IN HER still young career as a trainer, Bendigo's Kate Hargreaves has enjoyed plenty of big and successful days and nights at the races.
But few have been as emotion-filled as Tuesday night at Shepparton.
An unlikely and sentimental double for the Group 1-winning trainer comprised wins with a resilient and fiercely determined five-year-old pacer overcoming the loss of an eye and a 150-1 chance with the unenviable reputation as a 'non-winner'.
The career of Gauci, who claimed the opening race at odds of $31, looked to be over when he was diagnosed with a serious eye infection shortly after arriving at Hargreaves' Shelbourne stable last year.
"He had his off-side eye removed in September last year after being diagnosed with a corneal ulcer, which basically just melts the eye away," Hargreaves explained.
"I didn't really give him much hope of making a successful return to the track.
"I thought he might race again, but I had another horse, the grey Kiedis who had the same thing, and after losing his eye he was never the same.
"It was a bit disappointing, but really heartbreaking for the horse. I was so upset on my way home from the vet after they told me they were going to remove his eye.
"But he's just so resilient. He has gone about his business like he never lost an eye and it doesn't affect him at all.
"It's a credit to what an animal he is."
Gauci had previously won twice and been placed 10 times in 42 starts in his former home state of Tasmania before he made his way to Shelbourne.
The son of Betterthancheddar out of the mare Magic In Flight was close to having his first start for Hargreaves and his new owners when the diagnosis was made.
In a testament to the 30-year-old trainer's care and patience and in a mark of the horse's courage, Gauci returned to the track for his first start in nine months at Hamilton on April 18 and finished an encouraging third after leading at the bell.
Despite the loss of his eye, Gauci has not missed a beat on the track, according to Hargreaves, who was pretty emotional in the moments after his brave come-from-behind half-neck win.
"Given all he has gone through - it was pretty heartbreaking to see what happened to him - but it was awesome seeing him win at only his second start for me," she said.
"It was a special moment."
He's just so resilient. He has gone about his business like he never lost an eye and it doesn't affect him at all.- Kate Hargreaves
Still only a modest 38-rater, Hargreaves is optimistic of being able to back up Tuesday night's win relatively quickly.
Meanwhile, Hargreaves was still in shock on Wednesday following the win of 150-1 chance Tex Goes Bang at Shepparton.
The six-year-old Bettors Delight gelding made it two in a row after taking 18 starts to finally break his maiden at Warragul on April 17.
"He really has made a name for himself as a non-winning horse and then he drew badly and it was a step up in grade," Hargreaves said.
"I thought Wonga Lake ($2.70 favourite) was my winning chance and she went super as well, but it all worked out and luck went his way and it was such a super drive from Nathan Jack.
"But I was in shock when I saw him go across the line."
Jack has driven for Hargreaves only four times - all this month - for the amazing return of three wins and a second.
The pick of those wins was Beau Garcon's victory in the $20,000 Group 3 Eddie Evison Memorial Warragul Trotters Cup on April 17.
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