When Warwick Harper got the call from Racing NSW to say he'd won a slot in this year's $1.3 million Kosciuszko he was certain it was a prank.
"It took a bit on convincing," Harper laughed.
"Even when he finished I rang someone else to ask if the person who rang me was really in racing, just to make sure."
The Dubbo punter and good mate Warren Watts, of Millthorpe, were one of the lucky 14 winners of a slot in the richest race for country-trained horses.
The pair spent $250 on tickets ahead of Thursday morning's draw and after a busy 24 hours settled on Port Macquarie star Victorem to represent them in the famed country feature.
"It's a great feeling. You never think you're going to win it," Harper said.
"He [Watts] asked if I wanted to get $250 worth of tickets and I said we wouldn't get anything. But we threw in and it's just come up trumps."
Harper spent much of his life involved in the harness racing industry and was a former trainer and driver locally.
Watts is more involved in the thoroughbreds game and owns shares in the likes of Lady Banff, the Matthew Dunn-trained mare who's previously raced at a listed level.
It was left to Watts to do much of the negotiating on Thursday and on Friday morning it was confirmed the pair had chosen the Jenny Graham-trained Victorem.
The announcement of a winning ticket in Dubbo on Thursday morning created excitement a horse from the western area could be chosen but it's hard to argue against Victorem, a former Country Championships and Group 2 winner who ran second in last year's Kosciuszko.
"I'm a trotting man and was involved in that in the past. I'm not really into the gallopers but I watch the big races," Harper said.
"He [Watts] thought it [Victorem] was a nice horse and I've watched a couple of videos since.
"We're happy and he looks like a nice enough horse. You never know what can happen on the day."
Harper and Watts are now watching all COVID restriction updates with great anticipation as they hope to watch Victorem race in person at Royal Randwick on October 16.
But whether they get to be trackside or not, just being part of the Kosciuszko is a thrill.
Now in its third year, the race has sparked plenty of interest as punters have the chance to spend just $5 on a ticket and land a spot in the race.
Winning ticket-holders get the chance to negotiate prizemoney with trainers from around country NSW and the ACT before making their choice.
"It's pretty special when you don't have to buy it or feed it and you're going around for 40 per cent [prizemoney] or something like that," Harper said.
"It's a great innovation. It shows anyone can get involved and that creates new interest.
"It's fantastic to get an opportunity to do something like this."
Victorem is likely to return from a spell in the Group 2 The Shorts at Randwick on September 18.
The seven-year-old was one of three horses on the second line of betting behind Front Page ($6) at $7 for the Kosciuszko.
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