A DIET of water and cigarettes helped Adrian Corboy triumph in the world’s longest horse race in Mongolia.
The Wangaratta horse breaker reflected at home on his success in the Mongol Derby on Wednesday, a week after crossing the finishing line in joint first place with Brit Annabel Neasham.
“I just wanted to get home, I was exhausted, I hadn’t slept for six days and just ridden 1000 kilometres across the Mongol steppe,” Mr Corboy, 37, said of his reaction to winning.
“It didn’t hit home until a few days later that we had won the Mongol Derby in a time of 6½ days with no vet penalties, the first time that had been done.
“I suppose it’s an achievement.”
The glory did not come without hardship, at one point the pair, who represented the stable of Caulfield Cup-winning trainer Ciaron Maher, were mired on their ponies in metre-deep mud.
“They were stuck to their guts and we couldn’t get out because we would have got stuck,” Mr Corboy said.
“We weren’t even thinking about the race then, we were thinking about survival.”
It was only when a boy, a teen at most, emerged in a storm and helped guide them out they were able to escape the bog.
“He came out of nowhere, I called him our guardian angel,” Mr Corboy said.
That came after the father-of-seven vomited up a bowl of mare’s milk and had a wolf “eyeballing” him from 90 centimetres away as he tried to sleep.
Mr Corboy said the secret to his and Ms Neasham’s success was teamwork.
“We had 100 per cent commitment to each other in selecting the horses and the decisions we made and not at one point did we have any doubt in each other’s ability,” he said.
Ms Neasham’s focus was ensuring the horses did not fail vet checks, which involved the mount’s condition and heart rate meeting benchmarks, while Mr Corboy focused on tactics.
He said other each leg they would cover the first 10 kilometres in a canter, before switching to a walk and then a trot before another walk.
The last 1000 metres, the pair would lead in the ponies to allow their heart rates to drop.
To keep riding 150 kilometres a day, Mr Corboy drank five to six litres of water and smoked more than 40 cigarettes each 24 hours.
“Someone said ‘how appalling an elite athlete would smoke cigarettes’, but to me it was a job,” he said.
Indeed it was only thanks to his old schoolmate Maher breaking his leg that Mr Corboy found himself in Mongolia.
The trainer phoned him from the back of an ambulance while on the way to hospital with his snapped limb to tell him he would replace him in the event.
“I lost 11 kilograms in 16 days, so I was 75 kilograms at the weigh-in and after the finishing line I was 69 kilograms,” Mr Corboy said.
A set weight was needed to sit atop the ponies, which were replaced with fresh mounts after each 40-kilometre leg.
Mr Corboy’s wife Kylie, who is eight months pregnant with their eighth child, said he went on a jockey’s diet involving no red meat, some chicken and salmon and plenty of vegetables.
Tracking the race 10,000 kilometres away on the internet, Mrs Corboy had faith.
“He saw it as a job and his job was to win for Ciaron Maher and I knew he would get it done,” she said.