Devon Loch

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Devon Loch
Sire Devonian
Grandsire Hyperion
Dam Coolaleen
Damsire Loch Lomond
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1946
Country Great Britain
Colour Bay
Owner Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Last updated on January 19, 2008

Devon Loch (1946–1963) was a racehorse that is probably best remembered for his involvement in the 1956 Grand National, when owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Having won two races already that year and finishing a good third-place at Cheltenham that season, Devon Loch was well-fancied for the Grand National, and his progress was helped when the favourite and a previous winner fell early on.[1]

At the race climax, with only ten horses still running, Devon Loch was on the final stretch, in front of the royal box just 40 yards from the winning post and with a five-length lead, when he suddenly, and inexplicably, jumped into the air and landed on his stomach, allowing E.S.B. to overtake and win. Although jockey Dick Francis tried to cajole the horse, it was unable to continue. Afterwards, The Queen Mother famously said: "Oh, that's racing."[2][3]

It is still uncertain and debated to this day as to why Devon Loch jumped; some reports claimed he suffered a cramp in his hindquarters causing the collapse. Another report asserted that a shadow thrown by the adjacent water-jump fence (which horses only traverse on the first circuit of the Aintree course) may have baffled Devon Loch into thinking a jump was required and – confused as to whether he should jump or not – he half-jumped and collapsed. It seems possible that such confusion caused him to fail to continue. Jockey Dick Francis later stated that a loud cheer from the crowd, for an expected royal winner, distracting the horse is a more likely explanation.

Reports that the horse had suffered a heart attack were dismissed, as Devon Loch recovered far too quickly for this to have been the case.

He was put down during or shortly after a cold winter in 1963.

Modern use[edit]

"To do a Devon Loch" is a modern metaphor now sometimes used in sports and otherwise to explain a sudden, last-minute failure of teams or a sportsperson to complete an expected victory, for example: "Manchester United won't do a Devon Loch and lose the title after beating Chelsea"[4] or "Lewis Hamilton surrendering the championship having led Kimi Räikkönen by 17 points with just two races remaining was a Devon Loch calamity".[5] Another example occurred ahead of the 2011 Irish presidential election when Seán Gallagher's campaign came undone in the final television debate, his fall from grace was compared to Devon Loch's fall just before the winning post in the 1956 Grand National.[6]

In an article in The Times on 4 August 2012, Rick Broadbent wrote about the final day of the 2012 Olympics heptathlon competition: "Jessica Ennis is almost there. It would take a Devon Loch-style collapse to deny her the gold medal now."[7]

References[edit]

Footnotes