As a child, Alexander Rae loved to join his great-grandmother for a day at the Flemington races.
The 23-year-old returned on Thursday with his first Flemington runner and left with the biggest win of his short training career on one of the biggest days in Australian racing.
“It’s a massive thrill today to finally get a runner over the carnival, let alone a winner on Oaks Day,” Rae said.
He had one of Australia’s leading jockeys in Craig Williams to guide Cochada to victory in the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final, which followed eight heats run across country Victorian tracks.
It’s the 11th, and by far the biggest, winner for Rae, who started training in December 2016.
He was “absolutely terrified” about bringing a runner to Flemington during Melbourne Cup week, barely sleeping over the past four days.
A love of racing runs in Rae’s family, who remain a big support and help for the Cranbourne trainer.
“I remember coming to Flemington when I was 10/11/12. I was here with my great-grandma every single week.”
Rae said his dad Rodney, a former handicapper who now breeds horses and is listed as one of Cochada’s many owners, has been a massive support from day one.
“I couldn’t have done it without him and the rest of my family – my mum, back at the stables right now, doing the hard yards and my brother who is there with me every single morning.”
Williams praised the young trainer, who keeps nine to 10 horses in work.
“He’s shown maturity beyond his years with placing this horse.”