The Greatest Greys - Jump Racing

Features | 17th February 2022

There’s nothing quite like a grey horse. Big-race winners with snowy white coats or steely grey colourings seem to find it easier to work their way into the hearts of racing fans.

Desert Orchid

For those of a certain vintage Dessie was, is and always will be, the greatest. His four King George victories looked unbeatable until Kauto Star came along and his epic Cheltenham Gold Cup win in 1989 was a triumph over adversity on heavy ground he hated.

It wasn’t just his success – it was his style that made him so popular he even had his own fan club.

The boldest of frontrunners capable of putting in breath-taking leaps endeared Dessie, trained by David Elsworth, to the nation.

He could do it against the top two-milers in a Tingle Creek but he had stamina equal to his speed. His Irish National victory in 1990, when he gave two stones to all bar one of his rivals, showed versatility rarely seen in any sport.

He would have been one of the greatest regardless, but his snowy white coat made sure he’ll be loved forever.

One Man

From an early stage One Man was earmarked for greatness.

His hurdles form for veteran trainer Arthur Stephenson and then, on his death, his nephew Peter Cheesbrough, marked him down as a top prospect.

Sold to John Hales and sent to Cumbrian trainer Gordon Richards for his novice chasing campaign, he never looked back.

His win in what is now the Ladbrokes Trophy in 1994 was his seventh victory in eight chase starts and when he easily landed the King George the following season he looked all over a Gold Cup horse.

That final Cheltenham climb has been the downfall of so many horses and it was One Man’s downfall.

Dropping him back to two miles for the first time since his hurdles debut six years earlier for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the age of 10 looked a desperate measure. Not a bit of it.

He led much of the way and confirmed himself as one of the jumping greats.

Rooster Booster

It could have been so different for one of the most popular horses of the new millennium.

When he lined up for the County Hurdle at the 2002 Cheltenham Festival he had just a single victory in a Taunton novices’ hurdle to his name. He’d been placed in just about every decent handicap hurdle going but he was in danger of becoming the most frustrating horse in training.

After winning the County, what was to follow the next season erased all those memories of near misses.

He won his first four races and topped the lot by cruising to Champion Hurdle glory by 11 lengths.

Only Hardy Eustace stopped him retaining his crown the following year and he continued to run at a high level well into his 11th year.

Neptune Collonges

Racing is defined by fine margins. Never was that more obvious than in the 2012 Grand National.

Neptune Collonges – carrying the familiar yellow and red colours of John Hales – looked destined to be a nearly horse.

He had spent much of his career in the shadow of his illustrious stablemates Kauto Star and Denman.

When he arrived at Aintree for the greatest race he was 11-years-old.

He was flat out to keep up with the frantic gallop over the first half-dozen fences but his jumping kept him in touch. Turning into the straight plenty were going better, but none came home stronger.

His final burst saw him catch Sunnyhillboy right on the line. Finally, in his last race, Neptune Collonges had his day.

Bristol De Mai

Still going strong at the age of 11, Bristol De Mai will forever be associated with the Betfair Chase.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ ace, owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, lifted Haydock’s Grade 1 prize three times.

The way he glided through the heavy ground to win his first in 2017 marked him down as a courageous mud-lover.

Those who pigeon-holed him as such did him a disservice. He retained his crown when beating a stellar field made up of Native River, Thistlecrack, Clan Des Obeaux and Might Bite on good ground.

His third Betfair Chase followed the following year. Cheltenham never seemed to agree with him but, at Haydock in November, he was up there with the best.