Sadly, the racing career of Shergar will forever be overshadowed by events on the night of February 8, 1983, when the horse was kidnapped, at gunpoint, from the Ballymany Stud in Co. Kildare, Ireland and never seen again. Nevertheless, whatever his ultimate fate, it should not be forgotten that his winning margin of ten lengths – which could have been larger, had jockey Walter Swinburn eased down inside the final furlong – in the 1981 Derby remains a record for the Epsom Classic.
Indeed, so far clear was he that John Matthias, jockey of the remote second, Glint Of Gold, thought he had won the race.
Having won the Sandown Classic Trial, over a mile-and-a-quarter, and the Chester Vase, over a mile-and-a-half, by ten lengths and twelve lengths, respectively, Shergar arrived at Epsom with, far and away, the best form of any horse in the Derby field. Unsurprising, he was sent off odds-on favourite, at 10/11, and what followed was later described by Timeform as ‘arguably the most one-sided Derby of modern times’. Rounding Tattenham Corner, the sweeping, downhill turn into the straight at Epsom, fully half-a-mile from the winning post, it became clear that Shergar would win, and win easily. He took a two-length lead with three furlongs to run and went further and further clear, leading commentator to exclaim, ‘The Derby is a procession!’ and ‘You need a telescope to see the rest!’
Watch Shergar’s 1981 Derby Win