A History of the Shergar Cup

This week we’re looking to the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup on Saturday 9 August, held at Ascot, and look at the horse that gave its name to the event – Shergar.

Shergar’s name is infamous in racing folklore as much for his headline-grabbing demise as for his exceptional performances on the racecourse, the most impressive of those being his record-breaking victory in the 1981 Derby.

Famously kidnapped by the IRA following his retirement to stud, the Aga Khan’s colt was one of the finest Derby winners of the 20th century and without argument the best racehorse of his generation with a lofty Timeform rating of 140.

Having been trained by Michael Stoute in Newmarket, Shergar won impressively on his first start as a two-year-old before finishing second to the more experienced Beldale Flutter on his only other outing in what is now the Racing Post Trophy.

Shergar commenced his Classic season as a 33/1 chance for the Derby. Those odds were slashed after his 10-length victory in Sandown’s Classic Trial, followed by a staggering 12-length victory in the Chester Vase.

With this record behind him, Shergar lined up at Epsom as the 10/11 favourite for Derby glory. He did not disappoint his supporters as he once again glided past his rivals to register an incredible 10-length success – the widest winning margin in the long history of the race.

After securing the Epsom Classic, Shergar targeted the Irish Derby, again winning in style by four lengths, and following this up equally impressively in King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

The stage was set for an autumn hurrah in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp but in an unexpected twist, connections decided to take in the St Leger at Doncaster. The extended mile and three quarters of the world’s oldest Classic proved beyond Shergar’s stamina reserves and he could fare no better than fourth.

This unusual defeat was to be Shergar’s final race. By this point, he was valued at £10 million, and retired to the Aga Khan’s Ballymany Stud in Ireland. However, on 8 February 1983, hooded gunmen seized the stallion. A £2-million ransom was demanded and refused. Shergar’s fate remains a mystery to this day…