Col. Ross in The Adventure of Silver Blaze

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Colonel Ross has met his match with Sherlock Holmes. Because of the Colonel's cavalier attitude, Holmes decides to toy with his mind and his sense of entitlement, which make for a pretty humorous interaction.

A Missing Horse

In The Adventure of Silver Blaze a racehorse has gone missing and its trainer has been murdered. Silver Blaze, the missing racehorse, is favored to win the prestigious Wessex Cup and Doyle introduces us to a character that Sherlock Holmes can't help but dislike, Colonel Ross. Ross' dismissal of Sherlock Holmes' abilities, as well as his disregard for the dead, motivate Holmes to take an unusual approach with Colonel Ross, toying with him before revealing the details of the case that only takes Holmes a matter of hours to solve.

Colonel Ross

Colonel Ross and Inspector Gregory have invited Sherlock Holmes to investigate the case of the missing horse and the murder of its trainer, John Straker. The case itself is high-profile and has already been the subject of gossip throughout England. Holmes and Watson travel to King's Pyland, Colonel Ross' training stables, to investigate.

Colonel Ross is a small man who wears an eyeglass and is described as 'very neat.' His first statements to Holmes when they all meet at the train station are how he'd like to 'avenge poor Straker' and recover his horse. However, as Watson observes during the carriage ride out to King's Pyland, Colonel Ross might not care much about the murder of John Straker. Watson's observation is as follows:

'Colonel Ross leaned back with his arms folded and his hat tilted over his eyes, while I listened with interest to the dialogue of the two detectives.'

This is the first meeting that Inspector Gregory and Holmes have where they discuss the case. Holmes' questions and involvement seem to be of little interest to Colonel Ross, which might be because Gregory and Holmes are discussing the murder of 'poor Straker' and not the potential whereabouts of the missing racehorse.

The Dead

The way that Colonel Ross refers to the victim, John Straker, is also an indication of how little he cares about the murder and how much more he cares about the upcoming race. For example, when Holmes asks Colonel Ross how long Straker was in his service, Colonel Ross replies:

'I have always found him an excellent servant.'

While this might not seem like much, compared to Colonel Ross' previous reference to Straker as 'poor Straker' and then to reduce him to a servant, shows more how Ross perceived Staker. Not only was Straker the trainer, but he had also been a jockey for Colonel Ross. He certainly wasn't ever a servant. Perhaps Ross refers to all of his employees as 'servants,' but it's rarely how one would refer to the deceased, especially a murder victim.


In the presence of men whose most singularly strong trait is paying attention to detail, Colonel Ross does little to hide his impatience and boredom, as Watson notes. Ross grows even more impatient with Holmes when Holmes refuses to accompany Ross, so Ross can ask his opinion on whether or not he should keep Silver Blaze's name in the race. Holmes simply tells him that he should and decides to do something other than what the Colonel has asked.

Shortly after this, Watson and Sherlock are alone and Sherlock reveals that he has already solved the case. It's not apparent, until then, that Watson isn't the only one who has picked up on Colonel Ross' arrogance and entitled demeanor. Holmes says to Watson:

'I don't know whether you observed it, Watson, but the Colonel's manner has been just a trifle cavalier to me. I am inclined now to have a little amusement at his expense.'

Fun at the Colonel's Expense

Holmes has successfully tracked down Silver Blaze. The horse is at a nearby stable, but Holmes arranges for the horse to remain there and doesn't tell Colonel Ross where his horse is. When Holmes gets back to King's Pyland, he tells the Colonel and Inspector Gregory that he and Watson are leaving. Holmes offers no other information, and this infuriates the Colonel. The following interaction between Holmes and the Colonel illustrates how perfectly Holmes has dominated the mind game he's playing with the Colonel.

'The Inspector opened his eyes, and the Colonel's lip curled in a sneer.'

Then the Colonel says: 'So you despair of arresting the murderer of poor Straker.'

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