September 21, 2023 Paul Courts
THROUGHOUT the years there have been a host of articles about Gramel’s illustrious career.
Regarded as one of the greatest trotters produced on this side of the equator, Gramel was the darling of South Australia during the 1960s.
Quite often met with large handicaps, Gramel was responsible for displays of freakish qualities that would have the modern generation gasping for breath.
Putting it frankly, Gramel – or Gracie as she was affectionately known – would ‘date’ most of the modern-day trotters.
Even the records of highly-rated stars such as Maori’s Idol, Scotch Notch, Lyell Creek, Sundons Gift and Just Believe pale in significance to some of Gramel’s feats.
None of the above were forced to race off handicaps such as 256 yards like Gramel was at the Adelaide Showgrounds.
Despite her mark being just 19 yards short of half the track, Gramel emerged victorious!
The toughest handicap Maori’s Idol faced during his record run of 24 consecutive wins was 60 metres.
Yet, Gramel set 23 track records from handicaps that would have today’s generation calling for the RSPCA!
It’s those wins which have led to the Gramel Trotters’ Cup, which is being conducted once again at Globe Derby Saturday night.
A handy field as been assembled, with the backmarkers – Millys Magic and Powderkeg – getting off easy by comparison with 30-metre handicaps!
But Gramel’s racing feats are just a portion of her remarkable story.
Conceived in New Zealand and foaled in South Australia, Gramel was a 1957 result of a mating between Johnny Globe and the Light Brigade matron, American Brigade.
Failing to attract a satisfactory bid during the 1959 Adelaide Yearling Sale, the youngster was eventually sold to Frank ‘Silky’ Jones for 375 guineas.
After submitting about 20 names, the filly was eventually named Gramel, a combination of the first three letters of her owner’s Christian names, Grace and Melva.
A prominent bookmaker and owner, Jones would have been cheating to pass the five foot mark, while his wife Melva stood only four-foot 10 inches on a good day!
While Jones and Melva may have been small in stature, they were both giants when it came to generosity.
What they did for charity and under-privileged children was incredible as both derived tremendous pleasure from sharing Gramel’s wins with less fortunate kids.
Every Christmas the crippled children of Escort House, a beach front convalescent home for children at Semaphore Park close to where Gramel was worked on the beach at Tennyson, were the Jones’ guests at a Christmas party.
During the festivities each child received a present from Father Christmas, who arrived at the party in a cart pulled by Gramel.
Each Sunday morning after Gramel won the Grange trotting track was the venue for the local kids to receive an ice cream and cool drinks from the Jones’.
Nearly half of Gramel’s stake earnings – $53,000 in Australia and New Zealand – went to charitable organisations for children.
To put the Jones’ generosity and the dollar figure into perspective, $53,000 in 1969 – the year Gramel was retired – is the equivalent to $443,105.38 in 2023, meaning the couple donated close to $200,000 to charity!
Ironically, Gramel also cost Jones a considerable amount of money via his bookmaker’s bag as he bet against his mare.
“She cost me money in many a pay-out, but I just laughed off my losses as I was so thrilled and pleased to see her win,” Jones said.
As for the Gramel Cup, Group One winner, Powderkeg, only needs to produce something like his best to win.
Racing solidly during his three runs from a spell, the son of Muscle Hill has registered a win, fourth and fifth for co-trainers Jill Neilson and Katie Wilson.
Neilson and Wilson will also be represented by Lovelorn from the 10-metre mark, with the gelding racing in his customary consistent fashion with a win and four placings from his last five outings.