Remembering The 'Grey Gladiator'

Published: March 23, 2021 10:20 am EDT

On the silver anniversary of his birth, Trot Insider pays tribute to one of Canada's most beloved and decorated Standardbreds — a gallant, grey gladiator who enjoyed a career worthy of the sport's highest honours.

Admirals Express, who was born 25 years ago today in Durand, Mich. — between Lansing and Flint — rose from humble beginnings on the Michigan fair circuit to become one of Canadian harness racing's "everyday heroes" through the 2000s. After winning 12 times in the care of Michigan-based trainer Keith Hough, Admirals Express was moved to trainer Mike Hales with the aim of racing him on the larger tracks on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit, and he realized his full potential in the Toronto market, for sure. Many of his 86 career wins — all for the partnership of Cheryl and Edward Safie and Gary and Laurel Gust — came against free-for-all and preferred company on the Woodbine circuit, which was then comprised of Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park. The gutsy son of Admirals Galley seemingly got better with age, winning 17 races and taking his career mark of 1:48.2 in his nine-year-old season en route to being named Canada's Horse of the Year.

All told, Admirals Express earned over $2.1 million on the racetrack, with his biggest individual wins coming in a pair of $75,000 events: The 2004 Slots Cup at Hiawatha Horse Park and a 2006 invitational at Hippodrome de Montréal. While he made his headlines mostly in the overnight ranks, his heart, grittiness and "never say die" attitude — which were on display week in and week out through the entirety of the 2000s — earned him the nickname "The Grey Gladiator," duly bestowed upon him by Woodbine commentator Frank Salive.

Sadly, Admirals Express was euthanized in October 2010 after suffering a fractured leg. That winter, he was voted the Cam Fella Award winner — for extreme meritorious service to Canadian harness racing — at the O'Brien Awards, and his legacy in Canadian harness racing history was cemented with a place in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, an honour bestowed upon him three years after his passing.

His posthumous Hall of Fame honour put him in extremely rare company, joining just Cam Fella and Somebeachsomewhere as individuals with Horse of the Year, Cam Fella and Hall of Fame honours to their credit.

Even though over a decade has passed after he last set foot on a racetrack, Admirals Express remains — through his work ethic and determination — one of harness racing's most admired and legendary heroes.



Very few horses can be remembered over a decade after racing by a name that isn't derived from their racing name. The Grey Gladiator is in rare, rare company in that department and I remember cheering him on to many victories as he was a fan's horse to love.

Admirals express is my favorite horse of all time. What a great horse he was, week in and week out he was tough as nails and if he got the front it was race over. I often thought about what could have been if he hadn't of been gelded, i would want to put his toughness and will to win in a foal in hopes that they would turn out like their daddy. I was there on the rail at the finish line the night he went in 1:48:2, what a monster mile that was and look at how many years ago it was, that makes it even more impressive. Nobody was beating The Grey Gladiator on this night. I followed his last comeback and knew that when they retired him for good that he was a part of a program that retrains standardbred for riding and he did well in some shows i was told. My heart sunk when i heard he had a paddock accident and had to be pout to sleep, broke my heart to be honest. The Admiral gave us all a lot of great memories in his long and storied career, one of the best free for allers i have had the honor of seeing him race live. Rest In Peace Grey Gladiator, we will never forget you.

Loved this horse so much. Even remember leaving a comment about him in the much missed Canadian Sportsman

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