Did Desert Orchid ever start favourite for the Champion Hurdle?
No, contrary to the information supplied by a certain free, Internet-based encyclopaedia, Desert Orchid never started favourite for the Champion Hurdle. He did run in the Champion Hurdle, sponsored in those days by Waterford Crystal, twice, in 1984 and 1985, but the favourites in those renewals were Dawn Run, at 4/5, and Brown’s Gazette, at 4/6, respectively.
On the first occasion, after a successful season, which had included victory in the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park, Desert Orchid was actually sent off 7/1 second favourite behind Dawn Run. However, having disputed the lead with the favourite for most of the way, Desert Orchid came under pressure on the downhill run to the third-last flight and weakened out of contention to finish among the backmarkers.
On the second occasion, despite winning his preparatory race, the Oteley Hurdle – now the Contenders Hurdle – at Sandown, Desert Orchid was sent off as a largely unconsidered 20/1 chance in the Champion Hurdle. Once again, as was his customary style, he was always well to the fore, chasing the breakneck pace set by rank outsider Northern Trial. However, his early exertions took their toll and he weakened into last place before the field reached the top of the hill and was eventually pulled up in the race won by See You Then.