Racing: Desert Orchid, grey marvel of jumping, dies at 27

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Desert Orchid, one of a handful of racehorses of the modern era who can truly be regarded as a household name, died yesterday in his stable at Newmarket at the age of 27.

The flamboyant grey won numerous top-class races over fences, notably the King George V1 Chase at Kempton four times, and owed his popularity not only to his easily recognisable colour, but to his battling spirit as he knew only one way to race - from the front.

Owned by the screenwriter Richard Burridge and trained throughout his career by David Elsworth in Hampshire, Desert Orchid won 34 races and finally conquered his aversion to Cheltenham, jump racing's premier course, when successful in the 1989 Gold Cup.

Elsworth said at Newmarket last night: "Desert Orchid will be laid to rest at Kempton Park near his statue where many of his most memorable triumphs took place. He will be sadly missed by the staff here at Egerton and will forever be remembered for the great moments he gave his racing public."

Colin Brown, who was Desert Orchid's regular partner from 1983 to 1988, added: "He was just an outstanding horse with an outstanding character - basically all I had to do most of the time was just to sit on him. He could be stroppy sometimes but he was a real professional."