There were gasps from the huge Flemington crowd as they scrutinised the photo-finish frame, which appeared to show the two horses to be passing the line in unison, and it took several minutes until the judges declared it to be second consecutive French winner after Americain a year ago.
Just as Luca Cumani’s Bauer lost out by a nose in 2008, the same margin applied here, but while there was sympathy for Dunlop, the man who experienced the greatest loss was jockey Craig Williams.
Williams was used by trainer Mikel Delzangles to partner Dunaden (15-2) when he won his prep-race in the Geelong Cup but picked up a careless riding ban this week which he continued to appeal against until Monday.
Owner Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani, the Qatari behind the Qipco British Champions series, decided to fly the top French jockey Christophe Lemaire over after a commitment in Japan in any event – despite the fact he had no experience of Australian racing.
But Lemaire is no overnight hero, having risen to the top echelon of jockeys by virtue of successes all over the world and he was up to the challenge of the 151st running of the ’race that stops a nation’.
Any number held chances as the field rounded final the bend and both Red Cadeaux and Dunaden opted for the slingshot approach around the outside as they powered past the likes of German-bred Lucas Cranach (third) and Cumani’s Manighar (fifth) deep inside the final furlong.
Although Red Cadeaux and Michael Rodd had the edge over Dunaden as they were making rapid progress, Dunaden forced his way past when it mattered.
Americain himself made stunning headway from a mile back for fourth.
“I was a bit anxious after the line,” Lemaire admitted. “A rider on a pony told me they thought I had won and then when I turned the corner back towards the stands, everyone was applauding me.
“I wasn’t supposed to ride him and didn’t know until yesterday. Craig must be devastated and I hope he recovers quickly and that he will win many more big races.
“Two years ago I had a fall before Arc weekend and I missed winning four Group One races so I know what it is like to watch in your armchair. Unfortunately it’s part of a jockey’s life.”
Dunlop had no real bitterness as he surveyed Red Cadeaux.
“I thought he wouldn’t like the ground and with a little more juice he’d have beaten the other horse,” he said.
“I was watching it with Luca Cumani and he thought I’d won but the best I thought we’d got would have been a dead heat.
“You don’t like to be second but I’ve come all the way down here for the first time so you have to be delighted and it has been a great experience.
“If he’s OK, we’ll be back next year.”