At first I thought the saddle was moving itself down the path. Bobbing along, with no-one holding it.
Then I realised Chris Munce was with it. I just couldn’t see him. The pigskin was nearly bigger than the soon-to-be-famous jockey.
It was outside the gates of the Gold Coast Turf club, many years ago. The jockey was walking in, ready to ride more winners. He made the other hoops look like Harlem Globetrotters.
I couldn’t believe his size. I’d never seen a suit so small. But there was something else. Strength. In body and mind.
Munce is again preparing to draw on that power. This time, it’s not to drive one to the line in a head-bobbing photo. He wins most of those, by the way. No, this is a far more important battle.
He told us last week that he has cancer. There was no circus or sideshow for the announcement, as so many sports stars now seem to enjoy. Just the message to his army of supporters, that he was up for the fight.
This awful, filthy disease is in his throat. They found it after a problem surfaced with a tonsil. He’ll undergo radiation therapy, and it will be tough.
There was one thing he wanted to stress, when the story came out. It wasn’t that he was putting his life in God’s hands. He made it clear that he was still available for rides. Old racing fans topped up their glasses on the strength of that.
We’ve seen Chris do some amazing things on the track. My favourite is still his effort on Savabeel in the 2004 Cox Plate. Talking through my hip pocket, of course. It was one of those rides where the jockey made the horse look a little better than it actually was.
He survived prison in Hong Kong. It would have killed the spirit of most other men. Munce didn’t give them that satisfaction. He came back even tougher. And was thankful for every extra day in the saddle.
I’m no doctor, but I reckon it’s that attitude that will get him through this latest challenge. Few jockeys smile as much at the track. Like a bloke who has a genuine love of what he does.
It goes without saying that every sports fan wishes him well. Sometimes, we need to remember that this racing caper, for all the millions that go with it, is still just a bit of fun.
Health and family are the things that really matter. Chris will keep riding winners until his treatment begins. And when it does, he’ll have our prayers with him.
He doesn’t have a choice really. I want more of that saddle walking into the course with no-one holding it. Let’s see the young blokes do that.