‘Dessie’ strutting round the ring at Downpatrick racecourse 1992. Retired at this stage in his life, although no one told him. He bounced and kicked around the ring , itching to show his stuff I was one of the few in the ring with him and had to keep a watchful eye while he asserted his rule. They had to saddle him up and give him his head around the second oldest racecourse in the British Isles.
Thats Richard Burridge in the back ground, I had attended a dinner and talk with him and John Pitman the night before.
Always been a fan of ‘Dessie’, I’ll never forget his magical appearance out out of the snow storm in the King George at Kempton Park, the tenacity to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the intake of breath and sudden silence by 30,000 people at Fairyhouse , when he hit the last fence and still went on to win the Irish Grand National!
Minolta x-300 kodakcolour gold 100 and scanned
Dessie and Dunwoody
“Come on Burridge.. get the bloody saddle on”
Desert Orchid retired in December 1991, and survived a life threatening operation for colic a year later. He took his summer holidays with the Burridge family at Ab Kettleby, and spent the winter with David Elsworth leading out the 2 year olds and getting ready for his many public appearances. He returned every year to Kempton to lead out the parade of runners for the King George VI Chase.
During his retirement, he raised thousands of pounds for charity, and his presence at charity events attracted large crowds.His fan club was run by part owner Midge Burridge and family friend John Hippesley and in the 17 years that the fan club ran they raised over £40,000 for charity through sales of Dessie merchandise, especially his racing calendar.
When David Elsworth left Whitsbury after 25 years the amazing grey packed up and went with him to Egerton House Stables in Newmarket, Suffolk. But the home of champions and stallions welcomed the old gelding and his trainer with open arms and Newmarket racecourses held their annual press day in 2006 on Dessie’s 27th birthday at his stable. He also paraded at the course to the delight of his fans.
Desert Orchid was no longer ridden due to his age and David announced that his appearances would be fewer, and nearer to home, as he was now such a senior citizen, though still so keen to greet the crowds that thronged to see him. Dessie’s last public appearance was on October 1 at his fan club open day which was held at the National Stud in conjunction with stallion parades. The next day Dessie was exhausted, once again he had given his all and loved every minute of being in the limelight.
It was clear that Desert Orchid was now frail, but his spirit never wavered. In the week of November 6 he began to have trouble with coordination and those close to him were summoned to say goodbye. A vet was on standby should his assistance be needed to speed the horse on his way. It was no surprise to his trainer that to the last Desert Orchid was in control – and the vet was not required. Last seen by those who loved him best at Egerton he was lying down but nibbling his hay. One hour later at 6:05am, Monday the 13th November, The Grey Horse passed on.
Desert Orchid’s ashes were buried in a private ceremony at Kempton Park Racecourse near his statue the week prior to the King George. His presence on the day was much missed. The inaugural running of the Desert Orchid Chase on the 27th was preceded by the unveiling of the headstone for his grave, videos of his finest hours at the track, and a moments silence in his