On This Day

  • December 26 down the years

Dashing Dessie makes history

The sporting events of December 26 down the years
The much-loved Desert Orchid on his way to victory © Getty Images
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1990
Desert Orchid races away with the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park, becoming the first horse to win the Boxing Day showpiece four times. The dashing grey was a household name and won the hearts of a nation with his thrilling racing style. The slickest of jumpers, David Elsworth's pride and joy won races ranging from two miles to three miles, six furlongs. He had the heart of lion and as well as his successes in the King George, he claimed victory in the Irish Grand National, Whitbread Gold Cup, Racing Post Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup - National Hunt racing's blue riband. Desert Orchid's racing career came to an end with a fall when going for a fifth win in the King George. Happily he got up to enjoy his retirement.

2011
Desert Orchid was eclipsed by the brilliant Kauto Star who lowered the colours of Long Run to win the race for a record fifth time. Having showed his versatility from two miles to three miles, two furlongs, Kauto Star was the dominant steeplechaser of his generation. Trained by Paul Nicholls, he was the first horse to win, lose and then regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Kempton proved to be his stamping ground. He won the King George four years in a row from 2006 to 2009, was beaten by Long Run in 2010, but bounced back to take the race under Ruby Walsh for a fifth time.

1908
A boxing match on Boxing Day - and one of the most significant of all time. After pursuing Tommy Burns halfway across the globe, Jack Johnson finally cornered him in Sydney, then stopped him in 14 rounds to become the first black world heavyweight champion. A landmark, then - but one that was brutally achieved. Johnson was six inches taller than Burns and two stone heavier, and it was a mismatch he didn't care to end quickly or humanely. On the film, he can be seen taunting Burns as he punishes him.

1970
Lillian Board died of cancer just after her 22nd birthday. Two years earlier, she'd been Britain's blonde golden girl, expected to win the Olympic 400 metres, only to be caught by Colette Besson of France. But the following year she ran away with the 800 metres at the European Championship. To those who thought she'd moved up a distance to avoid Besson, she gave the perfect answer, coming from a long way back to pip the French girl on the line and win the 4x400 relay in world record time. Board would have been everyone's favourite for the 800 at the Olympics in Munich. Instead she died in a clinic there two years before.

1954
In American football, Cleveland Browns came good at last - and again. Four years earlier, they'd won the NFL for the first time. But since then they'd lost three Championship Games in a row, the last two to Detroit Lions. Now, in the fourth, they thrashed the Lions 56-10 to regain the title. They won it again in 1955.

1979
Mark Cueto was born. A compact and strong-running rugby winger, he scored four tries in his first three matches for England, all at Twickenham in 2004, and three against Italy the following year, when he also went on the Lions tour. He's best known, of course, for one of the sport's great nearly moments, when he put his touch very briefly and very slightly in touch against South Africa in the 1007 World Cup Final. If a try had been given, England might have retained the trophy - and Cueto would have maintained his try-scoring record against the Springboks: he'd scored one in each of his three previous matches against them. He helped Sale Sharks win the European Challenge Cup twice and especially the Premiership title in 2006, when he scored the opening try in the Final against Leicester.

1890
Percy Hodge was born in Guernsey. A consummate steeplechaser whose efficient technique shaved seconds off every lap, he had a shoe ripped off during the 1920 AAA race and found himself the length of the straight behind. He still won by 75 yards, establishing himself as the frightening favourite for the Olympics that year. Sure enough, he finished 100 metres ahead of the silver medallist.

1937
David Perry was born. A rugby player who won 13 caps for England at No.8 and another two in the second row, he was captain throughout the 1965 Five Nations, including Hancock's Match on March 20. But the win over France that season was the last of only three in his international career. He scored two tries for England, both against Wales at Twickenham.

2004
In a game against San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw his 49th touchdown pass of the season, breaking Dan Marino's NFL record. Manning was MVP in the 2007 Superbowl, in which Colts beat Chicago Bears 29-17. His brother Eli was MVP the following year.

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