Shergar was a racehorse with the possibility for a great future as a stud horse following his 1981 retirement, but that future was cut short on February 8, 1983, when he was stolen. Shergar was born on March 3, 1978. He was an Irish-bred, British-trained thoroughbred racehorse. Shergar’s owner, The Aga Khan, sent the horse for training in Britain in 1979 and 1980. Shergar began his first season of racing in September 1980 and ran two races that year. He won one and came second in the other. Then, in 1981 he ran in six races, winning five of them. He was an amazing horse. In June that year, he won the 202nd Epsom Derby by ten lengths, which is the longest winning margin in the race’s history. Three weeks later he won the Irish Sweeps Derby by four lengths; a month after that he won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes by four lengths. In his final race of the year he came in fourth, and the Aga Khan took the decision to retire him to stud in Ireland. I suppose that like many sports, there is a short window of opportunity with a racehorse, although it seems to me that Shergar had a very short career, but a promising future in stud service to breed racehorses.
In 1981 he was retired to what was then the Ballymany Stud in County Kildare, Ireland. Then, in 1983 he was stolen from the stud, and a ransom of £2 million was demanded. The ransom was not paid, and soon the negotiations were broken off by the thieves. In 1999 a confidential informant, formerly in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), stated that they stole the horse. The IRA has never admitted any role in the theft. After Shergar’s Epsom Derby win, the Aga Khan sold 40 shares in the horse, valuing it at £10 million. Retaining six shares, he created an owners’ syndicate with the remaining 34 members. Shergar was stolen from the Aga Khan’s stud farm by an armed gang on February 8, 1983. Negotiations were conducted with the thieves, but the gang broke off all communication after four days when the syndicate did not accept as truth the proof they provided that the horse was still alive. In 1999 Sean O’Callaghan, a former member of the IRA and probably the confidential informant, published details of the theft and stated that it was an IRA operation to raise money for arms. He said that very soon after the theft, Shergar panicked and damaged his leg, which led to him being killed by the gang. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph concluded that the horse was shot four days after the theft, or right at the time they stopped negotiations.
Whatever happened to Shergar, there have never been any arrests in the case. Shergar’s body has never been recovered or identified. Some people think it is likely that the body was buried near Aughnasheelin, near Ballinamore, County Leitrim. The Shergar Cup was inaugurated in 1999 in honor of Shergar. His story has been made into movies, several books, and two documentaries. Shergar was a great horse, and should have been allowed to live out his life, but people who only wanted to make money to to buy arms, in an effort to bring mass destruction, couldn’t allow this beautiful horse to live. Anytime a horse is stolen, it is traumatic for the horse. Their schedule is disrupted, they don’t know the people who are taking care of them now, and it is possible that care is not what it should be. The panic that happened to poor Shergar should never have happened. I have no doubt they killed that poor horse, but we will never know for sure.