The story of Devon Loch

World of Sport

There appears to be little hope that Manchester United will be able to defend their Premier League crown after Manchester City stayed in front of them going into the final game of the season.

"It could be like Devon Loch," said Sir Alex Ferguson in the aftermath of the victory against Swansea, "stranger things have happened in football. We just have to keep going with the right spirit."

As an avid horse racing fan, and indeed owner of horses, the story of Devon Loch is familiar to Fergie — but many of those listening weren't familiar with the reference.

The racehorse Devon Loch was much-fancied to win the 1956 Grand National at Aintree.

Owned by the Queen Mother, and ridden by the renowned jockey-turned-crime-writer Dick Francis, Devon Loch had everything in its favour going into the race — and was helped further still when the favourite fell early in the race.

The horse built a huge lead, and had the race sewn up with a sizeable lead in the final stretch.

And then, inexplicably, the horse fell.

Devon Loch jumped into the air with nobody else around him, lost his footing completely, fell to the ground, and let ESB come past to seal the most unexpected of victories.

Numerous theories have been put forward as to why Devon Loch stopped, but nobody will ever know for sure.

The one positive was that it was not for medical reasons — the horse, then 10 years old, recovered quickly and lived until the age of 17.

"Oh, that's racing," the Queen Mother said after watching events unfold on the racecourse.

Whether Fergie will be so charitable should the title head to crosstown rivals City remains to be seen.

What to read next