Goshen, NY - The entire harness racing industry owes Jan Heine and Nancy Brejc a debt of gratitude. Unwittingly, they became the stewards of a large and irreplaceable piece of Standardbred lore - Greyhound's stall.
Since the mid-1980s when Doc Walker leased the Flannery Stables, these dedicated caretakers have kept a keen eye upon what was once the showcase of a champion. Several farm lessees and a few decades later they continued to stand guard. When some precious items started to disappear, they conjured up a plan to dress-up in Ninja black to recover the remaining treasures under cover of darkness. Luckily, that never became necessary.
To the "Greyhound Gals" it was more than just a stall, it was their destiny.
They met back in the mid-1970s, while working at the Poseidon Stable in Wayne, Illinois. As caretakers, they led racehorses around an equine swimming pool. Together, they learned about the sport of harness racing. Eventually, Jan from Elburn and Nancy from Earlville, worked at Northfield Park as grooms, then went to Chicago's Aurora Downs.
Growing to love the sport while racing horses, eventually they developed a greater appreciation for the historical value of the Flannery Stable's treasure. Having watched the Greyhound stall go from pristine to showing its age, they always knew that one day, they would have to do something to save it. That day arrived last year as word came down that all of the barns on that farm in Maple Park would be leveled.
Springing into action, they got permission to disassemble the stall. They went to work, carefully removing piece by piece, board by nail-ridden board. They started with the trim boards. Chatting while they worked, they relished the process. Somewhat serendipitously, they realized that they had come full circle. They knew they could restore this iconic 15' x 30' room to its former glory by donating it to the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame.
Meticulously, they numbered each and every board. The stall panels were solid Oak tongue and groove, the viewing area knotty Yellow Pine. All told it took 11 days or about 194 working hours. They started in October and finished before the harsh mid-Western Winter hit in mid-November.
Today (May 2), marked the final chapter in the transfer of this piece of history. With 800+ miles behind them, they were greeted in Goshen, New York by an eager group of historians. As the celebrated lumber was being off-loaded at an undisclosed location, Museum Director Janet Terhune was overwhelmed with joy. "These ladies are incredible. They have accomplished a monumental task of disassembly. We are truly honored that they chose the Museum as the trusted custodian of this treasure!"
Collections Manager Rebecca Howard took copious notes as Director of Development Joanne Young marveled at Greyhound's chew marks on the solid Oak stall door. Anyone who witnessed this significant load of lumber remarked about the time and dedication these two gals must have for the Grey Ghost and the memory of his stall. When asked why they did it, their answer was simple, "It was our destiny."
by Chris Tully, for the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame