Wheelchair-bound and facing the possibility of losing a leg because of a staph infection, Justin Warwick's life three years ago was forced into a clarity that has led him to tomorrow's $500,000 Golden River Developments Perth Cup (2400m) at Ascot.
It was those complications from knee surgery that prompted Warwick to tackle life with new verve and build a Harvey property with his wife Carol to turn their pacing powerhouse partnership into thoroughbred racing contention.
As a result, the son of pacing legend Trevor Warwick will tomorrow saddle Perth Cup equal favourite Black Tycoon and stablemate Global Flirt in a two-pronged attack that could add a new chapter to his family's remarkable history of horsemanship.
Between him, his dad, his uncles Colin and Barry, younger brother Aiden and his wife Carol, the Warwicks have combined for more than 8000 WA harness racing winners either as trainers or drivers.
And Warwick's teenage daughter Lucy is also about to carve a new niche as the family's first apprentice jockey.
But winning one of WA's most iconic races in a different racing code was far from Warwick's mind as he lay in Murdoch Hospital for a month fearing the worst as his staph infection took hold.
"If you've ever known anyone with one of them, very sick," Warwick recalled.
"You can't brush your teeth, that's it and you've got a fever like you wouldn't want to know so you just roast for ages. That gave us a lot of time to think.
"First of all you don't know whether you're going to die, then if you're going to keep your leg … it's not good."
But after reading the life stories of racing's living legend Bart Cummings and bookmaking giant Bill Waterhouse, he quickly chose his path for recovery.
"There were bits in them I took out and I thought, 'I want to have a crack at this'," he said.
"I was wheelchair-bound for a couple of months, then you start to walk to the letterbox on your crutches because your leg is three times the size it should have been.
"It gives you a good perspective on life - if you want to do something, get up and start doing it because you never know.
"You may as well make the most of it while you're here."
In a solid pointer for tomorrow's race, Warwick said he was starting to feel comfortable in his ability to prepare thoroughbred stayers, while admitting he still had a long way to go in mastering the art of training sprinters.
He has high, but grounded, hopes about his Perth Cup prospects.
"Black Tycoon's hit his mark right now, everything's spot on," Warwick said.
"Global Flirt (who ran third in last year's cup) needed one more run (last Saturday) to get him right. To win a Perth Cup would just mean you've got more things correct than someone else and had the right horse.
"It's one of those things, you're either celebrating or you're commiserating. You don't think about it, you've got the horse the best you can and you hope you get a bit of Lady Luck thrown your way and you're good enough on the day.
"I know I probably don't have the best horses, but I've got them the best that they can be."
The only thing that had not gone to plan was when his daughter Lucy had a nasty incident at the barriers in a trial recently.
The 16-year-old, who hopes to be riding in races by March as an apprentice under her dad's guidance, was pinned to the barrier by his three-year-old filly Madam Kenworthy.
It left her with a black eye and the skin scraped off the side of her face, but her ambition unbroken.
"She chucked her head down to burrow under the gate and it happened so quickly she pulled me straight under," Lucy said.
"She had no scratches on her because I got them all.
"It was like rope burn on my body and carpet burn on my face, it just pulled all the skin off."
The emotion of watching the incident hit hard on her father, himself no stranger to falls in his trotting days.
"Crook, yeah, real crook," he said.
"I think I had 11 orthopaedic operations when I was at the trots … screws in, screws out.
"You don't worry about it because you're dealing with it and it's fine, but when it's a third party - and family, your only daughter - that's different.
"When my son goes surfing down south he always rings us after he's been and we're always happy because you know the worst-case scenario there, too … getting eaten by a fish.
"But it's what Lucy wants to do, she's interested in learning and it's nice to be able to pass on the bits that I know that I've learnt out of my caper."
Lucy, who has now had about 40 trial rides and regularly practices on a mechanical horse, said she was proud to continue the family's WA racing tradition.
"I think it's expected of me, horses is what we do," she said.
"But I'm the first jockey for the Warwicks so that's pretty exciting."
Her grandfather Trevor, Australia's leading harness racing trainer in the 1986-87 season, shared his son's concerns.
The 69-year-old recalled how he twice woke up in hospital after receiving serious concussions in separate falls at Gloucester Park. Watching a grand-daughter enter the racing industry came with both pleasure and pain.
"I was very fortunate that I had that nature where I didn't worry about things and there was always another day," he said.
"But I've always dreaded this day and it's come, so now I've got to tolerate it.
"When Lucy had her little upset it woke us up a little bit that everyone always worries about something like that bar the person involved because they're young and doing what they want to do.
"You feel invincible when you're doing it and Lucy has the right attitude and the right ability to do well."
He said he was humbled by the vast record of success his family had achieved in racing and also credited Justin's mother, Helen, for being the "steadying" force behind them.
Still training a small team of pacers, he said a Perth Cup win for Justin would rate alongside any satisfaction achieved in his long career.