Lough Derg's spirit simply beyond price

Without owners, nothing. The sport of racing is predicated on the desire of men and women to find out if their horse can run faster than that of the next man or woman; everything else – trainers, jockeys, breeders, racecourses, bookmakers – follows. And most owners get nothing much for their trouble, for the overwhelming majority of horses are, basically, not much good. It is reckoned that less than five per cent ever pay for themselves in cash terms.

But the ownership of even a bad horse can bring a massive return in that unquantifiable commodity, pleasure, though it remains to be seen in these straitened times how many will continue to be willing to pay for that luxury. Get a good one, though, and it's a case of bread and marg sooner than deprive him of his hay and oats. Just ask Bill Frewen. Or Betty Kiernan. Or even Victor Chandler and Clive Smith.

All right, none, particularly the last two-named, is exactly at the point yet where they have to swop sea-salt-studded Isigny for Stork. But no price could be put on the pride and emotion they felt severally as they stood in the winner's enclosure at Ascot on Saturday.

"I work in the City," said Frewen, owner of Lough Derg. "Unfortunately. But this horse is just such an antidote to what has been happening over the past year. If things get too depressing, I just stick the video on and watch him for the nth time."

Lough Derg's performance to win the two-and-a-half mile Grade Two handicap hurdle under top-weight for the second successive year was indeed heartening. The nine-year-old is a rare horse to have paid for himself, and more; he has now won 11 of his 39 starts, first for Martin Pipe and now for his son David, and has earned more than £300,000. But his qualities go way beyond that. He is a character: a bit of a waster at home but so tough and brave on the track, and is the best-loved horse in his Devon yard.

The French-bred, plain and bay, has been at Pond House since babyhood. "He looked nothing special," said Pipe père, "wasn't that big, didn't move well. And he's been a rascal right from the start. But he soon showed us that he'd got what a racehorse needs. A heart."

At one of the Pipe owners' days, Frewen bought the ugly duckling three-year-old as a 70th birthday gift for his mother, Irene. "I'd had a few glasses of champagne," he said, "and people were telling me which one I should have. Then I saw him and said I'll have that one, the shuffling one. I'm no judge of a horse and it was a complete fluke. Especially for 15 grand."

Lough Derg, who may well have been hewn rather than foaled, is set to turn out again on Saturday at Cheltenham.

"He won't put himself out at home," added Frewen, "he's a bit of a jack the lad behind the scenes. He saves himself for the racecourse. He's just a proper professional at his job."

Panjo Bere, who upstaged Calgary Bay and Free World to win the feature novices' chase, provided Betty Kiernan with a most poignant victory. Her husband, Bob, a longtime owner in Gary Moore's yard near Brighton, died last year, but not before he saw his young horse's potential. "This is a sweet moment," Mrs Kiernen said after the six-year-old earned himself a trip to Cheltenham for the Arkle Trophy, "but a bittersweet one too. Bob would be very proud."

For Chandler, the enormously wealthy bookmaker, the ownership of Zaynar is also proving something of a consolation. He and six friends (who dub themselves Men In Our Position on the racecard) also had 1,000 Guineas prospect Tiger Eye, who died last month from leukaemia, a disease extremely rare in horses.

Zaynar may yet provide them with glory on a glittering stage; the Nicky Henderson-trained four-year-old retained his position as Triumph Hurdle favourite after making it two from two over hurdles on Saturday.

Smith is one of those owners with the Midas touch. After Royal Auclair, second in a Grand National, came Kauto Star and Master Minded. His latest pricey purchase, Free World, looks sure to have his days in the future.

Master Minded emerged from Saturday's imperious tour de force in the Victor Chandler Chase in sparkling fettle and has the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month on his agenda before the defence of his Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham.

*The British Horseracing Authority have yet to receive an application for a licence to race from the administrators dealing with the financial difficulties surrounding Great Leighs racecourse. A temporary licence for the troubled Essex track expired on Thursday; without one, it cannot be sold as a going concern.

*Today's turf card at Lingfield has been abandoned due to waterlogging.

Suggested Topics
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing