THE TRIPLE CROWN TRILOGY by Kimberly Campbell
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Grey Is The New Bay

I am a huge fan of a grey horse. Smokey was my first grey Thoroughbred when I was young. He was a handful, but I loved his personality. Turned out into the field with the herd, he would stand on the top of the hill, look around, and determine it was time to start trouble. Taking off at a full run, he would chase after each horse until they were all happily galloping around. Then he would drop his head and eat, figuring his job was done.

Of course the assistant trainer at the my barn prefers the color bay given greys seem to enjoy getting more dirty and therefore need to be cleaned up more often.

In my book “The Calm Before the Storm,” Genuine Storm is a grey Thoroughbred and his personality mimics what I recall of Smokey.

As the Kentucky Derby approaches, let’s look back at the “greys” that have taken home the trophy. Since the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875, eight greys have won. They are:

Determine (1954) – The first grey to win the Kentucky Derby.

Decidedly (1962) – The grey son of Determine.

Dancer’s Image (1968) – He won, then was disqualified after blood tests revealed the presence of a widely used anti-inflammatory drug “with a dubious legal status.”

Spectacular Bid (1979) – He won the Kentucky Derby, but his loss in the Belmont remains a mystery.

Gato del Sol (1982) – He was as a homebred at Arthur B. Hancock III’s Stone Farm near Paris, Ky.

Winning Colors (1988) – She is one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.

Silver Charm (1997) – Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Gary Stevens, he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Giacomo in (2005) – At odds of 50–1, Giacomo stands as tied, with Mine That Bird in 2009, for the second-biggest longshot ever to win the Kentucky Derby.

This years Road to the Kentucky Derby boasts a significant number of greys contending than has been seen in previous years. The current top 20 includes four greys, including #6 Lani, #8 Mohaymen, #10 Destin, and #11 Cupid. Cupid is interesting the lightest of them, while the others are still relatively dark. As a way of explanation, I have included a snippet from my book,

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The View From Behind the Starting Gate

Did you know grey horses are not born grey? Yep, they are born with a different base color, commonly bay, chestnut, or black. As the colt gets older, white hairs start to replace the base color and his coat starts to lighten. During the stages of the greying process, a horse may become dappled. A dappled grey has dark rings with lighter hairs on the outside of the rings over the majority of the horses’ body. It’s quite a beautiful pattern.

Once a horse completely changes over its base coat, it will either be pure white, or flea-bitten. Flea-bitten. Doesn’t that sound awful? I guess it’s because the horse’s white coat is interspersed with small speckles or, “freckles” throughout. I personally would prefer using the term dot-to-dot, as it reminds me of those coloring books that you draw a picture by connecting the dots. I wonder what different scenes you could draw on a dot-to-dot horse coat. Alas, I digress.

Back to Storm, that’s why you’re still reading, right? He is richly-dappled grey, as you can see from his pictures. I am sure he was born black, and there is a star in the center of his forehead. You can’t make out the star very clearly anymore, as his color has started to lighten. The head, ears and legs start to whiten first. His coat glistens and the dapples appear to shimmer when he is out in the sun.

I love his coloring right now, though I know he will continue to get whiter. I hope he retains his dappling for a long time and then goes all white. I am not sure I can handle referring to my guy as a, “flea-bitten grey.” Maybe I would change his name to Spot.

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Following are two pictures of Spectacular Bid, while racing and at stud, showing the difference in the color of his coat as he aged.

spectacularbid1-tm- spect bid

My book includes many more details about horses and the Kentucky Derby if you are interested in learning more with the big day only three weeks away on May 7!

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