by Bob Gates
Who was Miko Siah? Equibase stats have the multiple stakes-placed stallion with $10,892 in career earnings from 74 starts. He compiled a record of 8 wins, 10 seconds and 13 thirds from 1948 to 1956. Respectable considering his level of competition, but nothing flashy.
Miko Siah was lightly raced as a two and three-year-old in 1948 and 1949, but came into his own at four, five, and six. He was a regular top-three finisher in stakes races, with his best years coming from 1950 to 1952. Miko ran against the best the old Western Prairie Racing Circuit could throw at him, with competitors like Beau Orage, Lord Fairmond, Pagan Star, Fort Garry and Sir Strome. He was a solid performer who gave his all every time his hooves hit the track.
So why is the spirit of a stakes-placed thoroughbred stalking me 75 years after his time racing on Canada's prairies? The story I'm about to share is absolutely true, with no poetic license being called upon to embellish his tale.
The circumstances surrounding our story started last winter when the Downs was contacted by an extended family member of William Kerr. Mr. Kerr was associated with the Prairie Thoroughbred Breeders and Racers Association, a member of the board of the Winnipeg Jockey Club, and was one of the oldest members of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange.
Mr. Kerr and his wife Louise also happened to be friends with Captain Stanley Harrison, who you might remember from one of my previous blogs. Harrison was a successful, well-connected horseman/breeder who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1979.
As a result of Kerr's friendship with the man known as "Captain" and his interest in racing, the extended family had memorabilia they wanted to "gift" me. Mr. Kerr passed in 1948. These items included an autographed copy of Harrison's book "Gentleman: The Horse!"
Before going further, I should clarify that Harrison was known as the "poet laureate of the turf" and this book was a collection of his poems. I was drawn to many of the titles, but the name Miko Siah was familiar to me and I wasn't immediately sure why.
On a hunch, I searched my photo archives and found a couple from 1950. These pictures had come to me courtesy of Ray Stewart. While I never mentioned Miko Siah by name in either of these pieces, I remembered his name from the photos and I seemed to recall him being from Harrison's barn.
While I was aware of the thoroughbred's name, I knew little else. So further research was in order and much to my surprise I found another link that had escaped my attention. The link was to a horse called Jose Amigo, a thoroughbred that I had mentioned in a quirky story I wrote in August 2019.
Jose Amigo was a nothing special kind-of-horse who on June 29, 1974, paid $109.90 to win and three weeks later on July 20 won again and paid $122.90 for a $2 ticket. Well, Jose's dam was Mikella, who in turn was sired by… you guessed it, Miko Siah. The name, Miko Siah comes from the Choctaw language. The Choctaw are a Native American people originally based in what is now Alabama and Mississippi and means "King I am."
Here's Stanley Harrison's poem entitled simply, "Miko Siah:"
God gave him driving
Will to excel,
Spirit for striving,
Strength to impel;
Heart that is fearless,
Grace and shape peerless,
Speed of the wind.
Bits of earth's wonder,
Glory of skies,
Lightning and thunder
Live in his eyes.
Brave in endeavour,
Blind to reward;
These mark him ever
Loved of the Lord.
And there you have it. Other worldly forces conspired to insure that Miko Siah not be over-looked. From a book of poetry came the photos of Ray Stewart who rode Miko Siah all those years ago. Toss in the story of his owner/breeder, Stanley Harrison, and top it off with one of his descendants who twice paid in excess of $100 to win in a brief three-week period - convinced me to remind everyone of Harrison's runner from yesteryear.
When thoroughbreds from another era want only to be remembered…
How do you not tell their story?