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Shergar’s trainer reveals famous steed was ‘kindest horse’ he ever worked with in new TG4 doc

Date: 
Wednesday, 2019, August 28
Location: 
Source: 
The Irish Sun
Shergar with owner His Highness the Aga Khan and trainer Michael Stoute shown at Royal Ascot in 1981
Author: 
Aoife Bannon

SHERGAR’S trainer Michael Stoute has told how the famous steed was “the kindest horse” he worked with.

The Irish-bred thoroughbred was stolen from Ballymany Stud in Co Kildare in 1983 for a ransom of £2million, which was never paid.

The winner of the Epsom and Irish Derbys in 1981 — who was owned by the Aga Khan — is believed to have been shot by his IRA kidnappers after injuring his leg, though the organisation has never officially accepted responsibility.

Speaking in a new documentary about the Irish Derby, Stoute said: “Shergar was so undeserving of what happened him.

"He had a wonderful character and temperament.
“He was the kindest horse you could really have any dealings with.

"It was a sad time when we soon realised we weren’t going to see him again.”
Stoute also recalled his successes with the wonder horse, who famously won the Epsom Derby in 1981 by ten lengths — the biggest winning margin in the race’s history.

Three weeks later, in the Irish Sweeps Derby, he won by four lengths — with renowned jockey Lester Piggott in the saddle.

Stoute said: “Shergar was named after a Himalayan village.

“He came to me as a yearling. I’d first seen him at the Aga Khan stud in the Curragh.
“In the Irish Derby, Walter ­Swinburn, his usual partner, was suspended so Lester Piggott who rode him in his two-year-old races rode him in the Derby. Lester was full of confidence.”

Piggott said of the famous win: “I didn’t have to do anything really. He just took off.”

The Aga Khan family involvement in Irish racing began in the early 20th century, when William ­Hall-Walker, a Liverpool businessman who kept a stud in Tully, Co Kildare,
introduced his grandfather to the sport.

The Aga Khan III went on to purchase land and began breeding in Ireland, with his family continuing the tradition.
Guy Williams, an equine historian, said: “Aga Khan III was introduced to Irish racing by William Hall-Walker, the founder of the Irish National Stud.”

Historian Jim Kavanagh added: “Colonel Walker told him if you plan to get into breeding and racing, there’s only one place to do it, that’s Ireland.”

KEY PLAYERS

The Irish landscape is credited with helping successful trainers such as Aidan O’Brien, Jim Bolger, John Oxx, and Dermot Weld and others become key players in the sport — with homegrown horses struggling to compete with Britain until the 1960s.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “It’s a limestone-based soil in Ireland that’s good for developing bone structure.

"Irish horses are renowned globally for their stamina and durability.

“If you buy a horse from Ireland as a yearling, there’s a fair chance that horse will still be racing five, six, seven years later.”
In TG4 documentary The Irish Derby — Níos Mó Ná Rása, which is narrated by Fionnuala Flanagan, many of the country’s leading figures tell how the world-renowned event at the Curragh developed into one of the leading fixtures in the racing calendar.

Bing Crosby, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Richard Gere and Princess Caroline are among the big names who have attended, along with Queen Victoria in 1861, who landed at the Co Kildare racetrack while visiting her son Edward VII, who was serving in the Curragh.

The recent €81million renovations of the Curragh racetrack was designed to ensure that the so-called ‘Queen’s Room’, the historic room where Queen Victoria was entertained, was kept intact.
Lester Piggott, known as The Long Fellow during his illustrious career, said of the venue: “It’s got to be one of the best tracks in the world.”
The Irish Derby - Níos Mó Ná Rása airs on TG4 next Wednesday at 9.30pm.


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