It is probably not a safe assumption that only those who were closely connected with the horse will be heartbroken that he has left this life. Although not large in stature Defoe had the heart of a lion and his adoring fans from around the world will no doubt join us in mourning his loss and celebrating his achievements.
Defoe, who was bred and owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, was the first foal out of the 1m2f winner Dulkashe (Pivotal). His rise to Group 1 stardom was a gradual one, which began at Ffos Las where he broke his maiden on his first start, coming out on top of a four runner field by a head. He stormed up the handicap ranks and into pattern company during a fantastic campaign at three, winning four races on the bounce, including the Listed Glasgow Stakes and the G3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes.
In 2018 he began to assert himself as a high class middle distance performer with consecutive victories in the G3 John Porter Stakes and the G2 Jockey Club Stakes, however, his quest for Group 1 glory wasn’t to materialise until the following season when, at the age of five, he lit up Epsom on Oaks Day with a perfectly timed run up the inside rail to win the G1 Coronation Cup under his regular jockey Andrea Atzeni.
His subsequent success in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot was to be his final victory, the ninth of his career from 22 starts. His short-head defeat in the G2 City Of Gold at Meydan this spring left us dreaming of what might have been as his long term target, the G1 Sheema Classic, was abandoned three weeks later following the coronavirus outbreak.
It is a great sadness that Defoe’s final race came at an eerily empty Royal Ascot where he ran an admirable race to finish third in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes, a scene that was a world away from those jubilant celebrations with Sheikh Mohammed Obaid in the winner’s enclosure twelve months previously.
We can’t help but have favourites and Defoe was everyone’s favourite horse; from his groom Mark, head girl Dee, regular rider Korrie and to Roger and Hanako’s children he was a star and such was his popularity with them that they had a rocking horse made in his image. A lasting memory for a great horse.