MOMENTOUS: Michelle Payne (centre) rides Prince of Penzance to victory in the Melbourne Cup in 2015 .
MOMENTOUS: Michelle Payne (centre) rides Prince of Penzance to victory in the Melbourne Cup in 2015 . JULIAN SMITH

The feeling is still surreal for the man they call Gio

HORSE RACING: Johnathon 'Gio' Dalton still cannot believe it.

Just days after 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance retirement at the Weir Stables in Victoria, Dalton reflected on the incredible achievement the galloper accomplished on the first Tuesday of November in 2015.

"Just thinking back to that moment and I still can't believe it,” co-part owner Dalton said.

Dalton and brothers Bruce and Joe, who died from cancer earlier this year, have owned a 15% stake in the horse.

The seven-year-old gelding sustained a fractured off-fore leg and Dalton said the sadness of the horse's retirement was short-lived.

"It certainly was a sad day, but at the end of the day, it was about him to fully recover,” Dalton said.

"It was an absolute relief and he'll be a companion horse at the Weir Stables where Darren Weir will have his first Melbourne Cup winner at his stables.”

Dalton said the journey had been an exciting one, with Prince of Penzance more than making amends after missing out on the 2014 Melbourne Cup field.

"I suppose every step of the way has been a highlight and Prince of Penzance has had a few stepping stones along the way,” Dalton said.

The first of those was a win in the Mornington Cup Prelude in 2014, a fourth place in the Mornington Cup, and second place in the Roy Higgins Quality at Flemington.

The high placings continued, but there was one more step to take.

Jockey Michelle Payne rode the gelding to second place in the Moonee Valley Cup and that was enough for the horse to qualify for Australia's biggest race.

The rest they say is history, as Payne became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, at the ridiculous odds of 100-1.

"We got him in at number 19 in the field and it didn't matter because we still had a horse in the Melbourne Cup,” Dalton said.

Dalton is also involved with the Gladstone Rugby Union Goats and his version of a perfect weekend involves union and horses. "They are still my two passions where they can be ticked off in one afternoon by going to the rugby and then the races,” Dalton said.

As for finding the next Prince of Penzance? "I'll probably will be touching base with owners in Victoria and New South Wales,” Dalton said.



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