Atlantic Jewell and It’s A Dundeel grind it out in the race of the decade, and who’s that with them? Why It’s Dear Demi, what’s she doing there?
Who is Dear Demi many of us asked at the start of the Spring Carnival? The answer it seems is a plucky fighter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her win but I have, time after time, seen her make heroic efforts to come second or third against some of the best the world has to offer. She runs with guts, she runs strategy, everything it seems except natural ability, but what has natural ability to do with a handicap race like the Melbourne Cup?
Like many horse racing fans I first became aware of Dear Demi in the Underwood Stakes, the race that has been described as the race of the decade for its richly talented field. Pundits got the race they wanted, It’s A Dundeel and Atlantic Jewell slugged it out down the final straight nothing between them, going head to head the whole way. It was an intense competition and when the two greatest horses in the country, for the greatest horses in the country they were, fired up, nobody could stay with them, nobody that is, except Dear Demi. As Puissance De Lune, Sea Moon, Fortella and other supposed contenders were left in the dust Dear Demi struggled valiantly before finally being shaken off in the last hundred metres to record a commendable third place. A fluke, many of us thought, but she proved it wasn’t a fluke, she did again and again.
A month later in the 2400m Caulfield Cup Dear Demi (Dear who?) did it once again. Notably Dear Demi went to the back for most of this race, it had run neck and neck with Atlantic Jewell at the front in the Underwood Stake. I like this it shows it has the versatility to position itself according to the pace of the race, a rare skill. At Caulfield she timed her dash perfectly and took the lead unexpectedly around 200 out, she fought and she battled on but ultimately was swooped by Fawkner and Dandino and again recorded a respectable third. She wasn’t fluking anymore; she was giving heroic efforts habitually.
Three weeks later she did it again, in the Mackinnon. Side Glance lead almost the whole way and as he kicked clear nobody seemed capable of challenging him and for a moment it seemed Side Glance was going to increase his lead down the straight. Then in the final 100 metres who should shoot through from the pack like a tracer bullet but the inimitable Dear Demi, streaking after Side Glance like a greyhound after the bunny, it was in vain, it was too late, but it was epic.
The Melbourne Cup is the longest race most horses will run in their career, it’s more akin to the Tour De France than most horse races with many getting left behind as this Peleton of stallions and mares forges on. The field is enormous, luck plays a greater role than raw ability ever will and it is the horses that will spot an opportunity and guzzle it down without hesitation. Well I’ve seen Dear Demi show this sort of cunning and I’ve seen her show the inner steel that’s necessary to win a race like this. And you know something, I like her. I like an unglamorous horse who sticks it to the flashy champions, who takes on Atlantic Jewell and It’s A Dundeel only to be just nudged out, then turns up a month later to do it all over again. She’s my sentimental favourite and I’ll be cheering her all the way.