Sadly, Shergar will always be best remembered not for his career as a racehorse, but for his mysterious disappearance from the Ballymany Stud, Co. Kildare in February, 1983, after which he was never seen alive again. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Shergar was an outstanding racehorse, who won six of his eight races, including the Guardian Classic Trial, Chester Vase, Derby, Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Indeed, his 10-length victory in the 1981 Derby – which led commentator Peter Bromley to exclaim, ‘…you need a telescope to see the rest!’ – remains the widest winning margin in the history of the Epsom Classic. His career ended in disappointment when only fourth, beaten 11½ lengths, on unfavourable soft going, in the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster. A proposed trip to Longchamp for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was called off and Shergar was, instead, retired to stud.
Even so, Shergar was awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of 140, placing him alongside such luminaries of the sport as Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars. At the end of his racing career, he was syndicated for £10 million, making him, for a time, the most famous and valuable horse in the world.
The vast majority of Flat races in Britain and Ireland are started from starting stalls, so it is vital that racehorses remain tractable in and around the stalls. Horses that are difficult, or impossible, to load into the stalls, or become fractious and unruly once loaded, may need to be withdrawn on welfare grounds. Consequently, any horse that causes repeated problems at the start may be referred for a stalls test, which it must pass before it can race again.
As the name suggests, a stalls test is an official trial of a horse’s ability to start satifactorily from starting stalls. A stalls test may take place at a race meeting or elsewhere, subject to approval by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). In either case, the horse must demonstrate its willingness to be led into the stalls by a single stalls handler, with the assistance of no more than four stall handlers from behind, and remain in the stalls, quietly, for at least a minute.
A horse that fails a stalls test cannot take another for 14 days and, if it fails a second consecutive test, cannot take another, or race, for six months. If, at the end of that period, the horse fails a third consecutive stalls test, its future lies in the hands of the BHA Disciplinary Panel.
The Grand National, or at least a precursor to it, known as the ‘Grand Liverpool Steeplechase’, was founded by William Lynn, landlord of the Waterloo Inn in Liverpool, at Aintree Racecourse in 1836. Lynn was already a well-known sports promoter and had been staging race meetings, on the Flat, at Aintree since 1829. However, the inspiration for what would become the most famous steeplechase in the world did not come ‘out of the blue’ but, rather, from a pre-existing race, known as the ‘Great St. Albans Steeplechase’.
Inaugurated by another hotelier, Thomas Coleman of the Turf Hotel in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1830, the Great St. Albans Steeplechase was originally run in Bedfordshire, from Harlington to Wrest Park, near Silsoe, and back again, over a total distance of approximately four miles. The first race of its kind to be staged in England, the Great St. Albans Steeplechase proved a huge success, so much so that, by 1834, it was a major event, attracting runners from all over the country. Of course, it also attracted the attention of Lynn, who devised a similar race of his own, to start and finish near the grandstands at Aintree; the rest, as they say, is history.
In betting parlance, a ‘Roundabout’ is a type of multiple bet involving three selections. The bet consists of three single bets and three conditional, or ‘any-to-come’, doubles to twice the original stake. For example, a £1 Roundabout on three selections, A, B and C, consists of £1 win A, any-to-come £2 win double B and C, £1 win B, any-to-come £2 win double A and C, and £1 win C, any-to-come £2 win double A and B.
Of course, if one of your selections is odds-on, the win single will generate a return less than twice your original stake, in which case the full return will be staked on the any-to-come double on the other two selections. Consequently, if one of the other two selections loses, you will lose your whole stake, despite having backed a winner.
Nevertheless, proponents of the Roundabout argue, with some justification, that the possibility of losing your whole stake is a price worth paying for the ‘leverage’ the bet provides, if successful. In the above example, the amount staked is £3, for three £1 win singles, but the potential payout is for three £1 win singles, less £2 from the return on each one, plus three £2 win doubles. If you back three winners, all at even money, your return from three standard £1 win singles will be £6, but your return from a Roundabout, for the same unit stake, will be £24.