Friday, 8 February 2013

The Kidnapping of Shergar - 30 Years On

It was 30 years ago, on the 8th February 1983, the 1981 Epsom Derby winning racehorse Shergar was kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud near the Curragh, County Kildare in Ireland.

Racing Career

Born in 1978, the colt was bred and owned by HH the Aga Khan IV and trained by Champion trainer Michael Stoute at Newmarket, Suffolk, UK. His major wins throughout his racing career included the Guardian Classic Trial, the Chester Vase, Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He started as favourite at Epsom for the Derby, being ridden by 19 year old Irish jockey Walter Swinburn. He won the race by a record 10 lengths and earned the title of European Racehorse of the Year for 1981, being retired to stud at the end of the season.

At Stud

The Aga Khan decided to stand the colt in Ireland as opposed to the expected decision of sending him to the United States. 

In his first season he produced 35 foals, with his owning syndicate being able to charge a stud fee of between £50,000 and £80,000. The most successful of his initial issue was 1986 Irish St Leger winner Authaal.

Theft and Aftermath

On a foggy February evening at 8.30pm, a Ford Granada towing a horsebox arrived at the Ballymany Stud. Ten minutes later a knock was heard at the door, which was answered by Bernard FitzGerald, son of stud groom Jim. 

The caller, dressed in a Garda (Police) uniform, landed a heavy blow on Bernard, sending him to the floor. Jim arrived to see what the commotion was all about, only to find a pistol pointed at him

FitzGerald was forced to take the intruders to Shergar’s stall and helped the gang of 6 men to load the equine mega-star into a double horse box. 

Over the next few days, while the Police searched every available stable and outhouse throughout the Irish Republic, the thieves started negotiations about collecting a £2m ransom for the horse.

What actually happened to the horse has never been found out and the thieves have never been brought to justice for their actions. It is believed that the IRA were responsible, but they have never actually claimed responsibility for the crime. 

It is believed that the horse was shot within hours of his kidnapping as the thieves, who seemed to have little experience of horses – especially with a nervous, highly-strung stallion – would have been unable to handle him.

For a fuller story of Shergar and what happened that night, along with theories as to events after the kidnap, please click on the following link to an excellent Daily Mail article on the subject.

After all this time, the IRA must tell us what they did with super-horse Shergar

Do you remember when Shergar was kidnapped?
Did you ever see him run?
How did he compare with other flat racing greats of the 20th and 21st centuries? 

Please feel free to comment.

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