The Winners 2011 Under 19 Runner-up

No one believes me and to be honest, I’m not surprised. There are so many conspiracies about him flying around that no one ever really knows the truth. You hear talk of him going nuts in the trailer, busting a leg then being shot or being moved around the country until it was safe to let him go unrecognised. But I know what really happened.

You hear of his great effort in the ’81 Epsom Derby. How he won by 10 lengths and was awarded European Horse of the Year. I was watching that at home at the time, lazing in the rickety chair while my Ma made potato cakes. I remember thinking about him, “That bay is something really special”. I may even have mumbled it out loud, as my Ma clipped me sharply and said, “Stop your chattering, Sean, and go outside and chop some logs.”

But that was three years ago and, as my Ma would say, a lot of water has passed under the bridge.

I still remember the night and what happened afterwards. No one in the hospital believes I stole Shergar. Often the boys in their crisp white coats will joke about it and call me Sean the Shergar Snaffler. Then they shake their heads and laugh, some stab their fingers at their temples and screw them around, making funny faces to suggest that I am crazy. But I’m not and I know the truth. And after I found out… it’s never been the same.

We stole him in the thick blanket darkness of that February night, when the horses whinny softly in their sleep. We, the five lads and me, we took the colt’s groom hostage. We barged through that door in our balaclavas. My insides glowed hot as the punk went white. “We want Shergar for £2 million ransom. Get your coat on. Move it.”

An hour later, the magnificent bay was loaded in the trailer, standing idly and breathing out steam as if nothing was happening. I pulled up the door chains and shoved the groom in the back of the car. We were away. After a while, we stopped and the growl of the engine vibrated my bones. “Keep walking. Don’t go back, don’t look back, just go.” I scrunched a piece of paper in his hands then threw the groom out onto the road.

Money changed hands and that is all I knew. I received a thousand myself. It would keep my Ma in logs and potatoes for years to come. Then I started hearing things. Hearsay from the boys. Apparently, the Garda and suchlike were catching up, close to finding him and there was talk of someone turning the boys in. What I heard next is the start of how my life began to spiral out of control.

I found a note from the boys – they told me to come to where Shergar was being held. The note had something about ‘ending this façade for good’ scrawled on it but I didn’t notice it. We had him in the stall and out of those thirty lads, eight had guns. All were aimed at the colt. My ears still pop from the harsh racket of several monsters hammering their wrath into him. The image after I turned back is enough to make anyone sick: - his carcass was bloody and bullet riddled, his mouth hung open and his eyes were blasted pink…

Thirty years later I sit here in the rickety armchair. I am forty-nine now, losing a few teeth, but fond of watching the racing on the television. I put a bet on from time to time; - I like the bays myself, they bring me luck.

And that’s when the nightmares began.

At nights I sit bolt upright when the others are asleep, breathing in the smells of a small stall. I raise my eyes to the thunder of hooves in the black sky and I chill as I hear a distant whinny, and I look deep into calm liquid eyes of my accuser. The night air is cooling and the starless night seems even darker as the winding roads and green meadows are lost in the pitch and toss of my nightmare. Red-eyed gargoyles of men are standing in a line, jolting like marionettes …

I stole him, but no one believes an aging man who mumbles softly in his chair and rolls his eyes back in his head during the racing on TV.

Do you?