Schillaci, Gunsynd, Subzero, Chautauqua… something about grey horses captures the racing public’s collective hearts.
Morphettville will stage the City of Marion Stakes this Saturday and 19 years ago the race was taken out by a grey – who happened to be one of Australia’s most popular horses at the time.
Victoria Park hosted the event back in 2001 and it was won in customarily spectacular style by Suzy Grey, who steamed down the outside to claim the Listed event for Queensland trainer Alan Bailey.
Suzy Grey’s dynamic racing style played as much part in her popularity as her colour, according to Alan’s son Trevor, who was largely in charge of the mare, as manager of the stable’s Melbourne operation.
“Normally people take a liking to grey horses anyway, but she defied the odds, because she used to get so far back in her races,” Trevor said.
“She’d be back near the tail, then she’d unleash a withering burst and run over the top of them.
“She warmed the hearts of a few people and she certainly had a following.”
Suzy Grey raced with distinction in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Indeed, she raced three times in Adelaide for two wins and a second, returning two months after her City of Marion Stakes success to win the 2002 Swettenham Stud Stakes (now the Sangster Stakes) when the mares’ classic was a Group 2 event over 1250m at Cheltenham.
Trevor said he remembers “nearly everything” about Suzy Grey’s first Adelaide hit-and-run mission in the City of Marion, including the young jockey who steered her to success in both her Adelaide wins.
“We only just started taking horses to South Australia and Paul Gatt rode her,” he said.
“Paul rode her spot-on – we couldn’t have asked for a better ride.
“We actually had a good association with him and he eventually came up and rode for us, for a little while, when I was in Singapore.
“But Paul has to take a lot of credit for that City of Marion win, because when you ride those horses that get back in the field, and you haven’t had a ride on them before, they’re not easy to judge. You don’t know what you’ve got underneath you the first time.”
Gatt also retains fond memories of the brilliant grey mare, who – in certain light – maybe wasn’t strictly grey.
“She was a lovely mare – she was a shiny silver, almost like metallic,” he said.
“But she had a good, powerful finish on her. As long as you rode her dead cold early and let her find her feet, her last furlong was brilliant.”
Gatt also rode Suzy Grey into fourth place in Warrnambool’s time-honoured Wangoom sprint and was confident she had “a big chance” in the 2002 Goodwood at Morphettville.
“She only had 51kg, but unfortunately the rain came, and as soon as the track was affected she wasn’t any good on it,” he said.
“So she was scratched on race-day morning. But she was certainly a good mare to me.”
Suzy Grey had 10 wins and nine placings in her 37-start career, earning $664,000. She won the greys race at Flemington on Oaks day 2001 and towards the end of her racing career landed the Listed Glenlogan Park Stakes at Doomben and the Group 3 Eye Liner Stakes at Ipswich.
Meanwhile Gatt is hoping to capture another City of Marion Stakes this Saturday, when he rides One More Jack for SA trainer Shane Oxlade.
IMAGE: Suzie Grey winning in Adelaide, ridden by Paul Gatt, in 2001. The grey mare took out the City of Marion Stakes and the 2020 renewal of the race will be run at Morphettville this Saturday. PHOTO: Getty Images