On a misty February evening in 1983 Jim Fitzgerald hears a knock at his front door. As his son Bernard opens it, three armed and masked men force their way into the house at Ballymany Stud Farm in County Kildare, Republic of Ireland. The Daily Telegraph newspaper later quoted the words that one of the men spat out. “We have come for Shergar. We want £2 million [ransom] for him.” And so began one of horse-racing’s most enduring mysteries.
Shergar was one of the most successful flat-racing thoroughbreds of his day. He won Britain’s prestigious Epsom Derby in 1980 by the biggest margin ever seen, ten lengths. Other wins came thick and fast. The horse was retired in 1981 and sent to Ballymany; he was now an incredibly valuable stud animal. As befitted such an illustrious stallion, his owner was the Aga Khan, fabulously wealthy and a revered figure in the Islamic world.