Desert Orchid

I know I have mentioned him before. Four times winner of the King George VI Chase. He also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Irish Grand National, along with too many steeplechase stakes and handicaps to list, and several wins over hurdles. He was the National Hunt Horse of the Year four times. He won 34 out of 70 lifetime starts to earn over half a million pounds sterling in prize money. He won the Cheltenham Gold Cup by a length and a half on terrible going…despite hating the mud AND the left hand track.

He was retired after falling in the King George VI in 1991, his owners deciding he had ‘lost his racing edge’. A year later he survived life threatening surgery.

In retirement, he followed hounds in Leicestershire on numerous occasions. He made public appearances to raise thousands of pounds for charity, led the post parade many times.

His gray coat, impeccable jumping and utter enthusiasm for racing defined English steeplechasing for four seasons. He was the absolute image of what an English Thoroughbred should be, racing over the big obstacles for four years without being injured once and giving his best in every race he ran…and looking good doing it.

This morning, “Dessie” passed away in his stall. He was 27 years old. He will be buried at Kempton, and the first Desert Orchid Chase is scheduled for December 27.

He was an incredible horse and will be missed. They just don’t make many like that.

I’ve never heard of him (I’m pretty much a steeplechase moron. :wink:) but it seems like he had a great career and a great life. He passed away at a good age and I’m sure the steeplechasing community will be missed. I’ll be looking for the Desert Orchid Chase. I just found some pics of him. He was a very beautiful horse. Rest in peace “Dessie”.

Desert Orchid webpage

He was a great horse, and will be missed.

On a slightly unrelated note, it’s such a nice change to see a horse (a gelding, no less) be respected and admired for his entire career, even after retiring from the track, and retire to a comfortable life for the rest of his days…such a nice change from this year’s tragedies (Barbaro, Elocutionist, Pine Island, etc.).

R.I.P. Desert Orchid

Well, the English love their steeplechasers…Red Rum was treated the same way after winning the Grand National three times…despite being unsound. Almost all English steeplechasers are geldings (A few are mares). Generally, stallions are not run over the big fences…the specialist jump sires are all hurdlers. This is partly because a horse has to be four or five, minimum, to be able to handle the size of steeplechase jumps and, combined with the fact that it’s dangerous racing, people want their stud prospects breeding at that point. Simple economics.

What a great overall life it sounds like he had. :slight_smile: