The Shergar Cup has carved out its own place in the racing calendar
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Nicholas Godfrey 12:07pM 5 AUG 2016
1. The Shergar Cup may be synonymous with Ascot but it didn’t start there. Goodwood hosted the first event under the title in May 1999 with an event featuring two teams of horses divided on the basis of their owners as Europe took on the Middle East. Certain trainers supplied horses for both sides and some jockeys rode for both sides.
2. The inaugural event was the brainchild of BHB chairman Peter Savill, who was keen to introduce a Ryder Cup-style team competition to racing. He didn’t mess about with his team captains: they were Robert Sangster and Sheikh Mohammed. Basically this was Europe versus the Maktoums, with a dozen runners from Godolphin alone, among them three winners in the shape of Opera King, Mythical Girl and Diktat.
3. Not that many of those involved needed the money, but it was quite hard to lose out in the inaugural Shergar Cup which involved two £100,000 events and four worth £50,000. Only two of the races were handicaps; prize-money went down to ninth place in all six races. Not bad in ten-runner fields. There were no entry fees, as is still the case.
4. The Shergar Cup moved to Ascot in 2000 after one year at Goodwood, since when it has undergone several format tweaks. In the second event, for instance, a Rest of the World team took the place of the Middle East, but a shortage of runners even meant some ‘European’ horses had to play for the other side to balance out the numbers. Only one race had a full field of ten.
5. It became a jockeys’ competition in 2001, and two teams of six (Britain and Ireland versus Rest of the World) faced each other in a points-based series. Rest of the World won; US rider David Flores beat Pat Eddery into second to claim the first Silver Saddle as top rider at the meeting. The Silver Saddle is now named in honour of popular PR executive Alistair Haggis, who played an integral role in the development of the Shergar Cup before his untimely death in 2014.
Jorge Ricardo and Russell Baze had Shergar Cups to forget in 2008
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
6. Although the Shergar Cup has received little more than grudging acceptance from some, it is now a permanent fixture on the racing calendar and its success is clear according to one obvious metric: more than 30,000 people show up at Ascot every year.
7. Owners and trainers chasing decent prizes for little outlay have every reason to like the Shergar Cup. Ditto stable staff, who benefit from special prizes worth over £5,000, more than any other raceday in Britain. As well as a £200 best-turned-out award for every race, the winning lad or lass gets £200, with £100 for those leading up down to fifth.
8. Brazilian legend Jorge Ricardo scored a big fat zero on his only appearance in 2008, when Russell Baze picked up a four-day ban for misuse of the whip. “It’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime in one day,” said Baze, who at least managed a couple of seconds.
9. Alleged team tactics sparked a furore in 2002. Kieren Fallon, who captained Britain and Ireland, stood accused of riding 12-1 pacemaker Jasmick too fast in the Shergar Cup Stayers and then leaving a hole for his teammate Pat Eddery to go through on better-fancied Mana D’Argent. “They told me it was an individual team thing,” said Fallon. “I know I’m from the west of Ireland but someone is going to have to explain that to me.”
10. The first all-female ‘Girls’ team arrived in 2012 as one of four squads of three jockeys alongside Britain and Ireland, Europe and Rest of the World. Jockeys in each team now wear silks dominated by distinctive colours: green for Britain and Ireland, blue for Europe, yellow for Rest of the World, pink for the Girls.