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SC Rewind: Many Shades Of Grey

Published: November 14, 2015 8:30 am ET

Last Comment: November 18, 2015 8:35 pm ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith talks about grey horses and some of the folklore that surrounds these rather rare animals. He recalls the names of a few memorable 'Greys' and invites readers to add their favourites.

Pictured is an unidentified but well dressed grey horse (Author's collection)

Throughout the entire recorded history of harness racing relatively few "grey" or "gray" (both are correct) horses have stepped on the track. The sport's registry recognizes a variety of colour palettes with the majority of horses being in one of about five main designations. The tags of bay, black and brown make up the majority, with those considered "chestnut" following in the distance. In the far reaches of the "list" are a very few registered as either grey or roan. I read one time that the U.S.T.A. estimates grey horses make up less than 5 per cent of all registrants; that is even higher than I would have imagined.

Despite the minuscule statistics, a number of grey horses have captured the hearts and the fancy of literally millions of fans. There seems to be a certain inherent mystique about them. Horses grey in colour are characterized by many almost unbelievable traits. At times folklore has deemed them to have "powers" such as bringing good luck. Whatever is fact or fiction, it seems that most people love grey horses and just enjoy looking at them. A few years ago when Ontario racing fans were thrilled each time the great Admirals Express stepped on the track, resident photographer Clive Cohen said that he had more requests for posters and pictures of him than all others put together.

Without question the honour of being the most famous, popular and beloved grey horse of the modern age goes to Admirals Express, affectionately known as "The Grey Gladiator". He had a tremendous career on the track, racing from age two until he was retired at the end of his 10-year old-campaign. Sadly he enjoyed a rather short retirement and had to be humanely destroyed due to a serious and unrepairable fractured leg at only age 14. He was owned by Gary and Laurel Gust and Cheryl and Ed Sayfie of Rockford, Michigan and groomed by Wellington Charles. He was trained by Mike Hales and most often driven by Paul MacDonell. While he was foaled in Michigan, he did a great deal of his memorable racing on the very tough WEG Circuit and was dearly beloved by all Canadian race fans.

Paul MacDonell recently shared a few of his recollections about his time spent with Admirals Express.

"Admiral was one of a kind! One thing I always remembered about him was when I went to his paddock stall he had the cross ties stretched as far as they would allow, as if to say 'let's get on with this'. He was also a bit of a bull in the post parade, he didn't like slowing down at any time. Of course he was all business in the race.

"My dad also trained a few greys, one being Armbro Kazam​;​ I think she was from the first crop of Laag. Another one he trained was Happy Truligan. It seemed people always had an interest in the way the greys p​er​formed. I guess they were just more noticeable​."​

The most memorable and tremendously popular grey horse of all time in harness racing circles was Greyhound. Foaled in 1932 he came along at a difficult time in history as the world battled through the Great Depression. Racing for low purses brought about by the times, Greyhound served as a symbol of hope wherever he appeared. His 1935 victory in the Hambletonian was the apex of his long career. While his speed and endurance on the track made him famous, his earnings were small in comparison to what he might have achieved in another era. His career ended basically because he had no competition even at his advanced age.

(Greyhound is shown here at his retirement home in Illinois with Doc Flannery.)

Following a well earned retirement he was stabled at his owner's rather swank layout at St. Charles, Illinois and thousands of visitors stopped by each year to get a look at their hero. At one time he could be hired to appear at fairs and other gatherings and always drew a huge crowd.

A guest book was maintained for visitors and an estimated 25,000 people signed it as they stopped by to have a close up look. Greyhound's guests were recorded from 27 different countries and all 50 States.

His only owner following his purchase as a yearling for $900, Col. E.J. Baker stated in his will that the famous grey was to "live in style" for all of his days. He indeed did that and lived to the age of 33, passing away in 1965.

I have not written too much on this horse as one day soon I plan to devote a complete Rewind to Greyhound and his tremendous contribution to the sport.

An old ad that suggested hiring Greyhound as a promoter for special race days.

Long before either Greyhound or Admirals Express, Canada had the world's most famous and beloved grey harness horse. He was foaled in Michigan and purchased by Mr. Frank W. Entricken of Tavistock, Ont. for the princely sum of $185 and brought to Canada. A foal of 1902 his registered name was The Eel after being called "Silver Joe" early in his lifetime and before his illustrious track career began at the age of five. When most horses of the day were racing for "peanuts", The Eel competed and won races carrying purses in excess of $5,000 on the prestigious Grand Circuit at many U.S. tracks. His speed tab of 2:02 1/4 made him a world champion.

​​The Eel, who starred on both regular and ice courses, was handled by noted horseman Dan A. McEwan of London, Ont.

A number of grey horses in the earlier part of the 20th century were said to be direct descendants of this memorable campaigner once dubbed "Handsomest horse in the world." He was used as a sire during his racing days which turned out to be a blessing as he died at a fairly young age. His passing was apparently suspicious in nature with some speculation that he was poisoned.

The Eel in light harness shows his dapples [The Lemp Studio Collection, Tavistock.]

I have assembled a list of a few grey horses that I recall from memory alone. Some I have seen, others are just from hearing their names or reading about them. This list is completely at random and is not intended to include or exclude any horse; it is just a few I came up with. Also it may contain some horses who are technically "Roan" by registration. If anyone in the reading audience wants to add to the list please feel free to do so. Also welcomed are any special grey horse stories.

This short list would include Smog, Laag, Ginnie Lee C., Yarg (Gray spelled backwards), The Grey Goose, Cream Of Tartar, Keystone Wallis, Baron Storm, Silver Ronnie, Silver Laird, Silver T Lee, Ruff Me Up and Bold Talent. It seems that a lot of grey horses have been named with their colour in mind. I think my favourite was a 1950's horse called Gray Flannel.

Shown above is Native Dancer believed to be the greatest of all grey Thoroughbreds. The incidence of greys in Thoroughbreds is apparently much more prevalent than with Standardbreds.

November 18, 2015 - 8:35 pmJeff: Ideal Wilco did meet

Jeff: Ideal Wilco did meet some Grand Circuit types on occasion as well. Someone asked me in the men's room at Flamboro if we could beat Cam F. that night in the Confederation Cup. I foolishy said maybe...oh what a dream that was. The chap that asked that question was a rather brash ( at the time ) Norm Clements. I think Ideal W. did go on to earn over $ 500,000.00 eventually but he was no Admiral or Cam...wish he had been. We did finish 3rd. that night although Cam F. won as he pleased and rightfully so.

November 17, 2015 - 2:08 pmSeeing the name of Ideal

Jeff Porchak SAID...

Seeing the name of Ideal Wilco reminded me of Wilcos Kosby, a grey that competed against the likes of Presidential Ball and Life Sign at 2 and 3. Likely one of the first greys I saw competing locally with some Grand Circuit success.

November 17, 2015 - 12:41 pmWe now own Antique Collector,

Chris Glover SAID...

We now own Antique Collector, one of the last "Laag-Babies".

167 Races, $267,000 in winnings, a mark of 1:51 flat.
Not bad for a horse that broke an ankle at two...and had West Nile at 6.

November 17, 2015 - 12:26 amSilver Nib Lee, an old

Silver Nib Lee, an old favourite I used to always bet on at Greenwood with William Stirton, I think.

November 16, 2015 - 5:35 pmTechnically Ideal Wilco was a

Technically Ideal Wilco was a Roan not a grey but I guess that's alright 'cause Robert Smith said some on his list might have been roans! Many more roans than greys have raced. I owned and raced two roans, "R U Stormy", a trotter and "Scottish Butler", a pacer whose greatest claim to fame was paying $200.00 on a $2.00 win ticket at the Beamsville Fair! I probably had the only ticket sold! Then there are a few White, as opposed to Grey, horses racing, too such as one that's been currently racing in Ontario named "Maximum White".

November 15, 2015 - 10:03 amI was going to mention him,

Ian Trotter SAID...

I was going to mention him, he was a star when I first started following the horses. Need someone to drum up a video or some pics. My google searches only resulted a couple

November 14, 2015 - 7:55 pmIdeal Wilco by Smog....i

Ideal Wilco by Smog....i guess one of the best i ever seen. Winner of 1st. 9 starts as 2 yr. old setting 5 track records. 3 year old pacing colt of the year in Canada. owned by Wheeling By Stables.

November 14, 2015 - 10:55 amThree greys I remember

Three greys I remember offhand are Lorne Bradley's "Silver Pick" and Fred Beacham's "Carol Knight", who I drove a few times for Freddie, and one of her foals "Silver Pebbles"

November 14, 2015 - 9:14 amParsisien Idéal, (

Parsisien Idéal, ( Newsmaker-Parisian model and 3rd dam, MISS FREYHOUND ( full sister to the Great Greyhound.
Half Brother to Pa«ris Air winner of 24 Stakes, and in Europe
Half brother to The Last Hurrah, Best american trotter in Europe, One year, I was in Paris, In the Prix d'Amérique. At the start, Star Fire , own by Russia, the Russian driver turn on the wrong side and hit The Last Hurrah. Both were last.
An Ohio Bred, we did not race him in Québec at, and start at.
At 4, raced at Yonkers, , fastest time in 4 years in Yonkers and fastest in the world, ( 1982,
The week before the international, He hurt himself on wet track.
At that time, My Brother Guy and I, had Tie Silk ( 1962 international winneer, and Delmont Hanover.
I lease to Belgium Tie Silk, and we had most of mares to Delmont Hanover. Chuck Booman had told me that he did not worth a nickel.
Than we had 11 mare to Parisien Idéal, Québec mare.
With 1 bay mares, first production, he had 10 grey foals, 1 filly and 10 horse male.
In 1987, , after we sold the farm, my brother Jean-Guy ( Guy) died,.
All his foals were good, and Seigneur was unbeaten in all his races and elected the best 3 years old in Quebec.

Parisien Idéal had every thing to be the best stallion, and in direct line to Greyhound blood. But it was the time that I knew that the politicians, were inten
The best of the best , I should have sent him in Europe.
I also offered him, free to the Russian ambassadeur, to be presented to the beautiful grey trotters, the Orlov. It was the time that Russia was in real trouble.

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