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Friday, 15 May 2020

Shergar

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.”

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Australian Racing

Here at horseracingtips.org.uk we appreciate that, although UK focused, it certainly doesn't hurt to cast a wide net at times and take a more worldwide approach. We've cast our gaze over US racing in the past and so it's high time we also did the same with Australian racing.

It was actually a rather sweet / funny story that led me to take a closer took at Australian racing over recent weeks. It was due to the story that went viral concerning a horse named Horsey McHorseFace. The horse was named after, or rather an acknowledgement of, the comedic name given to the UK research vessel now named RRS Sir David Attenborough. At the time the decision was made to ask the public via voting on the internet, what they thought the ship should be called. As you'd expect, these things never work out well and the name winning by a country mile was Boaty McBoatFace. The argument over whether to stick with this name comically went all of the way to government panels. In the end a compromise was made and a submersible on the ship kept the boaty name, which the ship itself was named after Attenborough.

In any case as stated, as a 'tip of the hat' to this, an Aussie horse was, to the amusement of many, named Horsey McHorseface. As it happened it's abilities were anything but comical, and when the three year old gained his first win in a 7f maiden race with Keagan Latham riding, the story made national and international news. He's only had one run since that time, which sadly wasn't a win, but we have high hopes for horsey. In fact I can't quite believe he doesn't yet have his own wikipedia page!

What else is going on in Australian racing you may ask? Well, let's not forget that the Melbourne Cup is fast approaching. Due to take place in Novembver, this jewel in the crown of Australian jump race events is bound to once again be one to watch. The best of the best will go head to head over a 3,200m course on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria. With total prize money equal or above an impressive $6,200,000 (AU) the race is bound to be a competitive affair.

Attendance at the course is expected to be around 100,000 with millions more watching at home and around the world too. Last year's winner was Almandin ridden by Kerrin Mcvoy. It's a bit too early for us to start making 2017 Melbourne Cup predictions, but we'll soon no doubt have a clearer idea of one's to watch!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

When It's Just Not Your Day



I was skeptical of the 'this will make you give up punting' title to be honest, but to be honest if I'd been on this, I'd have felt cursed! File under 'It's not your day, mate!'