Kirstie Lockhart agonised over saddling up for another Tom Quilty Gold Cup.
The Lebrina rider had all but made the call to walk away from Australia's most prestigious endurance event.
After the standout finishes for four years straight, it was tough to get off the horse.
The trek north of Brisbane near Gympie looked too far inside a float for her beloved Razara Momentum to cop.
"It does put a strain on the horses. You just have to really look after them to make sure they're eating and everything else," Lockhart said.
"It costs a fortune to take them - it really is expensive."
The Spirit of Tasmania sail across choppy waters of Bass Strait is one thing.
The next 1800kms and close to 24-hour drive is another.
But after the decision was all said and done, there was a flicker of hope.
An out-of-the-blue phone call changed everything.
"I wasn't actually going to go to the Quilty until just last month," Lockhart said.
"The guy who makes my saddles called up and asked if I wanted a ride. I feel lucky that I get to head up and ride one of his horses."
Even preparation will be something new to Lockhart.
The annual long drive - with the exception of last year's Tom Quilty when she could prance into Scottsdale - is just a part of the journey for the hundreds of riders from around the country.
"It will not only be a horse I have never ridden before, but also I am just flying up there this time," Lockhart.
"I'll hop onto it and really just experience a difference."
It won't be the first time Lockhart has taken on a new horse for the Tom Quilty, but the first not by choice.
The 17-year-old sounds a touch apprehensive over not trialling the horse until just days before the 160km ride.
Then she will be really tested for around 12 hours from Saturday's midnight start.
"I'll have to know what the horse likes and doesn't like," Lockhart said.
"You kind of got to figure out how fit it is quickly, so how fast you can pace it."
Lockhart does have form, holding a list of consistent top-10 junior finishes.
Just two years ago in South Australia, she took Zane to a personal-best second place.
It's as much a testimony to her home patch. Lebrina, just around the corner from Lilydale, has etched its name into the cup's folklore.
But this year, that's the last thing on Lockhart's mind.
"I already know I am going to go slow because you just want to get a buckle," Lockhart said, "so it's going to be a bit different."
Tom Quilty Gold Cup
- Blaine Astell, 25, Natone
- Angie Clark, 42, Wynyard
- Megan Laura Finn, 22, Elliott
- Debbie Grull, 44, Staverton
- Angela Hawks, 29, Natone
- Kirstie Lockhart, 17, Lebrina
- Tara Nicklason, 51, Pyengana
- Adrianna Pott, 26, Pyengana
- Trish Smith, 67, Sandford