Last week was the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of Shergar. The Aga Khan’s 1981 Derby winner was taken from his stable in Ireland and presumably killed in a bungled attempt to extort money from His Highness. That miserable end to the life of such a talented racehorse has spawned several books, a film and a multitude of bad jokes (revisited in the wake of the horsemeat scandal in the UK).
I prefer to concentrate on the racehorse himself and have been fortunate to have received commissions to paint him on several occasions. Only the hugely popular grey steeplechaser Desert Orchid has proved to be a more frequent request. I first painted him in oils, going to post on Derby day. There was something special about him with his big white face and four white socks. As a horse racing fan, I had watched him racing as a two-year-old when he was beaten in his second race at Doncaster. Although he was a promising colt, few realised that he would be such a superstar the following season.
After winning easily on his three-year-old debut, Shergar went to Chester and I was fortunate enough to be there to see him run. It was a miserable wet day and my memories are not so much of Shergar but of seeing the Aga Khan’s green silks moving further and further away from the other runners in the home straight. It was a similar story in the Epsom Derby and again in Ireland before he was forced to work harder to win against the older horses in the Diamond Stakes at Ascot.
He only raced once more after that, being surprisingly beaten in the St Leger, and was retired to stud. He only sired one crop before fate intervened. I have since received further commissions to paint Shergar including another of him going to post, but from a different angle. I then created a pastel portrait of his head and have also made drawings of him in action. The most recent commission was for his Epsom derby victory when he won by a record 10-length margin.
For this painting, I spoke to the well known racing photographer Ed Byrne and he kindly gave me permission to use one of his photographs. The image shows jockey Walter Swinburn easing him past the post, Shergar with his tongue lolling out and a country mile back to the other runners. This image best summed up his dominance over his age group and made him a superstar overnight. What a shame that we were denied the opportunity to enjoy seeing his offspring competing in the years that followed. Great memories of a great hors
I have collected my various artworks of Shergar together to form a special gallery here at Bigvyor. It is easy to create your own gallery and rooms and share them with friends, other artists and prospective customers. If you have not yet paid us a visit at Bigvyor, please do come and browse the site. We are looking for contributions in any media from anywhere in the world! It’s totally free so why not come and join our global art community.