Deane Lester talks to Bruce Clark about his battle for health and his passion for running

Deane Lester’s Twitter account is Defier1.

OK, no blue ticks (don’t need it or want it), but some not too shabby 28,000 subscribers and yes that’s fine, and maybe subtlety sums up the most respected betting investment adviser from Australia, or if you wanted to be cheap and a bit tacky, you could go with a tipster.

But the beloved “Deano” is of course much more than just a racing media presser.


“Look at me” was never a part of Lester’s character and if you wanted to join a band that had a tough word to say about him first find one of those old phone booths if you can, do your reunion and take a good look at yourselves, then lock the door (from inside).

Like Lester, Defier, the Guy Walter-trained galloper from the turn of the millennium, gave his best at the highest level but was rarely in the spotlight. This was normally held by Lonhro, but Defier won a George Main Stakes (beating Sunline), and a Doomben Cup at Group 1 level, was placed in two Cox Plates (behind Northerly and Fields of Omagh), but had the leather Hairy Lonhro in a then Group 2 Warwick Stakes.

“I don’t know, Guy was just one of my favorite people in racing, a gentleman and I hung on to Defier and I loved him and his honesty. I guess that’s fine with me, I been a ‘defiant’ for years, especially doctors,” said Lester, of his rehabilitation ward at a Caulfield hospital.

And by the way, if it wasn’t for Defier, Lester would have opted for Shaftesbury Avenue, pointing his 1991 portfolio of Lightning Stakes and Newmarket Handicap wins towards a Japan Cup finish.

But it was a pleasant little surprise to hear that well-measured, well-known and humbly friendly voice coming out of RSN radio on Saturday morning as if it had never been absent. But he was and for a very good reason but even when he was away he was always there and sometimes here.

Let me try to explain.

Lester has been out of the airway since May 22. And with a good note of apology from his doctor – the not too insignificant matter of a four hour operation that turned into eight hours on his T8 and T9 vertebrae on an already troublesome spine saw this and the pics can give you an idea of ​​the detail. It was June 7.

An x-ray of Deane Lester’s back after recent spinal surgery

Lester is now counting the days to get through Rehab and finally be able to move into his new home at Botanic Ridge in Cranbourne with his partner Leanne. He jokes, it’s pretty close to his pal Robbie Griffiths and “Cuzzy Bro” Michael Walker, but also pretty far away, if you know what I mean. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) finally approved their bathroom last week.

But this latest serious surgery comes on the heels of another series of health issues that could convince he’s donating his body to sci-fi, not science, when the judge puts his number in the frame.

Lester, such a familiar figure around the mounting court at Metropolitan Melbourne race meetings, has remarkably not been on the track since Jamie Kah claimed his maiden Group 1 win over Harlem in the European Cup. Australia 2019.


But you’ve always heard it on Melbourne radio, or on Channel 7’s race day coverage or a regular stint in the Perth media as its tip service subscribers received their regular service every Saturday. As if he was not absent.

And he got a shout out from his prodigy jockey Jye McNeil, who he helped get the ride to and help with instructions to win the 2020 Melbourne Cup on Twilight Payment.

It wasn’t just Covid that kept Lester away. For 14 months, from February 18, 2020, he knows the dates precisely, until Anzac Day last year, he was confined to his bed but lying on his left side, supported only by a wall of pillows and the passion for his work. All because of a bedsore.

And not just any bedsore, of course.

“I went for a cleanse and scrub, which is pretty standard, but I saw on their faces that it was something worse, they found a 12cm hole in my thigh. My doctor was Andrew Fuller, the infectious disease officer and he said we want to do it right, the alternative is you die.”

The good news, there was, is that Dr Fuller knew the pandemic would cause the lockdown and brought Lester home to begin his public hibernation as a series of nine surgeries were needed to fill the wound with healthy tissue, or if you want yours search, google hyper granulation.

So every word you heard from Lester during this time when you thought life was normal was he confined to bed, unable to roll over on his right side.


Significance of Deane’s recent surgeries exposed

“It wasn’t much fun, I had an inflatable bed and a pile of pillows,” Lester says, but usually without the slightest hint of a “why me” or navel.

“But I was able to work, I had a hospital table set up for the radio next to the bed, which probably kept me as sane as possible during that time. I remember Annie Kearney (Channel 10) interviewed me via zoom after the Cup because of what Jye said, and we had to set up the computer in some why to get the shot to work.”

But he has needed total media silence since May to recover from recent spinal surgery. This follows a diagnosis in December of further deterioration of his troubled spine, where the changes in the spine were detected and the pain felt with it almost unbearable.

“I think we had 10 surgeons who attacked him. I had a series of tests in January and at the beginning of February I was in the Alfred for 10 days because there was a shadow on the spine spine, making it difficult to target the root problem.”

Lester can thank Dr. Paul Lawton for the short-term process of managing pain at a time of weakness so intense he couldn’t get out of bed. And he can thank Lloyd Williams for connecting him with Israel-based neurosurgeon Professor Andrew Kaye on WhatsApp throughout the medical plan.

“It was a physical challenge as well as a mental one, but I can’t thank Leanne enough and I was lucky to have raced.”

Respected fitness analyst Deane Lester says he was lucky to have run throughout his health battle

The operation left him in an induced coma for three days and there were ketamine-based hallucinations which still haunt him but which he talks about openly.

“The ketamine is used to take the pain away, but it’s become like paranoia and it’s like you’re responding to the exact opposite of what it should do for you. I know one day I called my homies and I told them they were hitting me, when they were only trying to help me. I don’t want to go through that again. Lester said.

“Rehabilitation started with physio on the back, simple things like stretching, sitting and standing, and pedaling two miles on a moped.”


Lester acknowledges that the enforced break from regular duties and medical expenses have eaten away at the kitty’s life, but he’s looking forward to getting back on track, which he hopes will be on Memsie Stakes day, August 27.

And the familiar sight of Lester on his scooter, he used one (well three of them, even one that Luke Currie seconded after he won on Makybe Diva in Flemington and grounded it in Flemington members ) over the past 20 years for mobility, will be upgraded with a new electric wheelchair, allowing him a little more elevation to look his friends and fans more in the eye.

“It’s been a very humbling thing,” Lester said. “The messages, hundreds of them, not just from people I know, or know vaguely, but from people who found my number and texted me.

“I think I’ve been true to what I’ve known from the start in this game, it was never about me, it was horse first and then punting and I been very lucky for the opportunities given to me and if that means people have looked up to me over time for the way I do things, I’m very flattered.”

So if he tips In The Boat or Stern Idle, or How’s The Serenity, The Admiral or Seberate in Perth with his great buddy Simon Miller, horses he’s interested in right now, he’ll do it because he thinks they will gain on form, not because they have been improved by his property.

It’s the Deane Lester way. Keep challenging them, Deano!

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