Legends of the sport: Desert Orchid — ‘Everybody thought I’d finally gone mad when I stepped him up to the King George’ *H&H Plus*

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  • A swashbuckling grey with an unquenchable zest for racing, Desert Orchid lit up the National Hunt scene during the 1980s with his showboating charisma, says Julian Muscat

    It started as it would end eight years later, with Desert Orchid lying prostrate on the Kempton turf after a crashing fall.

    On his 70th and final outing the popular grey fell heavily in the 1991 King George VI Chase. The nation held its breath until Desert Orchid rose quickly, unhurt and ushered straight into retirement. But that fall on his racecourse debut was something else entirely. He’d run himself legless when he barely got airborne at the final flight. Then he lay down for what seemed like an eternity.

    “At that time his enthusiasm outweighed his technique and his experience,” relates Desert Orchid’s trainer, David Elsworth, in his soft, West Country lilt. “When he turned over, it looked serious.”

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