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Posts Tagged ‘Greyhound’

SEABISCUIT with Marcella Howard. Photo and copyright, Chicago Tribune

SEABISCUIT shares a moment with (Mrs.) Marcella Howard. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

I have often wondered what our knowledge about horse racing would be like without the images of C.C. Cook, “Skeets” Meadors, Bert Clark Thayer, Bert Morgan, Tony Leonard, Bob and Adam Coglianese, Lydia Williams (LAW), Patricia McQueen, Barbara Livingston and L.S. Sutcliffe, or of Canada’s Michael Burns, Australia’s Bronwyn Healy and the UK’s Edward Whitaker, to name but a few of those whose lens’ are central to the construction of racing history.

Can you imagine taking this to the track? Photojournalist Jessie Tarbox and her camera, circa 1900.

Can you imagine taking this to the track? Photojournalist Jessie Tarbox and her camera, circa 1900.

Before I retired from a career in education, I spent a good deal of time researching the visual image and discovered, among other things, that photographs play the important socio-cultural role of holding memories in place. And perhaps because the visual image can be a “closed” representational system — and here I mean the photographic image in particular — it is adept at recording aspects of our social, cultural and universal histories in a way that all can understand. By “freezing” time in this way, photographs give us purchase on something as precious: the construction of a social and cultural history of just about everything.

If there were no images of the horses that we have loved and lost or the people and events that marked the progression of racing on the flat or over jumps from its rough beginnings to today, our collective memory would be rendered null and void. The role of the work of professional track photographers worldwide (from the famous to the fledgling) is that of a cultural ethnologist — people who record the workings of a culture so that others, outside of it, can come to understand what makes it tick. Track photographers take us into the culture of horses and people, evoking a world few of us will ever experience as intimately.

The great TONY LEONARD (back to camera) captures a moment for all time: GENUINE RISK being led in after her win in the Kentucky Derby.

The great TONY LEONARD (back to camera) captures a moment for all time: GENUINE RISK being led in after her win in the Kentucky Derby. Photograph and copyright The Chicago Tribune.

This image (below) brought me up sharply when I first saw it. C.C. Cook has captured an entire narrative in what seems, at first glance, a straightforward depiction of a thoroughbred coming on to the track. From the deserted and vast contours of the track that frame man and beast we are given to understand that both are about to confront the very essence of the game. But there is more — Cook has embodied the moment with a suggestion of anticipation, of infinite possibility, since the race itself lies ahead, in the future.

GOSHAWK walks onto the track. Taken in 1923 by the incomparable C.C.Cook.

GOSHAWK walks onto the track, with a young jockey whose last name is Keogh in the irons. Taken in 1923 by the incomparable C.C.Cook.

Goshawk (1920) is beautifully turned out, perhaps by the man walking beside him. His bandages are neat, his tail and mane braided, and his coat gleams. The son of Whisk Broom (1907) was bred by Harry Payne Whitney and sold, before this photograph was taken, to Gifford A. Cochran for the tidy sum of $50,000 USD. In the privately published “The Thoroughbred Stud of H.P. Whitney Esq.” (1928), Whitney describes the colt thus: “Goshawk was a colt of extreme speed and of stakes class.” As a two year-old, the Carol Shilling-trained Goshawk won the Saratoga Special and the Great American Stakes; at three, he won the Quickstep Handicap and ran second to the 1923 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, Zev, in the Pimlico Fall Serial #1. Other than these few facts, little else is known of him.

But though Goshawk’s story remains obscure, Cook has given the colt immortality by setting his image in the landscape of his time.

Who knew? MAN O' WAR and Will Harbut in what seems to be an ad campaign for Dodge! Photo and copyright, the digital library of the University of Kentucky.

Who knew? MAN O’ WAR and WILL HARBUT in what seems to be an ad campaign for Dodge. Date unknown. Photo and copyright, the Digital Library of the University of Kentucky.

They were children, their bones and hand-eye coordination still developing.  Why weren’t they in school, or within the safety of their families? What brought them to the track? It seems almost unbelievable that children were competing in one of the most dangerous sports of the day — in the Twenties and Thirties, boys of twelve and thirteen were professional jockeys.

Jockey BASIL JAMES.

Jockey BASIL JAMES. In 1936, at the age of 16, James led all American jockeys in winnings. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

BOBBY JONES (centre) and two other unidentified jockeys at trackside in 1926.

BOBBY JONES (centre) and two other unidentified jockeys at trackside in 1926. The son of a thoroughbred owner, Jones led all jockeys in earnings in 1933. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Jockey EARL PORTER with an unidentified woman.

Jockey EARL PORTER with an unidentified woman. Porter was a champion jockey in the 1930’s in the USA. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Jockey IRA HANFORD (rode Bold Venture to win the Kentucky Derby) with Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch.

Jockey IRA “Babe” HANFORD, who rode Bold Venture to win the 1935 Kentucky Derby, with Max Hirsch and daughter, Mary Hirsch. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Innumerable track images convey aspects of racing history that are iconic, even though they were often taken before anyone had a sense of why they might matter in the future …..

MAN O' WAR'S sire, FAIR PLAY, is shown here receiving a visit from ELIZABETH KANE.

MAN O’ WAR’S sire, FAIR PLAY, is shown here receiving a visit from Riddle farm manager, ELIZABETH KANE. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

The champion filly, MRS. RUSTOM, shown here in 1934. Bred by the Aga Khan, MRS. RUSTOM was brilliant at two, winning the Gimcrack, Dewhurst and the Ham Stakes.

The champion filly, MRS. RUSTOM, shown here in 1934. Bred by the Aga Khan, MRS. RUSTOM was brilliant at two, winning the Gimcrack, Dewhurst and the Ham Stakes.

EXTERMINATOR and his best buddy, PEANUTS, lead horses to the post at Pimlico for the Exterminator Handicap.

EXTERMINATOR and his best buddy, PEANUTS, lead horses to the post at Pimlico for the Exterminator Handicap.

Few remember that NORTHERN DANCER ran most of his life with a debilitating hoof problem. Here, the arrow indicates the troublesome hoof as the colt grazes, circa 1964.

Few remember that NORTHERN DANCER ran most of his life with a debilitating hoof problem. Here, the arrow indicates the troublesome hoof as the colt grazes, circa 1964.

These white thoroughbreds are the first to be caught in a photographer's lens. They are WHITE BEAUTY and her brother,

These white thoroughbreds are among the first to be caught in a photographer’s lens, circa 1966. They are WHITE BEAUTY and her half-brother, WAR COLORS (outside), who was also categorized as a roan.

FERDINAND with WILLIE SHOEMAKER, pre-Derby. Several informal photos of the pair make it clear they loved each other.

FERDINAND with WILLIE SHOEMAKER, pre-Derby. Several informal photos of the pair make it clear they loved each other.

1973: GUNSYND, the "GOONIWINDI GREY" was only ever defeated once in starts of over one mile. He was then -- and remains -- beloved.

1973: GUNSYND, aka the “GOONDIWINDI GREY” was only ever defeated once in starts over one mile. He was then — and remains — beloved by Australian racing fans.

Lord Derby's stud, showing four outstanding stallions out for their daily walk with their lads: ALCYDION,

Lord Derby’s stud, showing four outstanding stallions out for their daily walk with their lads: ALYCIDON, NEVER SAY DIE, HYPERION and RIBOT.

1966: The injured ARKLE visits with his owner, Anne Grosvenor, the Duchess of Westminster. Three years later, succumbing to severe arthritis, ARKLE was gone.

1966: The injured ARKLE visits with his owner, Anne Grosvenor, the Duchess of Westminster. Three years later, succumbing to severe arthritis, ARKLE was gone.

BATTLESHIP and another son of MAN O'WAR, WAR VESSEL, depart for England aboard ship where the former would win the Grand National at Aintree.

BATTLESHIP and another son of MAN O’WAR, WAR VESSEL, depart for England aboard ship. BATTLESHIP was on a journey that saw him win the Grand National at Aintree,inscribing his name into a pantheon of champions.

Australia's legend, PETER PAN, shown here reading the morning paper.

Australia’s racing legend, PETER PAN, shown here reading the morning paper.

RUFFIAN being led in by owner Stuart Janney after her win in the last of American racing's Triple Crown For Fillies.

RUFFIAN being led in by owner Stuart Janney after she completes American racing’s Triple Crown For Fillies. Photo and copyright, NYRA.

 

Other images capture thoroughbreds, trainers and handlers interacting at work and play.

Canadian Michael Burns' fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt's final race.

Canadian Michael Burns’ fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt’s final race. Moments later, Turcotte would be set down, denying him one last ride on the colt he loved. Photo and copyright, MICHAEL BURNS.

The great ALYDAR with trainer, John Veitch.

The great ALYDAR with trainer, John Veitch, who makes no secret of his high regard for a colt who never gave up.

SUNDAY SILENCE and Charlie Whittingham.

SUNDAY SILENCE and HOF trainer Charlie Whittingham share a secret. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

GREYHOUND with his Dalmatian dog.

SYSONBY at Saratoga in 1904 takes a time-out to graze and watch the action on the backstretch.

SYSONBY at Saratoga in 1904 takes a time-out to graze and watch the action on the backstretch.

"SUNNY JIM" FITZSIMMONS trains youngsters at the starting gate before it went high-tech.

“SUNNY JIM” FITZSIMMONS trains youngsters at the starting gate before it went high-tech. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

The gallant SWAPS meeting fans after a work out.

The gallant SWAPS meeting fans after a work out. Could this be a young Art Sherman in the saddle, trainer of 2015 HOTY CALIFORNIA CHROME? Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

IMPERATRICE (centre), grandam of SECRETARIAT,

IMPERATRICE (centre), grandam of SECRETARIAT, wins the Fall High Weight Handicap at Belmont in 1942. Note her uncanny resemblance to Secretariat’s daughter, TERLINGUA, born over thirty years later. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

Minutes after his birth, baby IRON LEIGE and his dam,

Minutes after his birth, baby IRON LIEGE and his dam, IRON MAIDEN (daughter of WAR ADMIRAL). IRON LIEGE grew up to win the 1957 Kentucky Derby.

 

The romance of the turf gives these old photographs a patina all their own…..

Celebrated photographer and author, BERT CLARK THAYER, appears to be studying his subject's interest in his camera.

1940’s: Celebrated photographer and author, BERT CLARK THAYER, appears to be studying his subject’s interest in his camera.

COLONEL MATT WINN pictured in 1937.

COLONEL MATT WINN pictured in 1937. In 1902, when Churchill Downs in Kentucky was in serious financial difficulty, Winn formed a syndicate of investors to save it. A brilliant marketing manager, it was Winn who convinced Harry Payne Whitney to bring REGRET to Churchill for the Kentucky Derby, which she won.

1927: Lord Durham leads in his Epsom Oaks winner, BEAM, who broke the existing track record.

1927: Lord Durham leads in his Epsom Oaks winner, BEAM, who also broke the existing track record.

Two members of an American racing dynasty, FOXHALL AND JAMES KEENE at the races. KEENELAND is named after this distinguished American family.

Two members of an American racing dynasty, FOXHALL AND JAMES KEENE at the races.

OGDEN PHIPPS leads in Withers winner, WHITE COCKADE. The Phipps family remains prominent in American racing today.

OGDEN PHIPPS leads in Withers winner, WHITE COCKADE. The Phipps family remains prominent in American racing today.

Trainer GINGER McCAIN walking his champion, RED RUM. Ginger faithfully visited "Rummy" until the end of his days.

Trainer GINGER McCAIN walking his champion, RED RUM. Ginger faithfully visited “Rummy” until the end of his days.

WILLIAM WOODWARD at the track. The Woodward is named after him.

WILLIAM WOODWARD at the track. The Woodward is named after him.

1950: A dramatic shot of fillies rounding Tottenham Corner in the Epsom Oaks that same year. ASMENA was the winner.

1950: A dramatic shot of fillies rounding Tottenham Corner in the Epsom Oaks that same year. ASMENA was the winner. Photo and copyright, REUTERS.

1930: Horses go to the post in the Massachusetts Handicap, won by MENOW. Triple Crown winner WAR ADMIRAL is also in here somewhere.

1930: Horses go to the post in the Massachusetts Handicap, won by MENOW. Triple Crown winner WAR ADMIRAL is also in here somewhere.

Although women were either forbidden or else given restricted access to the track in 1925, Laura Walters found an innovative way to show her enthusiasm.

Although women were either forbidden or else given restricted access to the track in 1925, Laura Walters found an innovative way to show her enthusiasm.

1927: Mrs. John D. Hertz, who would later race Triple Crown winner COUNT FLEET, is shown here congratulating Chick Lang who guided her champion filly, ANITA PEABODY, to another win.

1927: Mrs. John D. Hertz, who would later race Triple Crown winner COUNT FLEET, is shown here congratulating Chick Lang who guided her champion filly, ANITA PEABODY, to another win.

Australian superstar TULLOCH, trained by TJ Smith, coming right at you.

HOF and Australian superstar, TULLOCH, trained by the great Tommy J. Smith, Gai Waterhouse’s father. TULLOCH is rated with the likes of champions PHAR LAP, CARBINE and BERNBOROUGH.

 

As newspapers and magazines worldwide go digital, their press photographs are turning up at auction, where some go for as much as $400 – $500 USD. And it’s not public libraries that are buying them but private collectors, thereby making them basically inaccessible to the rest of us.

We wonder if this dispersal might have sad consequences for those studying the thoroughbred and its history in the future. Perhaps it’s a generational “thing” to wonder if every photograph is being digitalized — as opposed to someone guessing what ought to be saved. Or to question the logic behind dispersals of this nature, as in: Why is there nothing to compel newspapers to turn their photo archives over to an institution like the Keeneland Library, that already holds the work of several important track photographers?

But perhaps that’s not state-of-the-art thinking in 2015.

The champion BILLY BARTON arrives from America to run in the Grand National. Only he and the winner, TIPPERARY TIM, would finish the race that year.

The champion BILLY BARTON arrives from America to run in the 1928 Grand National at Aintree. Never an easy horse to handle, brilliant BILLY is looking like he’ll kick up a fuss. On race day, only BILLY and the winner, TIPPERARY TIM, would cross the finish line. Photo and copyright, THE BALTIMORE SUN.

This may look like a typical shot, but it isn't. It shows the three gaits used by trotters and pacers all in the same frame.

This may look like a typical shot, but it isn’t. It shows the three gaits used by trotters and pacers — all in the same frame. Now imagine capturing this image in the 1940’s.

1941: SEABISCUIT leaves the track for the very last time.

1941: SEABISCUIT leaves the track for the very last time. Photo and copyright, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

 

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Greyhound was the King of the Trotters. And Rosalind was the Queen. In 1939, they appeared together, poised to overturn a world record…..

 

 

Greyhound is to harness racing what Man O’ War is to thoroughbred racing. He is, quite simply, the stuff of legend. His record of 1:55:1 for the mile in 1938 stood until 1969, when it was broken by Nevele Pride. Of course, records are made to be broken. And Greyhound — the first “Grey Ghost” of horse racing — had more records than most, including a record he broke trotting a mile under saddle.

GREYHOUND'S sire, GUY ABBEY, pictured at Calumet Farm after the dispersal of Henry Knight's Almahurst bloodstock.

GREYHOUND’S sire, GUY ABBEY (2:06 3/4), pictured at Calumet Farm after the dispersal of Henry Knight’s Almahurst bloodstock.

GREYHOUND stands in the foreground of George Ford Morris' print of his dam, ELIZABETH, and grandam,

GREYHOUND stands in the foreground of George Ford Morris’ print, near his dam, ELIZABETH, and grandam, ZOMBREWER (2:04 1/4)

 

The colt foal was bred at Henry Knight’s famous Almahurst Farm and came into the world in 1932. At the time, his sire, Guy Abbey, had not attained leading stallion status and his dam, Elizabeth, had no exceptional progeny to her credit. The little fellow was grey — a colour no thoroughbred or standardbred breeder was happy to see. A superstitious discomfort with grey horses of almost any breed was alive and well in the 1930’s. And there was an irony to that, as concerned the standardbred. The “founding father” of the standardbred horse was Messenger (1780), a grey thoroughbred imported into the USA just after the American Revolution. The standardbred was developed in America, as was the American Saddlebred and the Tennessee Walking Horse — and all these breeds trace back to Messenger, who was their foundation sire. Messenger may have been grey ( and was probably exported because of it) but he stands as the most important sire ever to arrive on America’s shores.

A portrait of MESSENGER by George Ford Morris

A portrait of MESSENGER by George Ford Morris

 

By the time he appeared as a yearling at auction, Greyhound had been gelded and given his name. He sold for $900 USD to Colonel E.J. Baker of St. Charles, Illinois. Greyhound’s sale price appears to indicate that breeder Knight hadn’t tagged him as brimming with potential. But fate can be cruel: Knight parted with the crowning achievement of his breeding career for a ridiculously low price, even by Depression standards. At the time, a pair of Hackney ponies would have cost more than did the gunmetal grey son of Guy Abbey and Elizabeth. But if Fate had dealt Henry Knight a cruel blow, it took the opposite aspect for Greyhound. He was about to join a powerful triumvirate of men who would appreciate him every step of the way.

As the young colt was being readied for his 2 year-old campaign by trainer-driver Sep Palin and handler, Jimmy Wingfield, a royally-bred bay filly had made her way into the world.

ROSALIND, shown here with her dam, became the star of one of Marguerite Henry's most beautiful books, BORN TO TROT.

ROSALIND, shown here with her dam, became the subject of one of Marguerite Henry’s most beautiful books, BORN TO TROT.

 

The filly was named Rosalind and given to her owner’s critically-ill son, Gibson White, by his soft-spoken, brilliant father, Ben. Ben had tuberculosis and was in isolation in a hospital for patients with the “White Plague.”  The disease was still a threat worldwide and Gibson aka “Gib” was in grave danger. Ben White determined to rally his son’s mind and spirit by giving him the filly and the job of overseeing her from weaning to the track. Right from the start, Rosalind was a father-son affair, since it was Ben who would train her.

Below is a short video of a hospital for tuberculosis patients in the UK in the 1930’s.

Ben White was to harness racing what Mohammed Ali is to boxing. A Canadian by birth, Benjamin Franklin White had begun his training with the master, Edward “Pop” Geers at C.J. Hamlin’s Village Farm in East Aurora, N.Y. at the age of twenty. When Geers resigned in 1903, White, who had risen to become his assistant took over training duties. As his reputation grew, he trained first for Seymour Knox and then took over training duties at Pastime Farm. When the farm dissolved circa 1918, White started training for one of the former owners, Frank Ellis. Although the height of his training career came in the 1920’s, White continued to drive into the 1940’s. The number of champions who learned their lessons under White’s calm, steady tutelage was astounding:

“World champions and exceptional colts developed by Ben White, if expounded upon at any length could easily fill a volume, and such a book would be a harness horse’s counterpart of a Who’s Who. If their effects and impact upon modern day breeding and pedigrees of present day horses were considered, it would again fill another book. Starting with the world champion trotting stallion, Lee Axworthy, and the world champion filly, Volga, which came under his wing when he started training the Pastime string, the parade of champions which bore the stamp of Ben White’s training ability was a long one. Some of the better known ones include: Rosalind, Alma Lee, Lee Axworthy, Jane Revere, Volga E. (Volga), The Abbe, Mrs. McElwyn, Aileen Guy, Sumatra, Ruth M. Chenault, Main McElwyn, Isola’s Worthy, Mary Reynolds, Kashmir, Media, Twilight Song, Long Key, His Excellency, The Ambassador, Charm, Station Belle, and Deana.” (from The Daily Reporter, September 5, 1958) Add to this list White’s fourth Hambletonian winner, Volo Song.

 

A gorgeous photo from 1933 of BEN WHITE and the trotter SPENCER McELWYN.

A gorgeous photo from 1933 of BEN WHITE and the trotter SPENCER McELWYN.

ROSALIND'S sire, SCOTLAND, at 2 years with BEN WHITE.

ROSALIND’S sire, SCOTLAND (1:59 1/4), at 2 years with BEN WHITE.

It is no small feat training a harness horse, whether trotter or pacer, let alone training four Hambletonian and seven Kentucky Futurity winners, which Ben White accomplished over forty plus years. (For those less familiar with harness racing, winning the Hambletonian is the equivalent of winning the Kentucky Derby or the BC Classic in North American thoroughbred racing.) But Ben White was a gifted trainer (and, as it turned out, no slouch as a breeder either). What makes the task of a standardbred arguably more demanding than that of a thoroughbred is the simple fact that they can never leave the trot or the pace and break into a dazzling run down the stretch. In that sense, from the horse’s point of view, s/he is always in second gear. And that also means s/he needs to constantly override the instinct to run past another standardbred in order to win. There are, however, gears within the trot or the pace itself, and it is these different gears that lead colts and fillies into the winner’s circle. Here’s a look at 2014 superstar Sebastian K. (wearing #1) smashing the world record for a mile:

The royally-bred Rosalind was a daughter of Scotland out of the champion mare, Alma Lee (2:04 3/4). As Ben began training the filly, he was conscious that he was really training a member of his own family. Ben had bred her and trained (as well as driven) her parents, her grandam (Jane Revere) and her great grandam (Volga E.). It had been thirty years from Volga E. to Rosalind — more than a third of Ben’s adult life — to arrive at the moment when Rosalind first stepped onto the track. As years pulsed through the reins, memories took Ben back — and hope took him forward.

GREYHOUND and SEP PALIN on the track at Goshen, NY, where the Hambletonian is run.

GREYHOUND and SEP PALIN on the track at Goshen, NY, where the Hambletonian is run.

As Rosalind was being conditioned to begin her 2 year-old juvenile season, Greyhound was launching his bid to win the Hambletonian. The steel-grey colt had already captured the imagination of the racing public as a 2 year-old, but in 1935 he was on a winning rampage that would continue, unabated, until a loss a in 1936. It would be the last time he was defeated in a race, although he did lose heats in races that he won. (Note: Harness races are run in one of two ways: a single dash or three heats, usually over a mile distance. In the case of a three-heat stakes race like the Hambletonian, the winner must win two — or all — of the three heats to win. For this reason, a harness horse’s race record includes wins/losses by heats, as well as by races run.)

Greyhound was a big, gangling colt at three. He stood 16.2 h and because of his size, usually got off to a slow start. Whereas the colt had been a bit ditzy at two, by his three year-old campaign Greyhound had figured it all out. Sep Palin seldom even raised his whip. All he had to do was send the message that it was time to move and off went the “Grey Ghost” with a surge of power and a beauty that was as spell-binding as it was devastating. Although Greyhound didn’t start as the favourite on Hambletonian day, before a crowd of some 40,000 the colt trotted the first mile heat in 2:02¼, setting a new record in the last half. Greyhound then ran the second heat in 2:02¾. Taken together, his time over the first two heats made the 1935 Hambletonian the fastest ever run. Greyhound was also the first gelding to win it — and the only grey.

The sheer beauty of GREYHOUND.

The sheer beauty and power of GREYHOUND made him unforgettable.

GREYHOUND gets a kiss from SEP PALIN following his victory in the 1935 Hambletonian.

GREYHOUND gets a kiss from SEP PALIN following their Hambletonian win.

 

As Greyhound was busy etching his name into the pantheon of the (harness) racing gods, Rosalind and Ben White stepped onto the track for the first time. Whether it was the love she had known or the royal bloodlines she carried or both, the stately filly proved herself brilliant. Rosalind started ten times that year, winning six. And she took two-year-old champion decisively, with a brilliant win in the Junior Kentucky Futurity in a time of 2:03. As if all this was not enough — standardbreds being as numerous as thoroughbreds at the time, making the chances of coming across one so brilliant rare — Gib’s recovery was as sure, as emphatic, as his wonderful filly’s victories on the track.

ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

As a three year-old, Rosalind kept on, winning seven of eight starts. Goshen, NY and The Hambletonian loomed, and the Whites’ champion filly arrived with the fanfare deserving of a Queen. Gib, now out of hospital, had travelled with Ben and Rosalind to Goshen to witness his filly’s “run at history.”

Held held high, Rosalind ambled to the start as Gib and a packed grandstand held their breath.

In the end “ …it was strictly a case of Rosalind first, and the rest nowhere, as Ben White moved his son’s filly right to the top and held sway thereafter, the best mile in 2:01¾, a stake mark. Gib White smilingly joined his father in the winner’s circle with the crowd wildly cheering the popular victory.” (from The Hambletonian Society archives)

ROSALIND the 1936 Hambletonian with BEN WHITE at the reins. In the photo, you can see the crowd's reaction as the Whites' champion filly nears the wire.

ROSALIND wins the 1936 Hambletonian, BEN WHITE at the reins. In the photo, you can see the reaction of the more than 25,000 as the Whites’ champion filly nears the wire. For GIB WHITE, who was also there, the joy was indescribable.

ROSALIND with owner, GIBSON WHITE. There seemed to be no question that Gib's love for his filly was central to his recovery from tuberculosis.

ROSALIND with owner, GIBSON WHITE. There seemed to be no question that Gib’s love for his filly was central to his recovery from tuberculosis, a life-threatening disease.

 

Ben White took the honours for the second time in his career. His first win had come with another filly, Mary Reynolds, in 1933. But in winning with Rosalind, he became the first person to breed, train and pilot a Hambletonian winner:

Greyhound and Rosalind continued to ratchet up victory after victory. It was evident to all that there was another throne in the court of harness racing and it belonged to Queen Rosalind. The filly’s career best of 1:56 3/4 was only a hare short of Greyhound’s 1:55:1 for the mile — unheard of at a time when fillies under harness typically posted career bests of two minutes.

The "gift filly" -- ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

The “gift filly” — ROSALIND and BEN WHITE.

 

In 1939, at the Indianapolis State Fair, the two were harnessed in tandem to try to lower the existing team record — their own. Earlier, the pair had trotted to a time of 1:59 in Syracuse, NY. Before Syracuse, neither Greyhound nor Rosalind had ever been driven in tandem before, making it doubly complex to handle them under the pressure of breaking the existing record, held by the great Uhlan and Leurs Forrest, who had trotted a mile in 2:03 1/4 in 1912. Neither the White nor the Baker camps doubted that they could do it. The question was: By how much? The other matter was to decide who would drive them; in the end, it was Sep Palin. Why Palin and not White is unclear, although it must be said that both teams were comfortable with the decision and accolades came their way for the classy manner in which this aspect was handled.

The King and Queen of harness racing.

The King and Queen of harness racing.

GREYHOUND with ROSALIND

 

ROSALIND and GREYHOUND trot to a world record for a team at the Indiana State Fair. Photo and copyright, Indiana Library.

Spectators throng the stands and photographers line the track as ROSALIND and GREYHOUND trot to a world record at the 1939 Indianapolis State Fair. Photo and copyright, Indiana Library.

At Indianapolis, Rosalind and Greyhound were looking to take down their Syracuse record — they were racing against themselves. But those who saw the King and Queen that day were deeply moved. Horseman generally are a crusty bunch, but even they were enchanted by the appearance of the Grey Ghost in harness with the best standardbred mare in the world. They were almost the same height, one blood-bay and one almost white, and they moved together seamlessly, passed the crowded stands, down to the start. It was August and the light was heavily flecked with gold. Their was restrained quiet as the “exhibition” began; two champions, matching one another stride for stride, floated passed the crowd for the first time. It was equine ballet on fast-forward, but so easy did the pair make it look that only the man holding the stopwatch really knew how fast they were moving. Racing against the wind, Rosalind and her handsome King trotted the mile in 1:58 1/4. As Sep Palin pulled them up and turned them back towards the jubilant throng, Rosalind nodded her head before reaching over to gently nibble Greyhound’s neck.

Gib White, watching with his dad, took the footage below. Poor as it is — through no fault of Gib’s — it records an epic moment in the annals of harness racing history.

In her book, The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt writes: ” …And isn’t the whole point of things — beautiful things — that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture in one way or another?”  

Rosalind and Greyhound certainly weren’t “things,” either to those who knew them best or those who grew to love them. But on that day in 1939 when the narratives of the grey, gelded colt who rose to become an icon and the blood bay filly whose brilliance on the track was only exceeded by her capacity to heal interwove, hearts cracked wide open to a beauty larger than many had ever known before.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

Greyhound’s complete career record is catalogued below, in the Bonus Feature.

Rosalind retired holding the world’s record for three heats by a trotting mare, giving her a tie in average time with Greyhound at 1:56 for the fastest three heats to the credit of a trotter regardless of sex. As well, Rosalind held the:

World’s record for a third heat (1:59¼) by a trotter

World’s record for a four-year-old trotting mare, with a time of 1:59¼

World’s record for one and one-half miles by a trotter in a race, with a time of 3:12¼

Greyhound and Rosalind led happy lives in retirement. However, Rosalind died suddenly at the age of seventeen and an autopsy showed that she had succumbed to cancer. She left her human family too suddenly, even though she had given Ben and Gib White six foals, all fillies, three of which set champion times as three-year-olds. Although film footage of both Greyhound and Rosalind is scarce, the White’s super filly is commemorated in Marguerite Henry’s terrific book, Born To Trot. 

Although she takes some "artistic license" in the telling, Marguerite Henry's BORN TO TROT is ROSALIND and the White family's story, told with much love and drama.

Although she takes some “artistic license” in the telling, Marguerite Henry’s BORN TO TROT is ROSALIND and the White family’s story, told with much love and drama.

Ben White went on to win the Hambletonian another two times, in 1942 and 1943, with The Ambassador and Volo Song, respectively. Gibson White made a complete recovery and became his dad’s assistant trainer.

Both Greyhound and Rosalind were inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame (in 1958 and 1973, respectively). Ben White was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1958 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.

On April 23, 2014, the Harness Racing Hall of Fame announced that the stall Greyhound called home for the last 25 years of his life was donated to them: http://www.harnessmuseum.com/images/Grey%20Ghost%94%20Coming%20to%20Goshen.pdf

 

BONUS FEATURES:

1) Greyhound. (This is a lovely piece for its passion. It’s a little repetitive, but stay with it until the end to see some amazing footage of Greyhound in slow motion.)

 

2) Mary Reynolds and Ben White win the 1933 Hambletonian:

 

3) “Mary Reynolds sees Mary Reynolds”

 

SOURCES

The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame (http://www.harnessmuseum.com/images/Grey%20Ghost%94%20Coming%20to%20Goshen.pdf)

Step and Go Together by B.K. Beckwith

Greyhound 1:55 1/4 by P.W. Moser

The Hambletonian Society (http://www.hambletonian.org/about.html)

Harness Racing – Standardbred Community (http://www.mi-harness.net/publct/hh/rosalind.html)

Various newspaper articles of the day

 

 

 

 

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