If they take a quiet little moment after The Everest, one man will be in their thoughts. His name won't be in the racebook as trainer of Le Romain, a contender in the $13 million The Everest. His name never was, actually.
But Erwin Takacs was more than just the person who started the journey of the Roman Warrior. He was much more than that to Sydney concreting brothers Tony and Mark Carusi, who bred and majority own the rank outsider in Australia's richest race. He was a confidant. A friend. The best sounding board. One who was taking Le Romain on his first baby steps in the game.
In 2014, Takacs died from serious head injuries suffered when dragged by a horse he was tending next to a Kembla Grange pool. The Carusis were devastated and needing to find a new trainer for their horses, including an unraced yearling.
"It was horrible," Tony said. "Erwin, to Mark and I ... a lot of it I put down to him along with Laurie McCarthy from Greta West Stud. Erwin put us on the right track inside and outside of racing. Just about the game. He opened our eyes a bit. He was a gentleman, a good man.
"He was an old school trainer and if he told you your horse was going to run well, he'd run well."
Ever since, Le Romain has been running well. One of the last horses into The Everest this year is perhaps also its most unlikely story.
Bred by the Carusis, Le Romain is out of an unfashionable stallion in Hard Spun. They were willing to sell him as a yearling, asking for $50,000. They were offered $20,000. Sales companies didn't think his pedigree was good enough to put him through a ring. Less than two years later, offers flooded in from overseas at more than $2 million after his Randwick Guineas win – the first of three group 1 victories.
"We just said, 'We're not interested. He's done a big job for us already and this is the horse we've been dreaming about'," Mark said. Added Tony: "In this game a lot of people knock, knock, knock, but you need a bit of luck. I tell you one thing, we go into our pocket. We back our judgment whether we're right or wrong. We go to stallions that we think can produce good horses and then you have as much chance as anyone. When it's your passion, you keep battling away. There's times you think, 'Shit, I can't keep going'. But you just find a way."
Le Romain will be one of three Everest horses trained by Newcastle's Kris Lees. "The horse was always going to him after Erwin," Mark said.
The Carusis joke they didn't expect anything from their horses when they came up with their primarily blue and gold colours, a nod to their beloved Parramatta Eels. They invited friend and concreting mate Lou Nicaj into the horse to thank him for his support and because they wanted as many as possible to enjoy the ride.
And to win The Everest? Shrugs Tony: "It would change our lives. Not just for me and my family, but all the owners. They're all just everyday workers."
They say Winx form is the best form, and Le Romain has it in spades. He gave the world's best a mini-fright for a couple of strides in the George Main Stakes last start, and drops back from a mile to now take on the country's best sprinters.
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