There were plenty of tears being shed in the Riccarton birdcage as the supporters of trainers Peter Corbett and Terrill Charles waited for the pair's bonny staying mare Dee And Gee to make her way off the track after scoring her greatest victory when taking out the 157th running of the New Zealand Cup (3200m) on Saturday.
That Charles was on hand to play such a pivotal role in the win with her partner Corbett is testament to her strength and bloody mindedness after being diagnosed four years ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer and given just four and a half months to live.
Charles has stubbornly refused to let her cancer affect her and together with Corbett, who has overcome health issues of his own in recent years, has built up a boutique team of thoroughbreds to the point where the partnership lined up three starters in Saturday's feature event.
While Owen Patrick and King Of The Dance produced creditable but unsuccessful efforts, it was stable star Dee And Gee who took out the major spoils in the traditional two-mile feature as she out-toughed her rivals in the closing stages courtesy of an impeccable ride by Leah Hemi.
Hemi, who was aboard the Darci Brahma six-year-old when she finished second in last season's Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) at Trentham, had her charge perfectly positioned one back off an easy speed before taking the race to her rivals with 800m to run.
Hemi shot Dee And Gee to the front at the top of the straight and despite being hotly challenged by topweight Kaharau and her Wellington Cup nemesis Gorbachev, she fought like a tiger to score by a neat length and register her biggest victory to date.
Corbett, who used to farm pigs and rear calves with Charles on their property before the shift to solely focusing on the racehorses in their 10-strong team, cut an emotional figure when questioned after the race.
"It's just unreal," he said.
"She (Hemi) couldn't have got her into a better spot, she got her out of the breeze and she presented her perfectly when she got around the bend.
"By Christ she's a tough little horse though and we got it (the Cup)."
Hemi was full of praise for her mount and delighted to turn the tables on Gorbachev who had beaten her at Trentham.
"She was really unlucky when Gorbachev got her at Wellington, but today she got him," she said.
"She hasn't got a sprint at all but has a really high cruising speed that she can sustain for quite a while.
"I'm just so happy for Peter and Terrill and I know that Terrill will be so stoked."
The win was the biggest to date for Corbett and Charles who went close to taking out the race when She's Insatiable finished third in 2014.
Dee And Gee has now won six of her 36 career starts and over $378,000 for the pair who took over her ownership and training after she had her first four starts for Cambridge conditioner Shaune Ritchie who purchased her for $16,000 from The Oaks Stud draft at the 2015 Select Yearling Sale at Karaka.
- NZ Racing Desk