Could this be racing’s biggest fairytale?
HE HASN'T won a race since 2017, but one horse is guaranteed to bring home at least $90,000 - a third of his total prize money to date - when he runs at Flemington next month.
Even Urban Ruler's owners admit he will be only a 200-1 chance of winning the $5 million All-Star Mile in Melbourne on Saturday, March 16.
But they say they will be happy if the Queensland runner beats just a couple of horses to the finish line.
The five-year-old gelding was on Thursday confirmed as a starter in the All-Star Mile after finishing second in the popular vote - thanks largely to the 800 people who make up the Hancox Racing syndicate that owns him.
And it guarantees decent prize money for his owners - who each paid $1250 for one-800th of a share in six horses, including Urban Ruler.
"The fairytale is that (the race) is paying $90,000 for finishing anywhere from sixth down to last so it will be a good payday for him, considering his total prize money is about $270,000," syndicator Shelley Hancox said.
The Chris Munce-trained horse led the public vote for much of the All-Star Mile polling, but finished in second place behind Balf's Choice.
Urban Ruler is one of 10 runners decided by a public vote, with the first of four wildcards - Happy Clapper - also announced on Thursday morning.
That's despite the fact Urban Ruler finished eight lengths off the pace to beat just one of 13 home at Doomben earlier this month, in his return to the track after four months off.
Ms Hancox acknowledged Urban Ruler's inclusion in a race that included Group 1 winners Grunt, Alizee and Amphitrite might raise a few eyebrows.
"There is a minimum benchmark and he qualified under the conditions of the race," she said.
"I understand people may raise eyebrows if we were running an out-of-form horse, but if he's sound and healthy on the day there's no reason for him not to have the chance to go round."
People power got Urban Ruler into the race, and Ms Hancox expects about 200 of Urban Ruler's owners - "pensioners and mums and dads who want to dip their toes into the water of owning a racehorse" - to cheer him on at Flemington.
"It's already created a huge buzz, with owners coming from across Australia and New Zealand because their horse is running in a race worth so much money," she said.
Urban Ruler's most recent of six career wins was over 1200m at Geelong in October 2017.
He has had success at Flemington before, triumphing over 1400m and finishing second over a mile in the Silverbowl Final in 2017.
Urban Ruler would be a rightful shoo-in to graduate from the "people's horse" to the "people's champion" should he pull off mission improbable at Flemington racecourse.
"I'd love to think so," Ms Hancox said.
"But given it's weight-for-age conditions, I don't think we're expecting any fairytale.
"He's definitely not hopeless at the track, but he doesn't like racing inside horses, so that's a bit of a problem.
"I think he's probably entitled to be 200-1 … if he beat a couple home, I'd be perfectly happy. We are realists."
The remaining wildcards will be announced on March 4.