Everyone loves a grey — in racing they are often a paddock pick or crowd favourite due to their striking appearance. Across the years many great greys have stormed to victory on the racecourse — picking up legions of fans along the way. We look back at some of our favourites.
Arguably the most popular grey racehorse of all time, “Dessie” wowed fans nationwide with his flamboyant jumping style.
A four-times winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton, the gelding continued to parade there after his retirement on Boxing Day each year for the public. After his death in 2006 his ashes were buried near his statue at the Middlesex track.
A much-loved chasing campaigner he won 34 races, ran an estimated 180 miles and jumped more than 1,000 fences. “I’ve never known a horse so brave,” said rider Simon Sherwood.
However, his career was almost over before it started as in his first race in 1983 he took a crashing fall. But he returned to the track and won many top class races, including the 1998 Tingle Creek and 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
More than 58,000 people turned up to cheer the charismatic grey home that March, as he overhauled Yahoo in the run in in heavy ground.
After a crashing fall during his sixth King George he was retired. He had an active retirement — making public appearances, parading, and even fronting a range of merchandise that raised more than £40,000 for charity.
He died peacefully in his stable in November 2006 aged 27.
Trainer David Elsworth said at the time: “Everybody will miss him and our sympathy goes to his adoring public and fan club that never ceased to take opportunities to see him at his public appearances.”
One of the most famous greys of recent years, Monet’s Garden collected an army of fans by winning the Old Roan Chase at Aintree three times.
For the past couple of years — including 2014 — he paraded before the race, which now bears his name, and looked fresh enough to take part.
Three years ago it was a different story — the popular chaser developed a critical bone infection and almost died. At the time owner David Wesley Yates told H&H he was “hoping for a miracle”.
Against the odds the strong grey pulled through and made a full recovery to enjoy his retirement.
He remained at Nicky Richards’ Greystoke yard and has done some showing with Nicky’s daughter Joey.
It was almost like a fairytale — a grey wins the Grand National by a nose.
Neptune Collonges was the first grey since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 to win the famous race.
Trained by Paul Nicholls he fought to the line, narrowly snatching victory from Jonjo O’Neill’s Sunnyhillyboy in a photo finish. It was the narrowest win in the history of the race — and the horse was retired immediately afterwards.
“It was like a dream,” trainer Paul Nicholls told H&H. “When he worked at home he was so slow, he couldn’t keep up with anyone, but he was determined.”
It was a first win in the race for the trainer, and for the owner, John Hales.
“I just wanted him to get round safe and sound and I never dreamed that he would win it,” said Hales, who also owns showjumpers such as the Nick Skelton-ridden Arko.
“Nipper” has since taken part in dressage competitions with Lisa Hales — making a winning return to competition in November 2012.
In 1961 the Irish born grey was the first grey to win the Grand National since The Lamb in 1868.
After his trainer Dan Kirwan’s death in 1960 he was sold to England.
Trained by Fred Rimell he started at odds of 28-1 and partnered by Bobby Beasley, drew clear over the final fence to win by five lengths.
Another great grey to run in the famous yellow, red and white silks of John Hales.
The gelding, by Remainder Man, was foaled in 1988 and won 20 of 35 races — including the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
He was trained by the late Gordon Richards, who nicknamed the horse his “bouncing rubber ball”.
He soared into the public eye thanks to his high speed and neat jumping style and followed in Desert Orchid’s footsteps as the people’s grey.
Like Dessie he also won the King George VI Chase (1995 and 1996).
To the anguish of his fans he suffered a fatal fall at Aintree in April 2008 during the Melling Chase.
The 2003 Champion Hurdle winner was well-known for his staying power and turn of speed.
Trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson and owned by Terry Warner.
He sadly died on the gallops while being prepared for the Christmas Hurdle aged 11 in 2005.
“He gave great pleasure to everyone connected with him,” said Richard Johnson.
Rooster Booster’s connections also had another famous grey — Detroit City who won the 2006 Triumph Hurdle.
This gusty grey was the winner of the Fox Hunter’s at Aintree over the Grand National fences in 2007.
He was trained by Nicky Henderson and ran 44 times and won 10 races before retiring and taking up team chasing, where he was praised for his sure-footed jumping style.
“Scots Grey is a complete darling to be around, without a bad bone in his body,” said new owner Emma Burton.
In comparision to National Hunt racing, grey heroes on the Flat are relatively scarce. However, this year’s St Leger winner proved himself star. Kingston Hill also took the 2013 Racing Post Trophy and was named the Cartier Champion Two year colt that year.
Trained by Roger Varien, he was beaten one and quarter lengths at Epsom in the Derby but went on to win the final British Classic of the season — the St Leger at Doncaster. His half brother [by Mastercraftsman] has also flown the flag for the colour — the Grey Gatsby won the Dante.