Runaway and connections (Image: Racing Photos)
It is incredible what a glimmer of hope can do to the minds of racehorse owners.
Take the owners of 2018 VRC St Leger winner Runaway, who later that year finished 19th in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Focused solely on a jumps career for Runaway in 2020 after a spate of moderate flat runs in 2019, the owners have suddenly found themselves back in familiar territory with dreams of the Lexus Melbourne Cup again invading their sleep on Monday night.
Only a matter of hours earlier, Rosemont Stud's principal Anthony Mithen had been told by co-trainer Gai Waterhouse that this winter's Australian Hurdle hopeful was now going to run in Saturday's Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington - where the winner gains an assured Lexus Melbourne Cup start - to keep up his fitness levels after a gallant second last week in the Galleywood Hurdle at Warrnambool.
The plan had been to instead run in a jumps school this week. But circumstances demanded a change to the plan and ultimately, the dream.
"We might have been going to the Cranbourne jumps trials this week instead of the Ramsden if we were allowed but apparently the jumps trials coming up are only for horses going for their jumps ticket," Mithen explained on Tuesday.
"Gai was keen to give him another trial but in the absence of being able to do that, she needs to get miles in his legs. He's there for a good bowl around and to keep his fitness up."
That was the official line that was distributed to the rest of the ownership group. But once the news of a Ramsden run had settled in for an hour or so, the visions of an unlikely second tilt at the Cup began to surface.
"While we are back at Flemington, I think all the owners will have a sparkle in their eyes hoping that he can repeat his heroics in the St Leger and surprise the market and perhaps the co-trainers," Mithen said.
"We really see his future in the jumping caper so we're dreaming of Australian Hurdles rather than Melbourne Cups, but who knows?
"After I heard from Gai when she said she was going to nominate (for the Ramsden), I thought of Vintage Crop (1993) all those years ago. He was a dual-discipline (flat and jumps) horse and maybe Runaway could be one that benefits from the jumps in terms of his flat career.
"The spark-up factor is one where you just shrug your shoulders and just say 'I don't know'.
"No one will fall off their chair if he happens to stick his head out and he fights out the finish because we know he has the talent but he probably is a bit like those older bulls that have been around the block a few times.
"They do get a bit cunning and without those jumps keeping his mind occupied he can get a bit cunning in a race and not quite bottom out in terms of effort.
"That might be in his favour - that he could be looking for a jump and he's concentrating on what he's doing and he gives his maximum effort.
"He could fight out the finish, but he's probably let us down once too often on the flat for us to have a bet on him.
"But it won't stop us giving him an almighty cheer if he's still his front at the 200 (metres).
"There won't be a fitter horse in the race. He went down a head in the Galleywood and won his two previous two miles jumps races so he's rock-hard fit and if that mental switch can be turned on by his recent jumping success, you never know, you might get that golden ticket.
"What a race to find his flat form again. The text messages were flying among the owners last night asking the question 'Could he turn it around on the flat'? Everyone is daring to dream.
"It's a hope thing rather than an expectation thing but maybe that's the recipe with Runaway."