Racing Memories: Desert Orchid 1989 Gold Cup


For those alive in the 1980′s and have never heard of Desert Orchid you need to have words with your parents about being locked in the cellar for so long!!

Desert Orchid as a famous racehorse very nearly didn’t happen after a terrible fall on his first run over hurdles. I remember the race, and a thought the poor horse was done for, luckily he eventually got to his feet and history started to be written for what turned out to be a once in a lifetime horse.

He won decent hurdles by taking the Tolworth Hurdle and the Kingwell Hurdle, but it was when he went chasing in the 1984/85 season that he really started to show his class. He proved to be one of the toughest horses that decade, and David Elsworth, his trainer, worked wonders with the horse.

Dessie, as he was known, captured the hearts of the nation, and being a grey was easily recognised, seldom running a bad race at the top level, and won me a fair bit of money back then, although I wasn’t a pro-gambler in those days. I specifically remember the day he fell at Aintree as I’d had my biggest bet ever on a horse at that time! Ouch! Still, I made more than I won, as he was as reliable as the likes of Kauto Star.

As Dessie was well known as a 2 miler, it was amazing how he battled up the hill to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989. The ground was boggy which made it even more of a stayers race. The cheers from the crowd made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

Dessie’s best efforts though came on Boxing Day when he won the King George VI Chase FOUR times!! Christmas Day became useless as racing enthusiasts waited each year to see Dessie on Boxing Day. This record has only just been broken by another top class public loved chaser, Kauto Star.

One thing that always stood out with Dessie was not only his toughness, but the fact in so many races he was carrying a lot of weight. Rarely do we see that these days, although in the last few years we have started to see the odd class horse running in handicaps.

During his retirement he done a lot for charity as well as opening bookmakers, shops, etc, so was never really out of the public eye.

Dessie passed away of old age in 2006, having lived a well loved and fantastic life. His ashes are buried at Kempton near his statue, and if you are ever there, pay his grave a visit.

Racing Memories: Viking Flagship – Fantastic 2 Miler

VIKING FLAGHSHIP first appeared in 1990, but it wasn’t until he switched to David Nicholson’s yard that his true class appeared, and boy was it CLASS. The video above is the 1995 Melling Chase at Aintree, and was fought against other greats of the time Martha’s Son and Deep Sensation, but Viking Flagship spent many years running in the top races and knocked up a double in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, as well as taking the Melling Chase twice, the Castleford twice, and the Game Spirit twice.

I have some wonderful memories of this horse, especially his excellent runs in the Queen Mother Champion Chase battling with the likes of Deep Sensation, Remittance Man, Travado, Wonder Man and many others over the years.

This is probably his greatest moment in the 1994 Queen Mother Champion Chase


Racing Memories: Diminuendo – Epsom Oaks 1988

It doesn’t seem like over 20 years have passed since this race. I remember Diminuedo vividly, and always always astounded by her class, especially considering she was only a small horse. The way she burst clear from the rest of the field coming down the hill was amazing. She still remains my favourite filly of all time.


This video also brings back memories of the great Steve Cauthen, and the days when Sheikh Mohammed’s colours were numerous in the years before Godolphin.