How many steeplechases did Desert Orchid win?
Foaled in April, 1979, Desert Orchid was a prolific novice hurdler, winning six of his eight starts in 1983/84 and being sent off 7/1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1984. However, it was when switched to fences in 1985/86 that ‘Dessie’, as he became known, started to endear himself to the racing public with his front-running style and bold, attacking jumping.
In a long, illustrious career, characterised by a never-day-die attitude, regardless of distance or going, Desert Orchid won 34 of his 71 starts, over distances ranging from 2 miles to 3 miles 5 furlongs, and amassed over £650,000 in prize money. His 27 wins over fences included the King George VI Chase at Kempton four times, in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990, the Whitbread Gold Cup – now the Bet365 Gold Cup – at Sandown in 1988 and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 1990.
However, it was in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989 that Desert Orchid recorded his most famous victory. Despite a left-handed track and heavy, barely raceable going, neither of which was in his favour, Desert Orchid was nevertheless sent off 5/2 favourite for his first attempt in the ‘Blue Riband’ event. Left in the lead by the fall of Ten Plus at the third-last fence, Desert Orchid was soon headed, and looked beaten, until rallying up the Cheltenham hill to beat Yahoo by 1½ lengths.