- grey gelding by Sharood out of Optaria (Song)
- Foaled: 14 May 1992
- Breeder: Littleton Stud
- Races, 42 Wins: 13
- Trainer: Ian Balding
- Owner: Robert Hitchins
Grey Shot Bahrain Trophy Champion
Grey Shot was foaled in 1992, by Sharood out of Optaria. He is a half-brother to Sight’n Sound, the 3 y.o. 1m 5f winner, whilst his dam was a 5f juvenile winner. Grey Shot won his first race in 1994 as a two year old at Doncaster over seven furlongs. He did now win again as a 2 yo but in July, stepped up in trip somewhat, won the Listed Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket. In September he took the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster before his first Pattern win at Longchamp later in the month, taking the Prix de Lutecel.
Grey Shot’s first big win in his homeland was the Goodwood Cup in 1996. Setting out to make all the running, under Pat Eddery, around two miles of the switchback course, he looked a sitting duck as his six rivals prepared to pounce turning for home.
However, Grey Shot would not be denied and showed great courage to repel the challenges of Daraydan, Persian Punch and then Lear White to win the most thrilling finish of the week by a head. Both owner and trainer are used to the adrenalin pumping, produced by success at the highest level, but the bravery of their stayer triggered an emotional response which was the equal of anything brought about by Lochsong.
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Smith, whose colours were also carried into third place by Persian Punch, said: “It’s a totally different battle. This race was won by courage and while Lochsong was not without guts, she had such blistering pace. These stayers offer such a wonderful spectacle. They give everything. Sprinters are a wonderful sight in full flow but in stayers’ races you really see the courage of the thoroughbred.”
Balding, his voice choking with emotion, added: “This horse is so brave. He just keeps pulling out more. I used to worry about Lochsong because she was such a livewire on the racecourse and we had to get her down to the start in one piece. Grey Shot is at the total opposite end of the spectrum.”
“I have to admit Lochsong was the favourite horse I have ever trained as we had her that much longer, but this one could replace her because we will have him around for some years, all being well. He could become another Further Flight.”
Having started the season by running Double Trigger to a head at Ascot, Grey Shot disappointed at York and in Germany but was subsequently found to have put out a vertebra. After Tony Gilmour, a back specialist, had worked the oracle, the horse put on weight and began to thrive.
In 1997, Grey Shot won the Jockey Club Cup over two miles at HQ, but was not to score again on the flat. Instead Grey Shot was switched to the winter game, and a career first over hurdles.
Grey Shot made his hurdling debut at Taunton in 1997. Lean and elegant, he arrived at the course with the swagger of a horse whose autumn’s work included a course record at the headquarters of Flat racing.
His performance, when making all in the Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket in October, had exceeded even his heroic Goodwood Cup success the previous summer. He treated his rivals for the Somerset County Gazette Novices’ Hurdle with disdain, leading throughout and strolling home 23 lengths clear of Village King.
The grey’s hurdling was thoroughly competent for Richard Dunwoody, if not so fluid as Zaralaska, a similar recent Flat recruit. What most pleased his trainer, Ian Balding, is that he evidently enjoys his new pastime, as Coral noted in offering 20-1 (from 33-1) against him winning the Smurfit Champion Hurdle.
“I hope in due course he might be in that class,” Balding said. “But it would be potty to say now that he is being targeted at the race. We’ll find him another race after Christmas, but he’ll have no more than two before he goes to the Cheltenham Festival – for something. I would think he’s the best horse to have been to Taunton for a while, but it was like watching a group one for Jeff Smith (his owner) and myself. We were very nervous.”
In November 1998 Grey Shot took the Murphys Draughtflow Hurdle at Cheltenham. Grey Shot was having only his fifth start over timber in a handicap that remained frantically competitive despite a four-horse pile-up at the first flight. Prominent as usual, he jumped better than he had at Wincanton the previous week and had all bar Tyrolean Dream labouring as they swept downhill.
Giving 19lb, it was Osborne who was working harder than Charlie Swan as the pair matched strides into the straight. Grey Shot, however, found more as they sought a final surge approaching the last, galloping two lengths clear up the hill.
Osborne said. “He was giving a lot of weight to a very nice horse, who was going better coming down the hill. But we outstayed him.”
Grey Shot returned to Cheltenham a month later to contest the Bula Hurdle, but found Relkeel half a length too good, and could only manage second. Back at Cheltenham again in January, Grey Shot could only finish sixth in the Grade One Cleeve Hurdle
Grey Shot returned to the winners’ enclosure when he won the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on 25th February 1999 but hardly had the bookies quaking in their boots. A 4-6 shot, ridden by Jamie Osborne, he stayed on well for a workmanlike success. But he was pressed hard by 5-1 chance Midnight Legend in the closing stages. The eventual winning margin was two and a half lengths.
Osborne explained: “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Grey Shot today. He struggled through this ground – it’s good to soft but it’s tacky. He hasn’t jumped with the same fluency he has in his last few races.”
Grey Shot was disappointing in the 1999 Champion Hurdle, finishing 11th behind the magnificent Istabraq after being sent off a 33/1 shot. His next race was in the Crowther Homes Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park. Grey Shot weakened two out and was only able to finish eighth
IN 1999, Grey Shot was sent over fences. He used the launching pad taken by another grey horse for his lift off into jump racing’s hall of fame when he made his chasing bow at Exeter on Monday 27th September. It was on the same track nearly 14 years ago that the incomparable Desert Orchid made a winning debut over fences.
Jumping fans got the early glimpse of Grey Shot – a hurdler of roughly equal merit to Desert Orchid – when he tried his hand at the new discipline in the South-West Racing Club Novices’ Chase at the Devon track. Trainer Ian Balding is refusing to hype up the horse and said: “It’s an unusually early start for a horse that might well be aimed at more classy races later in the campaign.
Grey Shot opened his account at the first time of asking over fences. The seven-year-old attempted to make all the running under Barry Fenton but was briefly headed by Better Offer when making his only mistake just after the half-way point. Kept up to his work, the grey gelding beat Better Offer by five lengths. A delighted Balding said: “That was lovely, very exciting. It was not quite his ground, it was a bit heavy for him, and I think he would improve for that. Barry said he settled well. He might get three miles in the end – he got two miles on the Flat.”
However, Grey Shot missed the rest of what should have been a lucrative novice campaign through injury, and was pitched into handicap company when he returned in January 2001. Grey Shot was victorious on his handicap debut, rated 135, winning at Ascot, but could not defy a ten pound rise at Huntingdon in March. The cancellation of the Cheltenham Festival saw Grey Shot tackle two and a half miles at Sandown in April. He was going well when blundering at the first of the railway fences. As so often happens, he lost his rhythym and took a crashing fall at the last fence in the back straight. Things looked grim for the gelding after he had crashed out heavily. The screens were up as Grey Shot lay on the turf, but he eventually got to his feet after being winded. The next day he was given virtually a clean bill of health by Ian Balding.
“I’m happy to say he is fine,” the trainer said. “He was a tiny bit wobbly behind when we led him out this morning but he is really OK. It looked awful yesterday but thank goodness it was soft ground and not fast.”
Grey Shot returned at Wincanton in February 2002, but fell in his first race for a year and the following week was retired by Kingsclere trainer Ian Balding. He had admittedly lost his way in recent times and since his Sandown fall has not appeared to have recovered his old form. He will stay at Kingsclere and be used by the trainer as his hack.”
Grey Shot ran in the colours of Jeff Smith on the Flat but his time over jumps saw him in action in the silks of the late Robert Hitchins.