Tributes paid to Desert Orchid

TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the world's most famous racehorses, Desert Orchid, who died at his home in west Suffolk yesterday.The famous grey died at the age of 27 at the Egerton Stables in Newmarket after a prolific racing career and many years in retirement.

TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the world's most famous racehorses, Desert Orchid, who died at his home in west Suffolk yesterday.

The famous grey died at the age of 27 at the Egerton Stables in Newmarket after a prolific racing career and many years in retirement.

Desert Orchid - known as “Dessie” - moved to Newmarket last year, after it was feared winters in the north of England were proving too cold for him.

During his racing life, Desert Orchid won 34 of his 70 races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989 and the Irish Grand National. He also won four times at the King George VI Steeple Chase at Kempton Park, where he will now be laid to rest.


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His former trainer David Elsworth, at Egerton Stables, said: “Desert Orchid died peacefully in his stable. There was no stress, he departed from this world with dignity and no fuss. He did his dying in the same individual way that he did his living. It was time to go.”

Mr Elsworth said the popular horse had been ill for several days. “Dessie had not been well for the past week and was losing his co-ordination,” he said.

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“We had been involved with this wonderful horse for a quarter of a century, both in his racing days and retirement.

“Everybody will miss him and our sympathy goes to his adoring public and fan club that never ceased to take opportunities to see him at his public appearances.”

Desert Orchid was born in April 1979 and raced throughout the 1980s, finally retiring in December 1991.

He was known for his gritty determination, but his greatest hour came in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989, when he won by a length and a half.

One of his owners Midge Burridge said: “Mentally, he was 100% completely alert, eating and drinking. I am glad he was perky up to the last.”

Ms Burridge, who had known the horse since his birth, added: “He was always a lively character and terribly determined, that came out in his racing. He never accepted defeat.”

Ms Burridge said she thought his ashes may be scattered at Kempton Park, which he used to visit in retirement. The course has already named a race after him, which will be run for the first time on December 27.

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