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Kempton joy for Desert Orchid

ESPN staff
December 26, 2013
A statue of Desert Orchid stands near the parade ring at the Kempton Park race course © Getty Images
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How many times did legendary jumper Desert Orchid run at Kempton, and what was his record? asked Francois from Dover

The popular grey Desert Orchid contested 70 races in all, winning 34 of them. Thirteen of those races were at Kempton Park, including his first and last outings. Actually Dessie's first race, a two-mile novice hurdle at Kempton in January 1983, looked for a while as if it might be his last one as well: he fell while at the back of the field, and took a long time to get up.

Thankfully things improved after that. He won on his next appearance at Kempton, later in the year on Boxing Day, then finished third - after starting as favourite - in a two-mile hurdle there in October 1984. Back on Boxing Day for a two-mile hurdle he led for much of the way, but faded to second.

Back at Kempton in October 1985 Desert Orchid was an odds-on favourite for the two-mile hurdle, and led all the way before falling two fences from the finish. He didn't reappear at Kempton until Boxing Day 1986, and his first attempt on the King George VI Chase. Dessie made nearly all the running, and romped home by 15 lengths.

Now in the big league, Desert Orchid won the Boxing Day Trial Chase in November 1987, before returning to the King George as evens favourite on Boxing Day. He led for much of the race, but was eventually overhauled by Nupsala. But he was back in 1988 and 1989 for his second and third King George victories, winning both as odds-on favourite.

In 1990 Dessie won the Racing Post Chase at Kempton in February, and returned on Boxing Day to pull off his fourth King George victory - by 12 lengths. That was the end of the fairytale, though: in 1991, by now 12 years old, he was trailing in the big race when he fell three fences from home, bringing a great career to a quiet close. The Fellow won that year (and again in 1992).

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