The King George VI Chase 1990
Recently the South West Racing Club showed the Desert Orchid story on Facebook – this video showed him winning his 4th King George at Kempton on Boxing Day in 1990. What a training performance by David Elsworth and you couldn’t get a more charismatic horse – how the public loved him and how amazing to see the crowds willing the horse home and also to listen to the voices of Lord Oaksey and John Francome.
I was privileged to take part and ride in this race – riding Prize Asset who is leading early on, with a white sheepskin noseband, on the inside in yellow colours. There were some amazing horses in this race.
Prize Asset was a horse I have fond memories of. He broke the track record at Ascot over 2m over fences, so was pretty quick but I was flat out all the way in the King George over 3m. I don’t think I had been so fast, which shows the quality of the race and the amazing horses which took part.
Prize Asset was very well trained by Philip Hobbs and bred by the James’. He was a big, long backed, long striding horse that couldn’t shorten his stride if needed at a fence and I can remember the day when he broke the track record at Ascot, we took a fence by the roots going down the hill and split the birch but we made ground on the horse besides who jumped it perfectly well. Suffice to say sitting in the weighing room before going out to ride him one smoked a few cigarettes with slightly sweaty palms!
The first time I rode him was at Worcester and it was my first ride for Philip. I was keen to impress as Philip had lots of horses, was well respected and it would be great to ride a few more for him. There was a bit of worry that perhaps Philip’s normal jockeys didn’t want to ride him, I felt a bit like a suffering kamikaze pilot by the time I got to the start and could have done with another cigarette while my girths were being tightened by the starter. He was 25-1 and I knew I would be out of control so I told the other jockeys at the start while we were walking around that please don’t track me (only because I didn’t want to be trampled on), I am going to let him go and I will pull him up halfway down the back the last time. Well, he completely carted me, made all and won by 15 lengths. Mr Tim Thomson-Jones on Pukka Major was livid after the race. I was not the most popular in the weighing room that day..
Prize Asset did wonders for my career winning good races at Cheltenham and only just getting beaten at Aintree on Grand National Day in the big 2m chase. I am totally grateful to Philip and Sarah, the owners and the horse. He always looked and felt so good and was trained by a gentleman to the minute. To start off at 25-1 in a minor race at Worcester and then be going for it with Desert Orchid and the best in the Grade 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Chase is a special story and one I feel very lucky to have been a part of.