What it’s like to win $250k and quit your job
When the "Winx of Tassie", Mystic Journey, romped home to claim the inaugural running of the world's richest mile race, Damien Murnane's birthday plans took on a surprise 60th twist.
As one of 14 golden ticket winners assigned a runner for the All-Star Mile at Flemington last year, the Ballarat man's $250,000 windfall funded a month-long trip to the US with wife Jenny.
It was there in October he rang in the milestone birthday in style, capping a whirlwind six months.
Due to start work as a traffic controller on the Monday after the $5 million race last March, Mr Murnane's change in fortunes meant full-time employment was no longer necessary.
"Jenny still says to this day she can't believe it happened," Mr Murnane said.
"It's been great. I've cut my working hours down to 25 hours a week, now working with Bunnings and that's just perfect.
It was only by chance that Mr Murnane became the "owner ambassador" - one of the All-Star Mile voters paired with a horse for the race - for Mystic Journey.
A public vote determines the first 10 runners in the All-Star Mile, and then an expert committee gives "wildcard" places to five horses that missed out in the public vote.
Ten voters are then chosen to be an "owner ambassador" for the horse they voted for in the race, another four are matched to wildcard entries, and this year one more owner ambassador is selected for the fifth wildcard on race day.
Owner ambassadors have the chance to win a share in $500,000, with the voter assigned to the winning horse taking home a whopping $250,000.
Mr Murnane had originally voted to give NZ gelding Moss'n'Dale a berth in the race, but that horse missed out.
But he was then chosen at random to be an owner ambassador for wildcard horse Mystic Journey.
"Straight away I knew - Mystic Journey, I'm on to a good thing here!" he said.
And the horse came through, giving Mr Murnane and his wife a $250,000 windfall.
"We've done a lot with the money. We've done work on the house, took the trip to America for a month - went to Washington, Philadelphia, New York - it was just unbelievable.
"We didn't have to worry at all, stayed in nice apartments and everything, it was great. I updated my car and we helped family out a lot too."
The second running of the $5 million All-Star Mile is at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday, March 14.
Public voting to select the field of All-Star Mile contenders closes on Sunday, February 16 - with voters in with the chance to become an "owner ambassador" like Mr Murnane.
"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Mr Murnane said.
Cast your vote at allstarmile.com.au