BACK in 2016, veteran Taree race trainer Bob Milligan finished fourth in the inaugural Country Final at The Championships at Royal Randwick with Another Valley.
The stable will be represented in the $500,000 final again at Randwick tomorrow with Texas Storm.
Bob won't be trackside, instead leaving the duties up to his son, Glen.
Bob is slowly recovering from horrific injuries sustained at his stables on Good Friday last year.
Details as to what happened are sketchy, as Bob has no recollection.
"For some reason the horse has got a fright I'd say,'' Glen said.
"She may have fallen on him and kicked him in the face.''
Glen said his dad is lucky to be alive.
"He had fractures all around his brain,'' Glen continued.
"His nose pushed up into his head. He was split across his forehead and right across his nose.''
Bob then sustained two heart attacks while in hospital.
"He stopped breathing and broke two ribs while they were reviving him. Then he had pneumonia twice.
"He was in ICU in Newcastle for six months and another three months here in ICU before he came home.''
Glen said his dad, who is 77 this month, is now going 'steady.'
"But he doesn't come over here much now,'' he said referring to the stables.
"Dad came over Tuesday morning - it was the first time he's been here for two months I'd say.''
Bob also has trouble talking due to the accident. But he likes what he sees with Texas Storm.
"He had a look at him when he was here and he wrote down 'he looks a picture of health,' " Glen said.
Glen is confident Texas Storm can deliver a major share of the prizemoney tomorrow.
"I reckon he'll go good, he's crying out for the 1400 (metres),'' he said. "The barrier draw's just come out and we've drawn one. I said one to eight would be great, so I'm happy about that.
"Tim Clarke's riding him and he's sat on him before - he finished second at Gosford and then finished 10th in a Highway over 1100 when he rode him.''
Glen said Texas Storm is suited to the distance.
"He's crying out for 1400 metres,'' the 42-year-old mentor said.
"Everyone who has ridden him said he wants a mile. He's never been over anything further than 1250 but he gives us the impression he'll ride the mile right out.''
The Milligan stable has been in charge of Texas Storm from the start.
"They didn't try him until he was a three-year-old and we had him here and educated him. We turned him out for a couple of months. He had three runs his first prep and won his first start here at 30/1,'' Glen said.
"He went around Scone and ran fifth. The owners got an offer for him but they knocked it back because we have an opinion of him.
"He ran mid-field in a race at Grafton during the cup carnival and we turned him out with this race in mind. We wanted to get him to The Championships.''
Texas Storm booked a place in Saturday's Country Final when finishing second to the Wayne Wilkes Luciolla Belle - beaten half a neck - in the Mid North Coast Qualifying race at Port Macquarie in February. Texas Storm then ran second at Taree on March 15, his last start before tomorrow's final. Texas Storm now has nine starts for two wins and four placings with total prizemoney of $64,455..
Glen said the favourite, Noble Boy, will be the hardest to beat tomorrow while Wilkes's Luciolla Belle has claims, he added.
"The track looks as though it is going to be soft, so that brings them all back to even par - and our fella has won on a heavy nine,'' Glen added.
"You certainly need luck in those big races. But we've draw one and Tim can ride him the way he wants to ride him, so hopefully there'll be no excuses.''
The win will be worth a whopping $270,000 to the winner.
"And the bookies have us at 50/1,'' Glen added.
"I'll probably be a bit nervous on the day, but in the end it's just another race meeting.''
Glen and wife Vicki will be in Sydney tonight, where they'll be attend a cocktail party courtesy of the sponsors.
"We'll be staying down there until Sydney. Hopefully we'll be celebrating on Saturday night,'' he smiled.
There's one safe bet, Bob Milligan will be watching the race intently from home.
- The Newhaven Park Country Championship Final is race four on tomorrow's program and is timed to start at 1.55pm.