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The BBC's Cornelius Lysaght
talks to Desert Orchid owner Richard Burridge
 real 14k

David Elsworth, four-time winner with Desert Orchid
looks back on his winning streak
 real 14k

Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 17:32 GMT
Dessie going strong at 21
Desert Orchid
Desert Orchid shows all his old enthusiasm
A great hero looks over the stars of National Hunt racing as they wander around the parade ring at Kempton Park.

The statue of Desert Orchid is a striking feature at the racecourse which became the flying grey's spiritual home.

'Dessie', as he became known to millions, created history by becoming the only horse to win the King George VI Chase four times.

His fourth win in the race came at Kempton 10 years ago.

  Dessie's gig race wins
King George VI 1986, 88, 89, 90
Cheltenham Gold Cup 1989
Irish Grand National 1990
Whitbread Gold Cup 1988

But Dessie is expected back on Boxing Day 2000 for a parade of champions to celebrate the 50th running of the race.

He is due to line up along with other former winners including Teeton Mill, Algan, Barton Bank and The Fellow.

Legendary former flat jockey Lester Piggott can testify to the old horse's well-being, despite reaching the grand old age of 21.

He had his hands full when riding the grey at Wincanton in October before a race named in honour of Desert Orchid.

The horses's owner Richard Burridge said: "He hasn't changed at all. I would say he's exactly the same. He's a hard ride still.

Tony McCoy on Desert Orchid statue
Tony McCoy on the Desert Orchid statue

"He's 21 going on 22, but he certainly hasn't lost any of his zest or enthusiasm.

"He loves being in the public eye and the attention."

Dessie had an unrivalled record at Kempton, going right-handed on a flat course.

But there were question marks over his ability to perform as effectively elsewhere

The grey silenced the critics, and proved himself the best of his generation, in 1989 by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup which is run on an undulating left-handed course.

And he also overcame the unseasonal heavy snow which hit the Gloucestershire track.

Perhaps he throught Christmas had come early.

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