When the great gray trotter, Greyhound, won the 1935 Hambletonian at Goshen, N. Y's Good Time Park, America was emerging from the Great Depression. As he walked into his retirement home, a stall at the Maple Park, Ill., farm of his trainer, Doc Flanery, in 1940, the world was on the brink of a great world war, with a wave of social and cultural changes to follow.
The gray gelding, who at one time held 14 world records turned nearly white as he aged. Greyhound's connections, Flanery and Baker, enhanced his legacy with an ongoing tour of tracks after his retirement. Typically adorned with a red blanket and red painted hooves, to show off his stark white color, he was a crowd favorite wherever he went.
When he was taken from his stall at Flanery's farm for the last time, after his death at age 33 in 1965, the world and the sport of harness racing had changed dramatically, but the reverence in which the "Grey Ghost” was held by fans never waned.
On May 2, 2014, the stall Greyhound called home for the last 25 years of his life will arrive at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen where it will be preserved for generations to come.
Life in the 15-foot-by-30-foot stall was plush, surrounded by one-inch tongue and groove oak paneling on all four walls and ceiling. The lighting was recessed, with a Dutch door and an opening for Greyhound to lean over and join the company of those that visited him from an adjacent sitting room which displayed photos and memorabilia from his career.
One of the 15-foot walls of the stall contained a more than life size photograph of Greyhound trotting right at the camera. It was a sanctuary and a virtual palace befitting a cherished and charismatic champion. Long after Greyhound's death and that of his trainer, the farm stayed in family ownership, leasing the facilities to other Standardbred breeders.
It was then that friends and horsewomen Jan Heine and Nancy Brejc got involved, caring for horses from the early 1990s on for Standardbred breeder Dr Ken Walker, as well as subsequent lessees. The farm was then and is now owned by the estate of Flanery's widow. The stall and the adjoining sitting room were meticulously cared for by Dr. and Mrs. Walker during those years, when not a cobweb could be found.
"That was back in the early 1980s,” said Heine. "We were both working for the Walkers. After they left, I kept tabs on the place and they kept the stall intact, but some of his items went missing, the Hambletonian trophy and a blanket with his hair on it made it to a museum in St. Charles. The third lessee, who's been there for 17 years, watched over it as well.
"Last year I caught wind that they were leveling the farm, so my friend and I were going back and forth about trying to acquire the wood and everything that was in the stall. Finally we went in and took each and every board, numbered it. It's solid oak and the sitting room is knotty pine. Now we're getting ready to make a road trip.”
The road trip will conclude at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York, dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the sport of harness racing. "Greyhound is, without question, one of our greatest and best loved equine heroes,” said Museum director Janet Terhune. "We're delighted for the opportunity to recreate Greyhound's stall and adjacent sitting room and to share them with visitors.
"Considering Greyhound's association with Goshen, having won the Hambletonian at Good Time Park and time trialed at both Good Time Park and Goshen Historic Track, the Museum is the perfect site for this wonderful artifact of his life.
"The enthusiasm and dedication that these two women, Nancy Brejc and Jan Heine, have for Greyhound and this significant piece of trotting history are wonderful and we applaud them for it.
"There is no doubt that funding this project and finding the necessary space to fulfill this vision are challenging goals, but I believe that there are many people out there who will support it. The reconstruction, preservation and development of an accompanying exhibit space will require considerable funds beyond the current Museum budget. Donations are welcome from those who would like to support such an effort.” (Museum & Hall of Fame)