As a horse, Shergar had it pretty good. He’d earned his place in the sun. The Irish racehorse, a bay colt with a distinctive white blaze, won the Epsom Derby in 1981 by ten lengths— the longest winning margin in the race’s history. He was named European Horse of the Year that year and was retired from racing in September after winning £436,000 in prize money for his owners.
A month later, Shergar arrived in Newbridge, greeted by the town band and cheering, flag-waving throngs as he paraded up main street on his way to begin his stud career. It was another successful career for Shergar who produced 35 foals that season. His second season was looking good as well, with 55 mares on hand.
“A clue… that is what we haven’t got,” Chief Superintendent “Spud” Murphy told reporters shortly after the evening of February 8, 1983, when Shergar disappeared. Sherlock Holmes fans might by forgiven if they start claiming this scenario is right out of the great detective’s adventure, Silver Blaze. Perhaps the perpetrators read Arthur Conan Doyle.
In any event, at 8.30 pm, Shergar’s groom, James Fitzgerald thought he heard a car in the yard. He listened, heard nothing more, and forgot about it. Ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door and his son answered it. The uniformed caller asked the boy to fetch his father, but when he turned his back, the visitor hit him from behind, knocking him to the floor. Fitzgerald entered the room to see a pistol pointed at him. Three more armed men, one carrying a sub-machine gun, pushed their way into the house. They held the family at gunpoint while Fitzgerald led two more thieves to Shergar’s stall. Fitzgerald was forced to help the thieves load Shergar into a horse trailer, and the horse was towed away. Fitzgerald was driven around in another vehicle for several hours before being thrown out of the car having been given a password the thieves would use in ransom negotiations.
The investigation and the negotiations were a lesson in ineptitude on all sides, featuring detection by psychics and diviners, demands, counter demands, botched meetings, all amid rumors that the horse was already dead and that the owners were only negotiating to buy time with no intention of paying ransom.
Whatever the truth, after four days the thieves called no more. Officials blamed the Irish Republican Army for the crime. Shergar has never been found. Sherlock Holmes fared better with Silver Blaze. Unfortunately, he was no longer available.
In 1735, the first opera to be staged in America premiered. Flora or Hob in the Well was a rather dubious choice, but Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi hadn’t been born yet.
” . . . the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” “The dog did nothing in the nighttime.” “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes. — Silver Blaze