RACE fans were rubbing their eyes in amazement June 12 when Ellusive Spell, a three-year-old colt, made its debut at Assiniboia Downs.
Owned by Jean McEwen and trained by Emile Corbel, Ellusive Spell is a grandson of Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo and is only the second frame overo thoroughbred to race. The other was his father, Ellusive Quest. He is the only thoroughbred of his kind in Canada.
Frame overo refers to the gene that gives the paint effect, but he is officially listed as dark bay, despite the large areas of white throughout.
Only two lines of thoroughbreds carry the gene that causes the paint-like colouring.
According to Wikipedia, the frame overo pattern usually behaves like a dominant gene, in that when frame overo horses are crossed on non-spotted horses, about half of the foals come out spotted.
There are records of frame overos being produced by two non-spotted parents, but there is a theory that these solid horses simply may be horses with very minimal expression of overo genetics.
Ellusive Spell, a 25-1 long shot, didn't do all that well in his debut, running sixth over the six furlongs with David Lopez at the reins. Corbel said Thursday that although he felt he ran a good race his best is yet to come in the longer races.
"I think he's a good horse," said Corbel, the Downs' leading trainer in 1995 and '96 and fourth all-time leading trainer, with 761 wins.
"I think he did pretty good. It was a really tough race but he closed some ground and had a good run. He is a very solid horse and I'm going to run him a mile, probably in about a week and a half.
"He has talent, so I won't run him in a claimer," Corbel added, "because he's worth a lot right now."