01/06/2016 12:00AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Demonstrative


You want longevity and consistency? Top steeplechase horse Demonstrative ran in 19 Grade 1 stakes between August 2012 and November 2015. He won seven, placed in four, was an Eclipse Award finalist three times, and claimed the bronze statue once.

Demonstrative began his campaign in the $150,000 Iroquois at Nashville, Tenn. Touching down a half-stride behind Mr. Hot Stuff at the last fence, Demonstrative rallied to win the three-mile classic by a neck for substitute jockey Jack Doyle (who got the mount a few hours earlier when Robbie Walsh was hurt).

The victory signified that any road to the 2015 Eclipse Award would again go through the powerful bay son of Elusive Quality.

“He’s some horse. He traveled then he went dead on me and it took him a while to get going, when he did, he just took off. It was brilliant,” Doyle said. “I was happy the whole way until we jumped three out and the second horse has just quickened up, got a couple of lengths on me and I thought I was going to struggle to get him back, he winged the last and landed running, he was always going to get there then. It’s a super feeling.”

Then it all unraveled.

Demonstrative shouldered top weight of 158 pounds and settled for third in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga – behind 142-pound longshots Choral Society and Martini Brother. Demonstrative was there at the last fence, but couldn’t quicken in deep stretch.

Banking on a sharper effort, trainer Richard Valentine aimed for the New York Turf Writers Cup three weeks later. Demonstrative never found his best stride and was pulled up after dropping well back. Immediate physical examination revealed little, though Demonstrative was later diagnosed with a lung infection. Valentine bypassed Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory in September and aimed for the Grand National, at $300,000 the year’s richest race, in mid-October. Paddy Young substituted for an injured Walsh this time, and Demonstrative traveled okay until a bad jump late. He finished a well-beaten ninth. 

Undaunted, Valentine regrouped again. His horse was dull and off-form, but healthy. In early November, Demonstrative won a training flat race in an uncharacteristic front-running romp and aimed for the season-ending Colonial Cup. At $100,000, it’s no longer the country’s richest jump race. As it was in 1970, however, it may still be the most important. In front over every fence, Demonstrative had fellow title contenders Dawalan and Bob Le Beau worried, but yielded in the final furlong and settled for third.

He’ll be back for more in 2016.

“What do they say, you can’t buy class,” Valentine said. “He’s a horse of a lifetime. He’s so easy to train, he keeps you humble, he’s pure class.”

Owned by Jacqueline Ohrstrom, Demonstrative took a roundabout route. Bred in Kentucky by Gainsborough Farm, he won once in 11 English flat starts. Valentine spotted the raw 3-year-old at the 2010 Tattersalls July Sale. Demonstrative’s $932,300 in steeplechase earnings are third-most in U.S. history behind only McDynamo and Good Night Shirt.