Greys add market value of a different hue

One aspect that this sport must never forget as it strives to maintain its slipping foothold in public consciousness is that of spectacle. Punting and politics, championships and challenges are all firmly woven into the tapestry of interest but it is the look of the thing, in the form of the beauty of the Thoroughbred, that is the initial draw for many.

And on Saturday at Newmarket, many an eye will be gladdened by one of the oddities in the calendar, a race exclusively for grey horses. It is no real matter that the six-furlong contest is a fairly lowly affair in terms of class; last year the 17 silver darlings who took part made a stunning sight as they paraded beneath the trees on the July course, dappled light glinting on dappled hides, and then took part in a dashing white charge down the track.

It is easy to understand why Bellerophon wanted to tame Pegasus. White horses seem to have a magic in their snowy coats denied to their more basely-coloured brothers and sisters. White horses belong to good guys. Hi-ho Silver and all that. Perhaps it is the association with myth and legend, or more prosaically because they are easy to spot, that gives greys a head start in the hero worship stakes. Desert Orchid's exploits might have taken him beyond racing into the public domain anyway, but his striking colour certainly did him no harm.

Newmarket's specialist contest (and in the interests of political correctness, it should be pointed out that there is a similar contest for bays, browns and chestnuts on Friday evening) tends to attract regulars and the first three home last year, Compton's Eleven, Certain Justice and Grey Boy, are among the entries again. But for the first time in four runnings Middleton Grey – the winner in 2004 and 2005, fourth in 2006 and an honourable eighth last year at the age of nine – will be missing.

His trainer Tony Newcombe hopes he has, though, unearthed a successor, in the shape of Witchry, a winner at Chepstow in May and fourth at Haydock last time. "He wouldn't have old Middleton Grey's turn of foot," he said, "but as long as the race isn't over-competitive, he'll go there with a really good chance."

Greys comprise only a tiny proportion of the thoroughbred population and a century ago the colour was becoming increasingly rare until the emergence of the brilliant grey juvenile The Tetrarch, foaled in 1911, as a sire of note. His influential descendants to have propagated shades of grey in the past include Mahmoud, Grey Sovereign, Abernant, Zeddaan, Kalamoun and Caro, a job being carried on today by the likes of Linamix, Highest Honor, Dalakhani and Verglas.

Witchry, by Green Desert, gets his coat from his distinguished dam Indian Skimmer, a six-greats grand-daughter of The Tetrarch. A rather more talented descendant than Witchry is also set to appear on Saturday when the grey Gold Cup runner-up Geordieland, who has the horse known as "the spotted wonder" as one of his 1,024 eight-greats grand-parents, reappears in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes..

The seven-year-old drops back to Newbury's extended mile and five furlongs as a controlled experiment. "We had toyed with the King George," said trainer Jamie Osborne, "but in the end it came too soon. When you eyeball Yeats you know you've had a race, and he's needed until now to recover. Saturday will tell us whether he can compete at a decent level at a shorter distance and if he can it will open up options in the autumn."

* US jockey Russell Baze, banned for whip misuse on his first British mount in the Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday, succeeded yesterday in having his suspension deferred so that he can ride at Grade One meetings at Saratoga and Del Mar later this month.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea