Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

who canvasses for his account-"Don't you wish you may get it?" At Newmarket-should they be "bothered"-they get a friend to operate -and so "plant" by proxy....at all the trading courses-so they "come down with the dust" at the door of the Grand Stands--they are as welcome as the flowers in May. And even at the worst, if they "hockuss" a "crack," or "sore his shins," it's soon forgot. Some of the most thorough turf thieves of the present century are, at these presents, the particular pets of their parties..... It is a sooth old saying " many a man has kept a rod to beat himself;" indeed, it is believed that an eminent hand of recent times was killed by a contrivance of that class. In suchwise is, as ever it has been, my view and sentiment of racing practice. And as, after the custom of antecedents, thus setting forth the bane, I purpose essay for the antidote.....

"At Kilvie there was no weather-cock-
And that's the reason why."

"Half-a-loaf," says the wise saw, "is better than no bread"-but better still no loaf at all; if arsenic mingle with the corn. Thus, in respect to the scheme called a handicap, will "NOTES and QUERIES" be good enough to give the unde derivatur?

I closed an extract exemplifying its mischief: I continue the quotation....." Read-mark-learn.".

Having said that the principle of the conceit was to offer premiums rather for the breeding bad horses than superior animals," he proceeds to suggest the means of counteracting the poison... "To obviate this," he comments, " in a great measure, the question to me is, whether by some limit, to be defined," (by whom?) "you cannot offer fair (?) opportunities for success to a horse of character, at the same time you permit an inferior animal to gain a victory, by carrying a relative weight within a circumscribed but equitable limit. Say, for instance, that every handicap be limited to a scale commencing at 9 st., and descending no lower than 5 st. Good horses would then have the chance which their merits entitle them to expect, and the scum of the turf would be excluded from the competition, in which only the feather weights' they have to carry can give them the hope of being successful. I have nothing to do with steeple chasing; but what a farce it is to observe such weights as 8 st. and under 9 st. on horses which have won steeple chases, even this autumn! If between 12 st. and 9 st. 7 lbs. there be not ample allowances for difference of grade in (so called) steeple-chase horses, the sooner that the species is extinct, the better for the reputation of the country.

"Surely, there is that innate interest in judicious breeding, training, and competition of the race-horse which will ever uphold the turf; for such pursuits in their integrity set all cavil at defiance. It is the abuse, and not the use of a matter, which renders it objectionable. The English system of racing is at the present time avowedly at the head of our own country sports; and long may it continue there! Royalty is interested in it"(the Emperor of Russia gives five hundred sovereigns' worth of plate it does not appear what amount is given by any other crowned head)" and among its patrons and supporters we find the names of the majority of the aristocracy and talent of the kingdom. Should, however, the day ever arrive when the giant of utilitarianism shall

-in its bigotry-have swallowed up the sports of 'merry England,' and decreed that there shall be no more cakes and ale,' he who rings the last knell of the turf will declare-parodying the language of the Roman-that

"This was the noblest pastime of them all.""....

If Samuel Johnson's interpretation of "noble"—"illustrious, exalted"-be the true, the recognized reading, then Yatching-(for which, as yet, Parliament has not seen occasion to prescribe-" the common gaol, or house of correction, with or without hard labour for any time not exceeding six calendar months"-for preserving the purity of its practice)-should seem to be rather the more select of the twain. This, however, may be matter of opinion; so let it pass. "If between 12 st. and 9 st. 7 lbs. there be not ample allowances for difference of grade in (so called) steeple-chase horses, the sooner that the species is extinct, the better for the reputation of the country." Now I know no 66 species" (according to Johnson, "a class of nature")" so called steeple-chase horses.

"How are they bred, and where?"

....

This question was put to me, the other day, by a burly field-officer of the H.E.T. C.'s service, lately come home, with from forty to fifty stone of "too, too solid flesh" upon his skeleton, and tons of “ 'tin" in his pocket.

"What blood is your steepler?" he asked, "and what part of England is the most famous for that particular breed?"

"I have no cognizance of any breed, seed, or generation," I replied, "of the kind:-a first-class steeple-chase horse is an exception to a rule-like a black swan or a good wife"- -(Hymen, have mercy on me! Here my fat friend gave a wince that shook the room like the shock of an earthquake-and subsequently I learnt that he had imported in the vessel that brought him over, his " Beebee Sahib," and a strong string of young piebalds,) "that is to-I meant-intended-to say-a black swan or a bad wife-he is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, not fast enough for the flats; but, being made to jump, quite quick enough for cross-country racing."

"I thought they were bred hunters," he suggested; "regular cracks to live with hounds. Could I get could you get me one of the sort, something in form like Short Legs' in your last number-what I call a nice nag for a welter'? I go to saddle heavyish you know, but I shan't mind the price-don't regard money in such cases-may I be d――d if I do ;"-expressing forcibly an indifference, under the cir cumstances, to be disblessed.

Lieut.-Col. Tuck Tiffin is not the only man in the world with indefinite ideas touching the steeple-chase practically considered; theoretically treated, the mystery grows far more obscure. As a facilis descensus for "the high-mettled racer," I look upon it as a practice infinitely more honoured in the breach than the observance. Sad stages are those from the Duke's Stand to Hockley-in-the-Hole; from hurdleplating to the hackney-carriage act; from the "bus" to the larderbarrow. But let me emphatically disclaim all purpose of discourtesy towards the practical predilections or design to question the philhipposy of my distinguished contemporary. Still, nevertheless, I pronounce

his premises perverse and pernicious. Under all its conditions, I hold the handicap to be a foul and fallacious fancy-leading from the Derby to dogs' meat. In what degree, let me ask, has the popularity of the existing Admistration been promoted by the Earl of Aberdeen's policy giving so much weight to Viscount Palmerston's principle ? or in what ratio has the rural interest been benefited by Mr. Gladstone's logic carrying so much more weight than Colonel Sibthorpe's lingo ? I pause for a reply.........

Having a penchant for the philosophy of proverbs apropos of the foregoing, it is of course with pleasure that I welcome the proposal for handicapping two-year olds put forward on the opening of the current year. One step lower, extend the process to foals, and the flight of folly can no farther go (barring you estimate a “stint ”); “when things come to the worst they mend." I see they are laughing at the legal adviser of the Doncaster Corporation, forasmuch as he is said to have said," he had no hesitation in saying, when he contemplated the changes which were taking place in the fashions and amusements of the people, racing pastimes would prove a total failure.” The only bit of fun I can find in this passage of prediction is, that it constitutes a prophecy on the principle of a foregone conclusion. What per-centage of the millions of “thrusting scoundrels” that blockade the rings at Epsom, Ascot, Chester, Goodwood-anywhere, everywhere—Warwick, or Moulsey Hurst, go there for pastime or amusement ? Here's another lese-majestatisof course celà va sans dire.The rebel, whose onslaught against “lotteries," "

sweeps,” and “lists” resulted in a commonwealth, unfortunately as by Act of Parliament established, “ has done it all”--that will be the way, as once it was when Queen Adelaide would not countenance an unpleasant proposal. Your insurrectionist, nevertheless, is a sturdy reformer ; albeit, a great Prince has just had a rough rebuff, because he, too, had a bias for improvement. Now, seriously, what is the office of horse racing at these presents, de facto? Does the many-headed monster inhale it as the exquisite his omelette soufflée, or bolt it like a railway navvie his fat bacon?_“that is the question.' Shall I ever forget the day I watched Lady as she gazed from the Royal Stand, in an agony of astoundment, on the long, limitless “ legs" of Ascot Heath? Fair spirit! wert thou of the

! stuff that formed those members of an aristocratic circle ? As for Tuck Tiffin, he knew no more what on earth, or sea, or under it, a handicap was, than his Arab charger or his buffalo beeve. Satan, or the scent of his pack, sent him to where my Book Calendar lay in ambush for his patience. In Rule 4, “Concerning Horse Racing in

General,” he read

"A handicap match is-A, B, and C to put down an equal sum each ; C, who is the handicapper, makes a match for A and B, who, when they have perused it, put their hands into their pockets, and draw them out closed. Then they open them together, and if both have money in their hands the match is confirmed ; if neither has money, it is no match. In both cases the handicapper draws all the money ; but if one has money in his hand and the other none, it is no match; and he that has money in his hand is entitled to the deposit.”...

“ Humph !" quoth Tuck, “to be sure : A, B, and C is plain English. There's to be a match--marry, that's no mystery; and so they

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

a

[ocr errors]

put their hands into their pockets' (likely enough they put their foot in
it too). But what's that to do with the turf ?-—is it allegorical of the
end ? They put their hands in their pockets, draw them out closed,
then they open them together'-that's the Irish fashion of fisting ;
everywhere else hands are shut together when they are clinched.'.
• But if one has money in his hand and the other has none, it is no match.'
It didn't need one to rise from the dead to tell us that : it's the ABC
of all the peoples under the spacious firmament on high,' to say nothing
of down below.' • Then it is no match ; and he that has the money in
his hand is entitled to the deposit.' To be sure ; like the lawyers that
hold stakes for the oyster."..

“ But this Qui Hı' is nothing but a tub

Of viscera; and Shakespeare-there's the rub-
Sneers at your greasy citizens,' and states,

With nose upturned, ' fat paunches make lean pates.'”
« The following are the results of the racing season. Lord Derby has
been the greatest winner of stakes in horse-racing this year ; exclusive
of allowances for running second or third, he has won thirteen thousand
and thirty-nine pounds.' From the Dorset County Chronicle, January
5th, 1854, a worthy contemporary makes the total, without any excep-
tion, £11,497. According to my reading of Messrs. Weatherby's vo-
lume-" Races Past," 1853– it was £10,619, plus the Stewards' Cup
at Goodwood, said to be “ of three hundred sovereigns value.” Apropos
of Olympic dilemma, there was, among answers to correspondents in a
sporting paper, not long ago, a reply to the following effect-

“ The Emperor of Russia was received and recognized by Her Majesty when he visited this country, and he did go to Ascot with tho Royal Family."

Aye, did he ; and as it's not much courtesy we've had in return, the pity is the Royal Verderers were not there to see ; for, could they only

dodge” their deer as the Imperial Czar did his Poles, by virtue of the Queen's presence-face à dos—there would be store of red venison for Her Majesty's larder. What a “ fence” the Muscovite is!

We are told, on reverend authority, " in those days there shall be false prophets." They came—"not single spies, but in battalions"in the days of Sweeps, Lotteries, and Lists; and being, as it should seem, objects of interest, they were permitted the even tenour of their way. When turning of the tables, however, arrived, their fortune also wheeled about, and they were fain “jump Jim Crow." Then fell indignation upon their memories; and where, whilom, they told the world that they were willing and prepared to transform it into El Dorado for twelve postage stamps, free, with an envelope and a head on it to transmit the intelligence, now you read of robberies by those procatarctic Scribes and Pharisees that would have made Jonathan Wild's hair stand on end. One of these genii, having exhausted business in his proper self, tried his hand as a hermaphrodite. Accordingly, having tipped a London Morning-adviser for the privilege, he announced "The winner of The Cambridgeshire at 1000 to 15. The above is a dead certainty, and can be known by sending immediately ten shillings and two postage stamps to Rebecca Fredericks,” (a Hebrew maiden, or madame, apparently) “ Post-office, Queen’s-road, Chelsea. Also the horse sent will be absolutely second.”...... This is

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

certainly a passage of preternatural prediction--here Miss, or Mistress, Rebecca Fredericks promises that her animal at 1000 to 15 shall win the Cambridgeshire-“ a dead certainty"--and also that the horse sent " will be absolutely second”?-like Sir Boyle Roche's bird, “in two places at once.

A dead certainty," writes one Edgardo Greenhorn, in a sporting Sunday journal of the middle of the past month, "and that from a lady, was a new feature in racing prophecies : but the fee was heavy, and required consideration, although disputing the honour and credit of one of the fair sex is not the characteristic of a true sportsman. But there are so many shabby tricks resorted to in our village to entrap the unwary, that a little caution should be excused, especially as the Greenhorns had parted with very large sums of money from their desire to peep into the future alone. I could not, however, resist the temptation ; and considering that half-a-crown and a promise of something handsonie after the race would suffice, I enclosed stamps to that amount, with a courteous letter to Rebecca, and waited anxiously for a reply : but whether the lady was offended at my presumption in expecting the · dead certainty for such a paltry fee, or what was the cause, I could not imagine-she did not condescend to favour mo with an answer, nor did she return the stamps. Instead, therefore, of a dead certainty,' it proved, as a fast friend expressed it,' a dead sell,' and was the first prophet who had failed to reply, and the first and only lady I ever had any sporting transactions with, except for gloves on the Derby or Ascot Cup days... I should here state that my former correspondent, Rogers,' enlightened me with the following laconic missive : - Rogers’s Newmarket advice Mistletoe is first-rate !' And the next completes my list of certainties for the Cambridgeshire : - Stamford's Certainty : Cambridge Stakes must be another victory! Old and new subs, lose no time in getting on. We must win money. I am certain of success at this meeting. I have the greatest certainty ever sent out. This will be really the most extraordinary advice direct from the stables. None bul respectable persons need apply. Fee half-a-guinea, payable after the race from your winnings. Send a directed envelope-John Stamford, Ipswich. Won the Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire last year, and shall this !' The words in italics were very important, but I ran the risk, and sent the required enclosure and the promise. In duo time the certainty' came, and the following is a copy of it :-Winning made certain ! Haco, the stable are quite confident, will be again successful. He is such a powerful horse that the extra weight will not tell upon him ; at a mile and a-balf he had the race quite in hand. The Cambridgeshire Course just suits him. Back him again ; and if you put the same amount on him for a place as you do to win, you are certain to be on the right side. Be sure to do this ; for with a lad on him, and at that weight, who can hold him ? He is certain to be one of the first three.'Such is the stuff whereof pseudo-prophecy is perpetrated.

Passing from this Olympic pantomime prepense to the serious business of the course, it is really to be regretted that statements eminently calculated to prejudice that great popular interest, and utterly unfounded, should find circulation in the accredited channels of public intelligence. For instance, wherefore were racing circles warned that the Duke of Richmond had given up the turf ? If his Grace had come to such a

« ZurückWeiter »