FRED Brophy thought his 28-year wish to marry Sandi Arkinstall would finally come true when the horse they owned led the Birdsville Cup with 100 metres to go.
The two made a pact that if their champion, Long Street, won they would finally take the plunge after an adventurous life involving three children, two pubs including the Cracow Hotel, strippers and his famous travelling boxing troupe.
But if the nag did not run a place Fred would give up drinking for a month.
So when Long Street rounded the bend with 62kg on its back and thundered down the straight ahead of 11 other horses Fred felt excited and believed Sandi might have done too.
But the steed was swamped close to the line and finished a length behind the winner and a nose behind second.
“To run third in the cup is unbelievable,” Fred said of the September 5 race.
“Those horses out there are good horses.”
He also got a tidy windfall from having $5000 each way on his 10-1 chance and when Sandi found him in the crowd she gave her beau a hug and a kiss.
Fred and Sandi met at the Brisbane Ekka in 1981 when Sandi was working in the officials' restaurant and serving the likes of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the King of Tonga.
Business was slow so she drifted to the members' restaurant where Fred would eat every day.
A fellow waitress got the hots for him and Fred asked the two to visit his wax works.
Sandi was not keen but her mate insisted.
When he asked them what they thought Sandi looked him in the eye and said “it's the biggest heap of crap I've ever seen.”
“And it was,” she recounted from their other watering hole, the Kilkivan Hotel.
But Fred was not concerned and remained in touch for months before asking Sandi to the races.
She had a hole in her social diary and said “yes” on a whim.
Fred drove her to the Birdsville track and took his travelling troupe of boxers and a tent for a team of strippers.
“I thought 'oh my god' but I've always been adventurous so went for the ride,” Sandi said.
“All of the strippers were flown out and it was an awesome weekend.
“We pretty well clicked then.
“I lost a few friends and family because they thought I'd gone mad and joined the circus.
“But after a couple of years they came to love Fred and he's now the apple of their eye.
“He's still badly behaved at times but they love him.”
But while Sandi's love for Fred is undeniable she is still glad Long Street saved her a trip down the aisle by coming third in the cup.
“I don't really need to have the ownership paper but I have said I will marry him if he gives up drinking because it's not good for his health,” Sandi said.
“He wants me to have the same name as him but I don't really care what my name is.
“I'm Sandi and he can call me whatever he wants.”
“She didn't think the horse had a chance,” he said.
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