TO DESCRIBE the Williams family's focus on the Melbourne Cup as a magnificent obsession is to merely commit a magnificent understatement.
The patriarch of the organisation, property developer and casino boss Lloyd Williams, has spent a lifetime in pursuit of this holy, but ultimately attainable, grail.
Nick Williams and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Photo: Pat Scala
He has spent fortunes in the process, investing millions on horses from first New Zealand and then Europe, as he chases the perfect blend of stamina, toughness and speed required to triumph in Australia's greatest race.
He has had glorious successes along the way.
If it is the pinnacle of any owner's dream to win one Melbourne Cup, then Williams could be said to be positively gluttonous.
Green Moon races to victory in Melbourne Cup
They're away ... the start of the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Eddie Jim
Having whetted his appetite for Cup glory first with Just A Dash in 1981, he feasted further on What A Nuisance (1985) and Efficient (2007) before gorging on Green Moon yesterday, an astonishing fourth triumph in a race that most owners struggle to even have a runner in.
Once a leviathan punter, the former Xavier College boy - whose fortune has been estimated in the $700 million to $800 million range - is these days more of a reclusive figure and rarely seen at his once-familiar haunts, Flemington, Caulfield and Moonee Valley.
Like Banquo's ghost at Macbeth's feast his physical presence might have been absent yesterday, but his spirit and the influence of his successor, son Nick, was readily apparent as Green Moon raced to a comprehensive victory.
Once stoutly bred New Zealand stayers were Williams Cup weapons of choice. Then he shifted his emphasis to stamina-packed European gallopers.
But Green Moon is a horse in the new Williams template - a 2000-to-2400-metre specialist bought out of a European stable, but one recalibrated for Australian racing conditions and then sent to do battle in perfect conditions on the one day that matters more than all others combined to his obsessive owner.
Robert Hickmott is listed in the racebook as Green Moon's trainer, but, as Nick Williams explained afterwards, it is his father, who watched the race on television at the family's 121-hectare Macedon Lodge training complex close to Hanging Rock, who calls the shots.
After 50 years in the business and having had some of the nation's top trainers looking after his gallopers it would be hardly surprising if Williams had not picked up some of the secrets of the best along the way.
''It's his dream, he's a great strategist in everything he does. Every moment in these horses' campaigns are planned down to a tee, and he is literally over the moon about it,'' Nick said.
''Anyone that ever gets into racing or bought a 1/100th share in a horse, whether it's a sprinter or a stayer, has that dream one night, that they would love their horse to run in the Melbourne Cup,'' he said. ''We are just a bad example of that taken to extremes.''
He struggled to recall how many runners his father has had in the Cup over five decades, but stressed that it's never easy to even get one to the post.
''It's that hard to do. It must be close to 75 or 80 and he's won it four times. It's not easy. You only have to look back to think that five weeks ago we had five horses that potentially could have run in this race and we were down to two today. The amount of miles you have to get into their legs [means that they can go wrong at any time]. It's a white-knuckle ride and you just hope that the war of attrition doesn't get hold of you.''
Reuniting with Brett Prebble, said Nick Williams, also made this a memorable success.
The Williams family enjoyed success with the now Hong Kong-based Australian when he was a youngster learning his trade in Melbourne - where he eventually became a champion jockey - and Prebble had jetted in to ride C'est La Guerre for Team Williams four years ago when that horse ran third to Viewed.
Williams said the old New Zealand stayer was a thing of the past.
''It's called a handicap but it's really one of the best races in the world and the best horses in the world win the race now.
''The day of the Australian-bred and NZ-bred who just aren't as good is gone …''