Shergar, bred and owned by Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, and trained by Michael Stoute, is best known for winning the 1981 Derby by an unprecedented 10 lengths, the longest winning margin in the history of the race. Having won the Sandown Classic Trial by 10 lengths and the Chester Vase by 12 lengths, Shergar started 10/11 favourite for the Epsom Classic – only the third horse since World War II to be sent off at odds-on – but, having taken up the running at Tattenham Corner, travelling sweetly, went further and further clear to win with ridiculous ease. An incredulous Peter Bromley exclaimed, with over a furlong to run, “There’s only horse in it! You need a telescope to see the rest.”
Shergar subsequently won the Irish Derby at the Curragh by 4 lengths, “in an exercise canter” and the King George & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot by the same margin, “in tremendous style”. He finished his racing career on a low note, finishing only fourth in the St. Leger behind 28/1 outsider Cut Above, whom he’d previously beaten comprehensively in the Irish Derby. Nevertheless, at the end of his career Shergar had earned £436,000 in total prize money and a Timeform rating of 140, the equivalent of that subsequently awarded to the likes of Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars. The late Walter Swinburn, who rode Shergar in the Derby, said of him, “He was the best I rode by a country mile. Most horses have strengths and weaknesses. In his case there were none.”
Shergar, valued at £10 million, retired to the Ballymany Stud in Co. Kildare but, before his second season as a stallion, in 1983, he was kidnapped by masked gunmen in the middle of the night and never seen again. The general consensus is that he was abducted, and killed, by the Irish Republic Army (IRA), although the organisation never officially claimed responsibility for his disappearance and his body was never found.