Brian Russell is a veritable vault of information and his weekly news service Australian Thoroughbred is always a good read.
This week he ran a snippet on a missing mare in Muswellbrook, recalling the events of 1983 when Shergar was stolen from the Aga Khan’s stables – allegedly by the IRA – and the time when neddy nappers let a future Melbourne Cup winner go.
One of the greatest shocks in world thoroughbred history was the stealing, by masked gunmen out of the Aga Khan’s stud stallion complex in Ireland in 1983, of Shergar after one season of use.
Never seen again, Shergar had captivated the world two years earlier when he strode to a 10 lengths win in the English Derby.
It was the biggest margin in the over two centuries of Derby renewals, earning the son of Great Nephew a spot in a list of 100 Memorable Sporting Moments.
Stealing of horses, particularly thoroughbreds, is rare phenomenon in modern times, but happened often in Australia in the era of bushrangers. On one occasion folkore has it they duffed horses off pioneer Bathurst district thoroughbred breeder George Lee’s property, but let a young colt go when he became lame.
He became one of Australia’s most famous racehorses under the name of The Barb, winning the1866 Melbourne Cup and twice being successful in the Sydney Cup. On the second occasion he carried 10 stone 8 pounds (67 kgs).
This writer had not heard of a horse being stolen in Australia in recent years until last week when former Muswellbrook district stud owner Jim Delaney, now training at Taree, reported the loss of one of his prized mares. She has been agisted on a farm south of Muswellbrook.
All signs, including foreign tyre tracks, suggests this showy chestnut with a blaze, white on four legs and brands of BP near shoulder and 11 over 3 on the off had been taken unlawfully on about January 26. A reward is being offered for information leading to her recovery. Phone 02 6551 7646.
Back to Shergar for a minute: urban myth has it that the police officer heading the investigation into the Derby winner’s disappearance kept getting mysterious calls from a bloke who would say: “Shergar is less than one and three quarter miles from the Aga Khan’s stables” before promptly hanging up.
After several phone calls the frustrated cop eventually yelled into the phone: “How do you know he’s less than one and three quarter miles from the Aga Khan’s stables?”
The caller replied: “Because Shergar can’t run further than a mile and a half!”
(Shergar was beaten at his last start in the 14 furlong, 126 yard St Leger)