Everybody loves a grey. They are few and far between, with only about 3% of all thoroughbred racehorses being that colour, so when an outstanding one comes along, people take note. What makes a horse 'great' varies depending on who you ask, and opinion differs regarding who the best ones are. Today, I've chosen my Greatest Greys from the UK & Ireland based on their ratings, records, and career achievements. There is a delightful mix of both flat and National Hunt performers, all of whom have earned themselves a place in the history books. If you disagree with my choices, or think there is another option I should've included, be sure to let me know in the comments below. Now, in no particular order…
Desert Orchid -
Perhaps one of the most iconic grey racehorses of all time, Desert Orchid achieved an esteemed status within National Hunt Racing. Dessie was foaled in April 1979 in Goadby, Leicestershire, to Grey Mirage and Flower Child. He was bred and part-owned by James Burridge, a solicitor who bred jumpers as a hobby at AB Kettleby Stud near Melton Mowbray. He was eventually sent into training with David Elsworth at his Whitsbury Manor Racing Stables in Wiltshire, for whom he would run 70 times, winning 34. He excelled over a variety of distances, from 2m right up to 3m5f, accumulating £654,066 in prize money.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Desert Orchid’s career here:
Neptune Collonges -
Neptune Collonges was a multiple Grade-1 winner who joined an elite list of being one of only three grey Grand National winners. He won the race in 2012, on what would be his final ever start, joining only The Lamb (1868 & 71) and Nicolaus Silver (1961). He was foaled in April 2001 in France to Dom Alco and Castille Collonges, before transferring to Paul Nicholls in 2005. He ran 36 races during his career, winning 16, and accumulating £1,313,675 in earnings. Neptune earned a peak RPR of 178 during his career and was partnered mostly by Ruby Walsh.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Neptune Collonges’ career here:
Bristol De Mai -
Bristol De Mai was a three-time Betfair Chase winner trained for most of his career by Nigel Twiston-Davies. The popular grey joined the Twiston-Davies stable in December 2014 after just three runs in France, for whom he would run 39 times. He accumulated a shade over £900,000 in earnings, winning 12 and placing in 17 of his 42 races. He was foaled in France in May 2011 to Saddler Maker and La Bole Night, running there three times before transferring to Britain. He excelled as a chaser, winning over a variety of distances from 2m right up to 3m4f.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Bristol De Mai's career here:
Daylami was a champion thoroughbred racehorse who had an extremely successful career both on the track and at stud. He earned $4,614,762 in prize money from 1996 to 99, winning several of the world’s biggest races. He was trained, initially, in France by Andre De Royer-Dupre before transferring to Saeed Bin Suroor in the summer of 98. He achieved a peak OR of 135 after winning 11 and placing in 7 of his 20 total runs, excelling over distances from 1m up to 1m4f. Standing at a massive 17 hands, he is one of the most successful greys that flat racing has ever seen.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Daylami's career here:
Monet's Garden -
Monet’s Garden was a three-time Old Roan Chase winner trained by Nicky Richards at his base in Greystoke, Cumbria. He was foaled in April 1998 to his sire, Roselier, and dam, Royal Remainder, racing for the first time in February 2003. He ran 32 times between then and October 2010, winning 17 races. He established himself as a high-class chaser, accumulating £683,265 in earnings and achieving a peak OR of 166. He ran over a variety of distances between 2m and 3m1f, but excelled at around 2m4f, ridden by Tony Dobbin on 23 of his 32 starts.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Monet's Garden's career here:
Rooster Booster -
Rooster Booster, perhaps best known for winning the 2003 renewal of the Champion Hurdle, was a nine-time winner for the Phillip Hobbs stable. He accumulated £687,541 in earnings during his career, with a record of 10-14-6 from 46 starts. He was foaled in April 1994 to sire, Riverwise, and dam, Came Cottage, first running in February 1999 in a bumper at Wincanton. He achieved a peak OR of 170 during his career and was one of the most consistent horses in training, excelling over hurdles at about 2m.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Rooster Booster's career here:
One Man -
One Man was an Irish-bred National Hunt steeplechaser who ran during the '90s. Acquired for just 4,000 guineas as an un-raced 3-year-old, he would race 35 times, winning 20. Nicknamed the “little bouncing ball” due to his jumping ability and high cruising speed, he was adopted by many as the new Desert Orchid. He achieved an impressive Timeform rating of 179 and accumulated £456,619 during his career. He seemed at home on pretty much any ground and was ridden mostly by Richard Dunwoody and Chris Grant. He also won over a variety of distances from 2m right up to 3m1f.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on One Man's career here:
Teeton Mill -
Teeton Mill had a bit of a unique background compared to most horses on this list. His career began in point-to-point races and hunter-chases, before transitioning across to open competition at the age of 9. He accumulated £191,604 in earnings throughout his career despite only racing 11 times, and retired with an impressive record of 9-1-0 under rules. He achieved a peak OR of 171, excelling mostly over trips around 3m, though he won over as short as 2m3f, and on varying ground. He was ridden on each of his open competition starts by Norman Williamson, but had various jockeys in hunter chases/point-to-points.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Teeton Mill's career here:
Kingston Hill -
Kingston Hill was purchased for 70,000 guineas at the Tattersalls October Yearlings Sale by Charles Gordon-Watson for Paul Smith and sent into training with Roger Varian at his base in Newmarket. Despite only racing eight times, he was impressive, accumulating £866,362 in earnings between September 2013 and October 2014 and achieving a peak OR of 120. He ended with a record of 4-1-0, winning several top races including the St. Leger. He was ridden by Andrea Atzeni in all but one of his races, winning mostly over 1m at 2, but favouring a slightly longer trip thereafter.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Kingston Hill's career here:
Indian Skimmer -
Indian Skimmer was an American-bred racehorse who was owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and trained here in the UK by Sir Henry Cecil. She was an outstanding flat horse who won top races around the world, mostly over 1m2f. She only raced 16 times, but ended with an impressive record of 10-1-3, achieving a Timeform rating of 133. She accumulated £590,551 in earnings, winning nine high-class races in Europe, and is one of the top-rated fillies here since World War II. Steve Cauthen and Michael Roberts rode her in most of her races, winning on everything from Heavy, to Good To Soft, and even Good To Firm.
Interested to know more? Read a more comprehensive run-down on Indian Skimmer's career here:
That concludes my list of the Greatest Greys in the UK & Ireland. It's surprising how few 'top-performing' greys there are considering the number of thoroughbred racehorses in training, but it makes it even more special when a good one comes along. Do you agree? Let me know which grey horses you all loved in the comments below!