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We all know the ditty “The Old Gray Mare, she ain’t what she used to be”. But did you know that the ditty referred to a real horse??

The Old Gray Mare was Lady Suffolk, foaled in 1833 and considered “the brightest star of the trotting firmament, and the great favorite of the sporting fraternity at that time”. She was by Engineer 2nd, a grandson of the famous thoroughbred, Messenger. Lady Suffolk stood about 15.l hands, with a bloodline head, deep in the chest and long in the body with good muscular shoulders and legs like iron. 

LadySuffolk

In her day trotting races were run in heats and beginning in 1838 she raced two, three and four mile heats with two or three heats per race, sometimes hitched to a wagon or sulky and sometimes under saddle. In her first race she trotted for a purse of eleven dollars and won it in three heats. Lady Suffolk raced until she was twenty and died at twenty-two in 1855.

“Trotting indiscriminately races of five, four, three, two and one mile heats in season and out of season, wretchedly managed and driven, no distance seemed too long for her, nor any exertion too great. An honester, gamer, tougher beast never trod the earth; nothing ever daunted her noble spirit; she never flinched or sulked, and would come up at the judge’s signal for the last heat with the same determination to do or die as at the first, and had she been more judiciously handled, would have won far more victories than stand to her credit. She was sixteen years on the turf, and trotted in one hundred and sixty-one races, winning eighty-eight, and winning for her owner in purses alone $35,000, at a time when large purses were the exception.”

Lady Suffolk died over 160 years ago and is still remembered today. Now that’s a horse!

--from Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia, by S.D. and L.C. Bruce. pub. in 1880 

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