what happens when you look for a horse
30 years after it died
Photos, video and story by Casey Laughter, Daily Flipz Staff Writer
Glacial Princess, one of the most acclaimed racehorses of her time, was put to rest in the infield of Beulah Park, a now decrepit racetrack outside COLUMBUS, Ohio. Her rise to fame was a fantastic ride, but her life was cut short when she fatally broke her leg in a race at that very racetrack. Now, the owner wants to move her to a final resting place in Kentucky, where she will be buried alongside racing legends. There is only one problem, no one can find her.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, a group of archeology students and racing fans gathered to reclaim the remains of two-time Ohio Horse of the Year, Glacial Princess. The goal was to transport her from her burial site at the forgotten Beulah Park in Grove City, OH to a new resting place in Old Friends, Georgetown, KY. With the exact location of her remains a mystery, the heavy machinery began to search for the two-time Ohio Horse of the Year.
Called “The Iron Lady,” a steel-grey mare named Glacial Princess was an Ohio-bred thoroughbred racehorse who managed to win 27 of her 52 starts, 19 of those wins coming in stakes races, the highest level of racing.
"The mare had such a determination—I don't think she was ever behind at the half-mile pole. And she ran against the boys as much as the girls,” said owner Dr. John Graver.
"I never got to see her race, but growing up in Ohio, I knew her history," added Ryan Brady, who organized the exhumation, "and I thought this is just the right thing to do...I just kept thinking, ‘this champion can’t have a parking lot paved on top of her.’"
Beginning her career in 1984 as a 3-year-old, the mare would extend her career through 1987, defeating both fillies and colts. In her 4-year-old season, Glacial Princess was in front by the half mile pole in nearly every race she ran. She earned her first Ohio Horse of the Year in 1985 following 11 victories, with nine of them being continuous.
Throughout her 1986 season, Glacial Princess recorded her most astounding victory, winning the Ms. Southern Ohio Stakes by 12 lengths, an absolute romp. Following up that race, the champion mare extended her legs to win a stakes race going one and one eighth miles. The races she won, and the manner in which she won them, put her on top for the season and earned her a second straight title as Ohio’s Horse of the Year.
1987 would be the mare’s final racing season, and not ending the way anyone would have imagined. On April 25, Glacial Princess would start in the Ballerina Stakes, but would fail to finish the race. Around the far turn, Glacial Princess’ right front leg gave out, breaking in multiple places. The leg was beyond repair, resulting in the mare’s euthanasia. Her remains were laid to rest in the infield of Beulah Park.
Glacial Princess won 27 of her 52 starts and earned nearly $550,000. She is remembered as the mare who could do it all, going short or long, on any track condition, beating the boys and the girls, she is remembered as Ohio’s Iron Lady.
Due to conflicting information from those who remember the great race mare, as well as the owner, Dr. John Graver, being absent the day the mare was “buried”, it's unclear whether Glacial Princess was buried whole, or even exactly where she was buried. Traditionally, only a racehorse's head, hooves and heart are buried, and the rest of the animal is cremated. A whole burial is a high honor.
Rob Fairholm, a racing secretary at the time of Glacial Princess’ fatal breakdown, was unsure about the circumstances of the burial as well.
“I cannot say for sure if the head and hooves were buried, but I know the heart was,” Fairholm commented.
The racetrack was permanently closed in 2014, and with the gravestone apart of the park, thoughts arose about Glacial Princess’ grave and if it would remain. Ryan Brady, the man who led the charge to exhume the famous mare’s body, feared her grave was in jeopardy of being built over, as the property has been sold and is scheduled for development.
Brady worked with new the property owner to arrange the relocation, and also consulted West Coast-based Charlotte Farmer, who led a similar effort to move the remains of '40s champion Noor from California to Old Friends in 2014.
Brady stated that Old Friends was the choice due to the past kindness they displayed toward Farmer when Noor was exhumed.
Deanna Grimstead, assistant professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University, led the search for the mare’s remains, bringing seven Ohio State Archeology students with her. She was assisted by John Queen, a friend of Brady’s, who operated the backhoe to aid the large scale search.
With a search that extended nearly eight hours, no remains of Glacial Princess were recovered. While no remains of the horse were recovered, the OSU Archeology students did uncover a gravesite of a small dog, which gave them valuable experience.
Grimstead stated it was a possibility that the remains deteriorated.
"It's definitely disappointing, but we're still going to memorialize her, not let her memory just fade into the past," says Brady. Brady plans to send red carnations to Old Friends, as it is the flower of The Ohio State University, to decorate the area in which Glacial Princess will be memorialized at Old Friends.
Graver was unable to attend the search for his mare’s remains, but commented on the exhumation before the search.
"She was great horse," said Graver. “I've never had another like her and probably won't again.”
Old Friends will receive the headstone from Dr. Graver within the next week or two, and will then bury the memorial of artifacts collected, which includes dirt from the track, pieces of the winners’ circle, and an old ticket, believed to be from 1930s, when the popular daily double bet began at the track.
Cindy Grisolia, an employee of Old Friends, was able to comment about the reinterment of Glacial Princess regarding when the action would happen.
“We haven’t planned on a ceremony, since we are open to the public. She will be buried in the little half acre paddock which is also where Noor, Skip Away, and Springsteel are memorialized.”
Although Glacial Princess didn't have much of a national following, her dominance is well-known among Ohio's racing community. She was named Ohio Horse of the Year in 1985 and 1986. Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown still hosts the Glacial Princess Stakes, a race that was hosted at Beulah Park until it closed.
The Path to a new resting place
This is the route Glacial Princess was supposed to take from her current to new resting place
Glacial princess Career record
Career earnings: $542,792
"I just kept thinking, 'This champion can't have a parking lot paved on top of her.' " -- Ryan Brady, who organized the exhumation.
Glacial Princess has a Stakes Race named after her