Champion sprinter gives sick parts owner Jack Van Duuren the strength to keep fighting

His positive attitude and fighting qualities have led Jack Van Duuren to defy the opinions of medical experts and he will be back in Randwick to watch the champion sprinter Nature Strip shoot for a second win on The Everest. Jack Van Duuren is terminally ill with lung cancer, but that won't stop him from watching his champion sprinter Race The Nature Strip for the $15 million the TAB Everest at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

He defied the opinion of medical experts only to be there after being told by his doctor a year ago that he only had a few weeks to live. She had just undergone chemotherapy treatment and its debilitating side effects so she could watch The Nature Strip race again. "This horse kept me alive," Van Duuren said. “Nature Strip has become a wonderful tonic.” The 76 – year-old part owner is a realist and knows the prognosis is bleak-but he is also a fighter. It was Everest week last year when Van Duuren was first diagnosed. Her doctor is emphatic: "you have four to six weeks."Just three days later, the terminally ill and wheelchair-bound Van Duuren wanted to go to The Everest at Royal Randwick and watch with pride as The Nature Strip held out to defeat the Masked Crusader and Eduardo. At the time, he thought this would be the last time he saw the Nature Strip race.

But at Royal Randwick on Saturday, The Nature Strip is again the favorite to win the $15 million Everest TAB – and Jack will be there too. In the 12 months since the Nature Strip won the Everest, the great sprinter has also won his third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes, dominant at the Shorts and, famously, won the King's Stand Stakes at England's Royal Ascot meet.

Van Duuren has watched most of the Nature Strip races during this time. He even went to England for Royal Ascot. “The first thing we did when we flew to the UK was turn left on the plane and we kept going until we got the first Class cabin,” he said. “It was amazing and traveling is not a problem, but getting home is a difficult thing. Witnessing the Triumph Of The Nature Strip at Royal Ascot is the opportunity of a lifetime."But Van Duuren admits there have been dark days, and many of them, since he was diagnosed. "I tell you, the biggest problem besides the physical things that make you a little shaken up, is that you have to work on the mental side,” he said. “Some days, you wake up and you say 'bugger, this is not good'. "But then you start thinking about all the good things that have happened in the last 12 months and I think I'm going to be fine."

Rod Lyons, co-owner of the Nature Strip, said seeing his close friend battling cancer was concerning but also inspiring. “It's God's way or whatever, " Lyons said. “But they gave Jack six weeks and now 12 months. He didn't take a step back."Lyons believes the success of the Nature Strip has given Van Duuren the will to live. "When Jack was really an asshole or really sad, he would call me and talk about the Nature Strip," Lyons said. "I'm sure the horse gave him a reason to live, to keep fighting."When the Nature Strip won at Royal Ascot, the owner group celebrated their success and Van Duuren partied as hard as anyone.

"Jack was a great drinker and loved his whiskey," Lyons said. "He didn't take a step back."Chris Waller, Nature Strip coach, was amazed by Van Duuren's positive outlook in the face of such adversity. “It's an amazing story,” Waller said. “What is a fighter Jack. She continues to undergo her treatment, keeping her morale up and raising everyone's spirits at the same time.” Nature Strip, the world number one sprinter, is the hottest favorite in Everest history with $ 1.90 in recent bets. The preparation of the chestnut champion for the richest turf race in the world has gone like clockwork – and so has Van Duuren in this regard.

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