Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When Men Were Men, and Horses were Horses

“I remember one boy from Holland who told us he had come to America to see the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, and Greyhound.”

Frank Marrion's excellent piece on the Grey Ghost - legendary trotter Greyhound, is up at harnesslink.

In the annals of harness racing history there might not be a more revered figure. Dan Patch is arguably up there and in modern times rugged pacer Cam Fella is a throwback to that time; but I am not sure any of them could eclipse Greyhound in terms of popularity.

It was a time when horses did their talking on the racetrack, not in the breeding shed. And so did their owners. It was the halcyon days of harness racing.

Not only did Greyhound take all comers for seven seasons, he went in different distances, sulkies, and even under saddle. Each race was a new assault on a world record. It did not matter the venue, the track size, the weather, or the machine - he came to play.

This is testimony to the times. Greyhound's owner Colonel Baker was a true sportsman. And he had a heart. When he passed on Greyhound had a place in his will, to be cared for like a King until he died.

Nowadays we seem to have a sport that has lost some of this sportsmanship, and goodwill. Some change trainers like I change shirts. We race to breed, we dodge tracks or surfaces. The season is planned out right down to the letter, and any deviation of this plan seems to cause dismay to the ownership group in question. Even when a horse that should win loses, we often times hear excuses, instead of the classy "we got beat, and I congratulate them wholeheartedly" of yesteryear.

If you asked Greyhound's connections for a match race on the moon, it seems that the answer would be "sure, how do we get him there." If you beat them, you got a handshake, a congrats and a smile.

It was a time when men were men and horses were horses. And harness racing was the better for it.

If you are interested in reading the full Greyhound piece, please do. It is well written and filled with stories that are both enlightening and interesting. Kudos to Mr. Marrion for a well written story.

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