The Greyville eight-race meeting tonight will be dominated by a ‘Halloween At The Races’ theme, which is a novel touch by the local racing operator. The first race jumps at 17h55 and the serious punters will be hoping that no scary results creep into the festivities.
American horseracing enjoyed a novel Halloween tradition with the annual Grey Ghost Handicap at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, run at 2250m on the turf. This race, usually held on Halloween night, was restricted to grey horses only.
The trophy is presented by the winners of the costume contest with a great time being had by all.
Although the runners are usually middle level in class, just the sight of a herd of greys racing to the finish is a thrill!
To spice up the mix, they added the Witches’ Brew Stakes for the fillies and mares at 1000m on the turf.
The feature is named for the original Grey Ghost, the outstanding Native Dancer, who raced to fame in the early days of television.
His colour made him easy to spot on the small black and white TVs of the early 1950’s and his winning ways quickly made him a fan favourite.
Racing was televised much more frequently than today so millions saw him win and win often.
In his first season of racing, Native Dancer won all nine starts. He was voted the American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt for 1952, with two of the three major polls naming him Horse of the Year.
He topped a poll by Turf and Sport Digest magazine, receiving 110 votes compared to 38 for his nearest rival One Count, and was also named Horse of the Year by the Thoroughbred Racing Association. He had finished second to One Count in a separate poll organised by the publishers of Daily Racing Form.
In his three-year-old campaign, Native Dancer received a great deal of media attention leading up to the 1953 Kentucky Derby.
He won the Gotham Mile and the prestigious Wood Memorial, but in the Kentucky Derby, he lost for the only time in his career.
Although jockey Eric Guerin was roundly criticized in the press (“he took that colt everywhere on the track except the ladies’ room” was one comment), Native Dancer was fouled twice during the race and lost narrowly to Dark Star.
To date, Native Dancer is one of only two “Dual Classic Winners” to come from the State of Maryland (the other was Kauai King, who won the 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness).
Native Dancer is also one of only eleven Maryland-bred colts to win a US Triple Crown race.
Following his loss at Churchill Downs, Native Dancer won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Travers Stakes, a feat accomplished until then only by Duke of Magenta, Man o’ War, and Whirlaway, and by only two other horses since. Native Dancer never lost again that season and was named Champion Three Year Old Colt.
In 1954, Native Dancer won all three races he entered and was scheduled to be shipped to France to compete in the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. However, he was retired as a result of a recurring foot injury with a record of 21 wins out of 22 lifetime races.
Native Dancer was voted the United States Horse of the Year for 1954 and appeared on the May 31 cover of Time magazine.
Many consider the “Grey Ghost of Sagamore” to have been the first Thoroughbred television star and TV Guide ranked him as a top icon of the era.