In Between Dreams

heelloo!! To all you nosey fuckers who know who you are... Fuck off!! ------xx------

Friday, November 17, 2006

Desert Orchid 11th April 1979 ~ 13th November 2006

The Mourners
When all the light and life are sped
Of flowing tails and manes,
And flashing stars, and forelocks spread,
And foam-flecks on the reins;

I like to think from every land
And far beyond the wave
A crowd of ghosts will come and stand
In grief around that grave –
Will H. Ogilvie
As news of the peaceful passing of Desert Orchid filtered through on the morning of 13 th November there were many, no doubt, who reached under beds and in the back of cupboards to pull out scrapbooks which had been lovingly kept since they were much younger.
The Grey Horse featured in most of these, but quite a few of them also included clippings of a larger-than-life chestnut who had been Dessie’s stablemate.
Time would have stood still while fans remembered each of these horses’ lives and all that they gave to racing – but the one item in some of these scrapbooks that would perhaps have been given the most amount of time is a poem, most likely hand written on paper yellowed by the years since it was first found, and tear-stained by the loss of Persian Punch.
Will Ogilvie lived and died before Arkle, Red Rum and Desert Orchid were born. He loved horses in general and wrote about ponies, hunters, hacks, war horses and racehorses. Equine fans have read and treasured his poetry since he wrote it, even before it was published it was passed from hand to hand and memorised. He wrote for the horses he had known, at home and in battle who had given their lives to the people they served. In his writing it is impossible not to recognise a horse of your own. The poem that we have quoted here is one of the ‘nearly’ lost poems he had written which has not been given much light of day, nevertheless fans have preserved it. We do not know who he wrote it for, clearly a very great horse whom he held above all others and which he had known.
Shortly after his retirement Desert Orchid was nearly lost to a terrible bout of colic and his supporters steeled themselves to the worst. Spookily, many would have come upon this same poem by Will H Ogilvie, which they would have seen as his epitaph. But Dessie had other ideas and not for the first time his courage pulled him through. The poem they had clutched in those early dark days was tucked away in many scrapbooks, and hearts. They put the death of Desert Orchid out of their minds, somehow knowing that he would be safe for many a year to come – but they kept the poem nonetheless as it was this one poem above all others which they knew they would need when his day did come.
Some years later his stablemate Persian Punch was cruelly and unexpectedly struck down on the battlefield of racing and fans immediately turned to their battered, slightly soiled scrapbooks and brought forth the poem saved for Dessie and offered it up to commemorate Punch. They did not feel that Dessie would mind sharing it with him since, in life, they had done shifts, winter and summer, in the same hallowed box at Whitsbury that bore their name plaques.
Persian Punch had his fan club and his website and it was eerie to receive emails and cards immediately after his death telling the story of this poem which had been designated in fans hearts for Dessie. Many fans did not even know the author yet had found the poem. The spookiest thing of all was just how many people had found, and treasured this same poem for this purpose. The lines were recorded on Punch’s website and there they shall remain for him.
Now the time has come to bid farewell to Desert Orchid and the poem comes out for the last time in our lifetimes. For surely never again, except perhaps for the very young or the very lucky among us, will we see the likes of a racehorse of this kind.
From the Racing Post -
“The ashes are bound for Kempton but the flame is everlasting.”
Alistair Down
Desert Orchid, or simply "Dessie" to his millions of fans, created history by becoming the only horse to win the King George VI Chase four times.
The sight of the grey flying over the fences at Kempton Park or Cheltenham was one of the most memorable in National Hunt racing.
And when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989, three cheers rang out among his thousands of adoring followers as he was being unsaddled.
Yet his success nearly did not happen.
He fell at the first in a novice hurdle at Kempton in 1983 and when he took ages to get to his feet, it seemed the race might have been his last.
Desert Orchid was a grey gelding by Grey Mirage out of Flower Child. After initially impressing as a novice, his early career was undistinguished.
In 1984-85 he won only one out of eight starts - he was pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Chepstow and, on his final outing of the season, fell at Ascot.
Dessie was brave, spectacular, intelligent, determined. The most unique individual - and the best

What changed his fortunes was switching to bigger obstacles. On Boxing Day at Kempton in 1986, he ran out a spectacular 15-length winner over Door Latch in the King George VI Chase.
One of his best seasons was in 1988. After winning the South West Pattern Chase at Wincanton, Dessie went on to take the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, before his second King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He then landed the Victor Chandler at Ascot and the Gainsborough Chase at Sandown for trainer David Elsworth.
But his career highlight came at the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, over a longer distance and more demanding track than his Kempton successes. The rain and snow had fallen relentlessly at Cheltenham, making the going heavy.
Not only did he dislike the conditions, he preferred right-handed courses.
A crowd of more than 58,000 witnessed Desert Orchid's huge effort in overhauling the mud-loving Yahoo up the long hill to the finish.
Umbrella-holding racegoers joyfully bounced up and down, while others threw hats into the air, in the climax to a contest which was later voted race of the century by readers of the Racing Post newspaper.

Desert Orchid won 34 of his 70 racesAfter his length-and-a-half victory, Dessie's rider Simon Sherwood said: "I've never known a horse so brave. He hated every step of the way in the ground and dug as deep as he could possibly go."
He was 4-6 favourite for the King George again the following Boxing Day, and did not disappoint.
Third place in the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup, when 100-1 chance Norton's Coin claimed a shock victory, preceded his convincing win in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse under top weight of 12 stone.
Then, once again on his annual Boxing Day outing at Kempton Park, he won his historic fourth King George.
The gelding, owned by Richard and Midge Burridge, was retired in December 1991 after taking a crashing fall three fences from home in the big Kempton race.
Cheers for the race winner The Fellow were eclipsed by the roar as a riderless Dessie stood up and passed the finishing post.
The gallant grey survived a life-threatening operation the following year. He became a regular at charity events all over the country, and was included in the pageant for the Queen Mother's 90th birthday celebrations.
A special fan club was set up in his honour, and thousands of people joined.
At the height of his popularity, a Christmas card from Australia arrived at Elsworth's Wiltshire yard bearing the address: Desert Orchid, Somewhere in England.
Everybody will miss him and our sympathy goes to his adoring public
Trainer David ElsworthDessie was a character who trotted on to the set of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, who Princess Anne rode in a 1992 charity race and who helped raise cash for good causes.
He even supplied inspiration for the government of the day with Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont metaphorically saddling the nation's favourite racehorse as he rose to address the House of Commons in a Budget speech.
Lamont said: "Desert Orchid and I have a lot in common. We are both greys; vast sums of money are riding on our performance, the Opposition hopes we shall fall at the first fence and we are both carrying too much weight."
Dessie enjoyed a happy retirement and when Elsworth moved to Newmarket, his stable star joined him until his death at the age of 27.
"It's amazing how many letters we get a day asking about his welfare, he's amazing," said the trainer in 2005.
Desert Orchid won 34 of his 70 starts, amassing £650,000 in prize money.
He was perhaps the best-loved racehorse of his era, adored by the public and a great advertisement for the sport of steeplechasing.
"When one of his previous victories in the race was replayed on the big screen, Dessie stopped in his tracks. He looked over at the screen and nodded" - GP