While Damian Browne was taking on the world in Dubai with Buffering, his best mate was knocking around the NSW provincials.
Their pay cheques would have been very different that weekend. No so their skills in the saddle.
Not that Chris O’Brien would have begrudged his Kiwi buddy. Far from it. He would have been cheering like the rest of us.
Browne and O’Brien were young stars across the ditch, long before they were spotted by Aussie eyes.
Like so many other episodes in life, fortunes differed as careers progressed.
Browne is rightly regarded as one of Australia’s best hoops. His association with the Buff made sure of that. He’s in great demand from the top trainers, and the richest owners.
O’Brien gets a handful of city rides every year. Injuries and weight problems made sure of that. He’s had more problems on the scales than Oprah.
Today, he gets one of those rare opportunities, on a Group One day. And in the sweetest of ironies, it’s thanks to a fellow bush battler.
Fred Cowell has been training at Gosford since the bullock teams went through to build the Pacific Highway. Or so it seems.
He’s a genuine horseman. No backing from an overseas sheikh here. Just some loyal owners, most of whom enjoy a cold drink with him at day’s end.
So the trainer who I’m pretty sure doesn’t own a mobile phone, and the jockey with a body held together through pins and tape, will take on the best that Waller and co can give.
Mighty Lucky is one of those horses the punters love. Gives his all. Wins at odds. If he could talk, I’m tipping he’d explain that he’s just fine with the current arrangement.
Just as Takeover Target didn’t know his trainer was really a taxi driver, Mighty Lucky wouldn’t give two hoots that Freddy would much rather be in the public bar.
It won’t be hard to recognise O’Brien as he walks into the enclosure. Let’s just say he doesn’t have the gait of a male model. But don’t let that fool you.
Horses run for him. Soft hands, that can urge in an instant. The right spot at the right time. And best of all, he knows how to find the line.
I hope Mighty Lucky wins the Lord Mayor’s Cup. And that’s not just my wallet talking. The after-race banter between the jockey, and the trainer, and the Lord Mayor, would be worth the price of admission.
Damian Browne will be doing his best to spoil the party. If his old mate salutes, watch for the pat on the back. Maybe it’s not Dubai. But for the battlers, Doomben will do just fine.