The Whanganui bred horse who climbed off the deck like Rocky to win the 3200m steeplechase at Awapuni on Saturday has been spotlighted in media from Hong Kong to Washington DC and provided his co-owner with one of the most exciting days of his racing career.

Maiden steeplechaser Des De Jeu, under Waikato jockey Aaron Kuru, produced one of the most extraordinary comebacks in the sport when the 5-year-old gelding fell at the first fence at Awapuni.

After their long slide, both jockey and horse just leapt back up and rejoined the race, leaping perfectly from then on to be back in contention from 600m out and challenging the heavily-backed Gagarin before and then after the final fence to race clear for a stunning victory.

"I probably haven't been so excited in my life," said Whanganui co-owner Hamish Auret.


"It was really, really awesome.

"It's viral, it's gone everywhere. It will be talked about in quizzes."

The 5-year-old bay gelding was born in September 2012, sired by Mettre En Jeu (2003) through dam Desiderata (1999) out of the Letham Stud, and was raised by Auret.

"I owned and trained him here in the flat, won a race with him, but I always thought he'd make a good jumper."

An experienced trainer, Auret had never had a steeplechase horse and was eager to test Des De Jeu, and so entered into a four-way ownership with Whanganui's Eddie and Dawn Symes, along with Palmerston North's LG Haydock.

The rest, as they say, is now history as global media from all four corners have highlighted the race video online – the Washington Post describing the event as happening in "North Palmerston".

Kuru, the 26-year-old double sports star who also represented New Zealand in softball, has been praised for his incredible poise and horsemanship.

"It was his first start over the fences and he probably landed a bit steep and just went down," Kuru said.


"I don't really know and can't explain it as it just sort of happened.

"I got back on and he drew himself back into the race. He's got plenty of ability.

"After that first he jumped pretty well although there's still plenty of improvement in him, so it's exciting."

There was a chance the historic achievement could have been taken away from horse and jockey as the stewards had to review whether Kuru leaving the saddle would negate the victory.

However, Auret said the amazing video footage provided by Trackside TV showed clearly that Kuru's hands never left the reins while the pair were sliding, therefore he technically never lost control.

"It was a bit of a strange one, but very exciting," Auret said.

"He lost probably 30 lengths doing that.

"One person said they'd been in the game 60 years – the jumping game – and they've never seen it [before]."

Trainer Mark Oulaghan admitted he wrote the horse off after the fall.

"We thought he wasn't a bad sort of an animal but after the first fence I wasn't giving him too much of a chance," he said.

"I was amazed he got back on as I thought he was gone.

"He's a big, scopey horse who jumps well so we think he has a big future as a chaser."