The fairy tale racing fans dared not dream 18 months ago became reality at Addington yesterday when back-from-the-dead champion driver Ricky May joined the industry's most elite club.
May reined his 3000th race winner in New Zealand when Sheeza Artist led throughout in race three at Addington, May joining only Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry in the 3000 club.
As significant as that number is for May and his legion of fans and friends it is so much more special as many thought we had lost May after a shocking racetrack incident at Omakau in Central Otago in January last year when he slumped out of the sulky and on to the track while leading the Central Otago Cup.
May's heart had stopped after he suffered hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that sees the heart muscles thicken even though the heart itself is healthy.
Doctors later told May he was clinically dead for 10 minutes after the incident, brought back to life by the quick actions of fellow driver and trained physiotherapist Ellie Barron, who performed CPR on him until ambulance staff and eventually the rescue helicopter arrived.
May was operated on a few days later and says he has barely had a heart issue since.
"That whole thing seems like such a long time ago now and it hasn't really bothered me physically since," says the 63-year-old.
"But I know how lucky I was."
When May, who has won the prized NZ Cup a record seven times, decided to return to driving joining the 3000 club was his main goal.
"I needed something to focus on and it was the logical thing but to get there, alongside Maurice and Tony, after everything that has happened is very special."
Even more so as many of May's family were there on Sunday to enjoy the milestone with him and the emotions flowed deepest when May drove Sheeza Artist back into the stabling area to applause from his fellow horsepeople, the rarest of all tributes in the stoic harness racing community.
"That was quite moving. I don't often get emotional but I did then."
May says now he has achieved his goal he will continue driving, enjoying his second chance at life.