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Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Beaten just twice, under mitigating circumstances, in his eight-race career, Shergar owes his place among the racing greats primarily to his 10-length win in the 1981 Derby, still the widest winning margin in the 233-year history of the race. Indeed, winning jockey Walter Swinburn always insisted that Shergar had so much in reserve that he could have won by twice as far, had he so desired.

A striking bay colt, with a white blaze and four white socks, Shergar made his debut for Michael Stoute in a maiden race, the Kris Plate, over a mile at Newbury in September 1980. Sent off the 11/8 favourite, Shergar won by 2½ lengths under Lester Piggott, setting a course record in the process. Stepped up in class for the William Hill Futurity (nowadays the Racing Post Trophy) at Doncaster the following month, Shergar finished second, beaten 2½ lengths, behind Beldale Flutter.

However, it was 1981, his three-year-old season, that was to prove the “annus mirabilis” for the son of Great Nephew. He reappeared in the Guardian Classic Trial at Sandown in April, which he won by 10 lengths, and hacked up by 12 lengths in the Chester Vase in May, with Swinburn sitting motionless. His dramatic progress from two to three years saw him promoted to 11/10 favourite for the Derby the following month, in the absence of the injured Beldale Flutter.

In the Derby, Shergar took the lead rounding Tattenham Corner and displayed a breathtaking turn of foot, drawing away to win by 10 lengths, eased down. Radio commentator Peter Bromley summed up the scene on Epsom Downs when he said, “You need a telescope to see the rest.”

Three weeks later, Shergar travelled to the Curragh for the Irish Derby where, in the absence of the suspended Swinburn, he was partnered once again by Lester Piggott. Shergar was never out of a canter to win by 4 lengths and, reunited with Swinburn and taking on older horses for the first time, won the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot by an identical margin the following month.

Instead of heading straight for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, a change of plan saw him line up for the St. Leger at Doncaster, for which he started 6/4 favourite. However, the writing was on the wall a long way from home and Shergar weakened to finish only fourth, beaten 9 lengths, behind Cut Above, trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden by Joe Mercer. Following that defeat, Shergar wasn’t entered in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and had run his last race. Nevertheless, he had amassed £295,000 in prize money during 1981 and was voted European Racehorse of the Year.

At the end of his racing career, Shergar retired to the Ballymany Stud, County Kildare, and was syndicated for £10 million by his breeder and owner, the Aga Khan, who hoped that the colt would enhance his breeding operation. In his first season at stud, Shergar put 42 of the first 44 mares he covered in foal, but shortly before the start of his second season disaster struck.

Shergar was kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud by an armed gang on Wednesday, February 3, 1983. He apparently met a gruesome end when shot dead by his kidnappers in a stable in County Leitrim shortly afterwards, but his body has never been found. Over 30 years later, the file on the disappearance of Shergar remains open, but as Walter Swinburn put it, “I always say that the ending can never spoil the great memories.”

Sunday, 26 August 2018

4.35 Ripon, Monday, August 27

Gulf Of Poets with an opportunity to resume winning ways. Michael Easterby’s 6-year-old hasn’t been seen since June, presumably because of the protracted spell of fine weather, but, with the going at Ripon already good and rain forecast, may finally have underfoot conditions in his favour. He’s won a couple of times on good ground, in any case, so he should be fine even if the ground doesn’t soften appreciably.

Obviously, an absence of 114 days is a slight worry, but the Oasis Dream gelding won on his reappearance this season and last, so probably doesn’t need that much preparation. He’s 1lb higher in the weights than when third, beaten two necks, behind Original Choice in a similar race at Wetherby last time and, consequently, 4lb worse off with the second, Hayadh. However, while Rebecca Bastiman’s 5-year-old ran a little better over course and distance nine days ago, he has still failed to trouble the judge in four starts since, so it would be no great surprise if Gulf Of Poets reversed the form on this occasion.

Gulf Of Poets is drawn in stall nine of ten, which isn’t ideal on a course that typically favours low-drawn front runners, but his overall level of form is high and jockey Nathan Evans knows him well enough to have him in the right place at the right time.

Selection: Ripon 4.35 Gulf Of Poets to win 6/1

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Saddle Up for some Horse Jokes

Where do horses go when they’re sick? The horsepital.

How do you make a small fortune out of horses?
Start with a large fortune

Q. What does it mean if you find a horseshoe?
A. Some poor horse is walking around in his socks.

A: I put £10 on a horse yesterday who was running against applesB: 
What happened?
A: I lost, he got pipped at the post
What do you call a horse that can’t lose a race? Sherbet.

What’s black and white and eats like a horse? A zebra.

Which side of a horse has more hair?
The outside

"Bob, I can't understand how Bill can have so much luck at cards and be so unlucky with horses."
"That's easy," said Bob. "You can't shuffle the horses." 

A man has a racehorse who never won a race. In disgust the man says, ” Horse, you win today or you will be pulling a milk wagon tomorrow morning.”
The starting gate opens, the horses take-off, they move the gate away and there lays his horse asleep on the track.
He kicks the horse and asks, “Why on earth are you sleeping?”, The horse, half asleep says, “I have to get up at three in the morning.”

A Kentucky horse breeder had a filly that won every race in which she was entered. But as she got older she became very temperamental. He soon found that when he raced her in the evening, she would win handily, but when she raced during the day she would come in dead last. He consulted the top veterinarians and horse psychologists but to no avail. He finally had to give up because it had become ... a real night mare.

Monday, 23 July 2018

7.40 Leicester, Wednesday, July 25

Welliesinthwater is hardly the most topical selection, but Derek Shaw’s five-year-old appeared admirably suited by rattling fast ground when winning at Doncaster last month and still looks feasibly weighted on his best form. So far, the son of Footstepsinthesand has reserved his best form for the South Yorkshire course, where he’s won three times, but needed every yard of 7 furlongs on Town Moor last time, so this stiffer test of stamina should play to his strengths. Indeed, he’s won a couple of times over a mile on the Polytrack at Chelmsford and ran respectably on his most recent effort over this course and distance, just over a year ago, so 7 furlongs on this galloping, testing track could be just what he needs at this stage of his career.
Granted the current heatwave,

On his last visit here, he finished a never-nearer fifth of eight, beaten 4½ lengths, in a 0-95 contest off a handicap mark of 89. A 5lb rise for winning at Doncaster still only takes back up to a mark of 78, so it’s difficult to argue that he’s not well handicapped if he retains most of his old ability. He was fifth of 15, beaten just 2 lengths, in a 0-95 contest over 7 furlongs – albeit, once again, at Doncaster – off a handicap mark just 1lb lower as recently as June this year, so there’s every reason to believe that he does.

Selection: Leicester 7.40 Welliesinthewater to win 5/1