Jacqueline Ohrstrom's Demonstrative thrust himself into the year-end Eclipse Award picture for champion steeplechaser with an impressive, last-to-first victory in the Grade 1, $100,000 Colonial Cup on Saturday.
Ridden by Matt McCarron, Demonstrative was still at the back of the pack as the field turned for home at the Springdale Course in Camden, South Carolina. But the five-year-old Elusive Quality gelding roared over the final two National Fences and ran down Divine Fortune, who had inherited the lead from 2010 winner Slip Away. Demonstrative won by one length over Divine Fortune, and Alajmal finished third. Demonstrative ran the Colonial Cup's 2 3/4 miles in 5:15 4/5.
As the field approached the homestretch, trainer Richard Valentine had little hope that Demonstrative would make much of a showing.
"I thought he was beat," he said. "His jumping was good, but I didn't think he'd get there."
Indeed, speed had been holding on the Springdale course, and Slip Away had set a sensible pace under Paddy Young as Divine Fortune and Decoy Daddy tracked his pace. Slip Away tired early in the lane, and Divine Fortune took over under Darren Nagle.
Just to make things interesting, Demonstrative and McCarron had to maneuver around History Boy, who was pulled up before the next to last fence. Demonstrative soon found his best stride on the outside, closed ground powerfully after the last fence, and took control in the final 50 yards.
Divine Fortune ran on well, but Demonstrative's momentum carried him to his third victory of the year, two of them in Grade 1 races. After graduating from the novice ranks with a victory in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga, Demonstrative picked up his first Grade 1 score with a one-length win in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup.
Demonstrative was scratched from the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park after his regular jockey, Robbie Walsh, was injured in the prior race. The Lonesome Glory was won by Pierrot Lunaire, who subsequently won the Grade 1 Grand National on October 20. Demonstrative finished fourth in that race, but Valentine was not disappointed.
"He's not a horse that likes soft ground," the Virginia-based trainer said.
Demonstrative proved in the Colonial Cup stretch that he would be in the hunt for this year's Eclipse Award. Valentine joked that he told McCarron before the race: "If you're going to win, do it impressively so we'll get Eclipse Award votes."