockey James McDonald.
"I was pretty bloody excited and almost in tears but there was nobody here to hug," Hansen told the Herald.
"I was in a quiet corner of the airport, waiting to check in for my flight and I didn't want to make too much noise and be carrying on during the race.
"I watched it on my phone and there was a fair bit of leg slapping going on but obviously nobody else knew what I was doing."
Hansen was in Tokyo finishing up five weeks of rugby work and flies home Saturday night before entering two weeks quarantine.
"This will make the flight go a bit faster. It was pretty special to be part of something like this and while winning is amazing, I am just glad the horse got to show his best.
"But I got to FaceTime my wife Tash soon after and she was in Dunedin with the girls and we all got to enjoy the aftermath.
"So it wasn't how I'd usually watch him race but to talk to them straight after was pretty special."
Nature Strip had the toughest run in the richest race on turf in the world yet shot clear at the top of the Randwick straight then held out the brilliant late surge of Masked Crusader.
"He was all out the last 200m but his heart got him there," said McDonald, the Waikato wonder jockey now firmly established as the leading rider in Australia.
McDonald's story matches that of Waller, just as clearly Australia's best trainer who left his hometown of Foxton and moved to Sydney without a horse but is now its most dominant trainer.
The two Kiwis climbed this Everest together and while Nature Strip is Australian-bred Hansen shares in his ownership with other New Zealanders Peter Kean and Paddy Harrison.
"They are great guys and that is one of the great things about racing horses, racing them with your mates," said Hansen.
While the winning stake of the Everest is A$6.2million, Hansen and his fellow owners don't receive that full amount as the Everest is what is known as a slot race.
That means the rights to run a horse in one of the 12 slots in the race is purchased usually a year or more in advance and then the slot owner negotiates with the connections of horses to fill that slot, with each side taking part of the prize money.
Nature Strip has now won A$14,849,285 from 18 wins in 33 starts and while he is a seven-year-old he could race on for at least another season as he is a gelding so can't retire to stud.
Saturday's other great race in Australia, the A$5million Caulfield Cup in Melbourne, was won in stunning style by hot favourite Incentivise.