Racing: A roll in the sand for birthday boy Desert Orchid

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The Independent Online

He is shaggier of coat, portlier of build and stiffer of limb nowadays, but he still commands his audience as much as in the glory days of a Cheltenham Gold Cup and four King George VI Chases.

Yesterday Desert Orchid held court on his 27th birthday, receiving cards, pats and plaudits with good grace and as very much his due. But he was less sure about an iced, inscribed cake, preferring a carrot.

The best chaser of the modern era has reached a rare and venerable landmark for a horse, but age has not yet wearied him, as he showed with a roll in a sandpit and a canter round a paddock, in a sprightly enough fashion for an elderly gent.

Desert Orchid moved to Newmarket earlier this year when his trainer David Elsworth relocated to Egerton House Stables. The snow-white grey's box is in the main century-old yard, where he takes a keen interest in the comings and goings of his younger stablemates.

"We used to have him in a side yard," said Elsworth, "but he did not think much of that. He's mellowed a bit with time, but he likes to be involved and has always got his head over the door, watching."

The old warrior is not ridden any more. "We led the yearlings on him until last year," added Elsworth, "but it seemed to be getting a bit much for him." The trainer is not sentimental over horses, but makes an exception for this one. "Of course I wished him a happy birthday," he said. "He's been part of my life for a long time."

Dessie is now Newmarket's most famous equine resident, but plans emerged yesterday for some of those in the town who will bid next month for their own piece of history.

Nannina, another who arrived during the close season with her trainer John Gosden, will go straight to the 1,000 Guineas without a prep, as will Confidential Lady - remarkably, a first English Classic runner for Sir Mark Prescott - and the Chris Wall-trained pair Wake Up Maggie and Expensive.

* The 2,000 Guineas favourite George Washington was one of 12, including five of his Ballydoyle stablemates and Palace Episode from Godolphin, added to the Derby at yesterday's second entry stage.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Reverence

(Nottingham 3.10)

NB: Areyoutalkingtome

(Lingfield 2.30)

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