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A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7933, 14 June 1889
A HEAVY INDICTMENT.
THE ETHICS OF THE TURF,
[jAMF.-iRuNCIMAN IN THE * CONTRM POKAUV. ’ |
Here is a queer kind of a world which baa suddenly arisen ! Faith and trust arc banished ; real honesty is unknown ; purity is less than a name ; manliness means no more than a certain readiness to use the fists. Most of the dwellers in this atmosphere are punctilious about money payments because they durst not be otherwise, but the fine flower of real probity docs not flourish in the mephitic air. To lie, to dodge, to take mean advantages—these arc the accomplishments which an ugly percentage of middle-class youths cultivate; and all the mischief arises from the fact that they persist in trying to ape tho manners of the most unworthy members of an order to which they do not belong. It is had cnongn when a rich and idle man is bitten with the taste for betting; but when he is imitated by the tailor’s assistant who carries his clothes home, then wo have a still more unpleasant phenomenon to consider, For it is fatal to a nation when a large and influential section of the populace once begin to be confused in their notions of right and wrong. Not long ago I was struck by noticing a significant instance of this moral dry An old racing man died, and all tho sporting papers had something to say about him and his career. Now the best of the sporting journalists are clever and cultured gentlemen, who give refinement to every subject that they touch. But a certain kind of writing is done by pariahs, who are not much of a credit to our society, and I was interested by tho style in which these scribbling vermin spoke of the dead man. Their gush was a trifle nauseating ; their mean worship of money gave one a shiver, and the relish with which they described their hero’s exploits would have been comic were it not for the aforementioned nausea. It seemed that the departed turfite had been—to use blunt English—a very skilful and successful swindler Ho would buy a horse which took his fancy, and then would run the animal again and again, until people got tired of seeing such a useless brute taken down to the starting point. The haudicappera finally let the schemer's horse in at a trilling weight, and then he prepared for business. Ho had trustworthy agents at Manchester, Nottingham, and Newcastle, and these men contrived, without rousing suspicion, to “ dabble” money into the market in a stealthy way, until the whole of their commission was worked on very advantageous terms. The arch-plotter did not show prominently in tho transaction, and lie contrived once or twice to throw dust in the eyes of tho very cleverest men. One or two neatly-arranged strokes secured our acute gentleman a handsome fortune. Ho missed L 70,000 once by a short head, but this was tho only instance in which his plans seriously failed ; and he was looked up to as an epitome of all the virtues which arc most acceptable in racing circles. Well, had this dodger exhibited the heroism of Gordon, the benevolence of Lord Shaftesbury, tho probity of Henry Fawcett, he could not have been more hepraised and bewailed by the small fry of sporting literature. All ho had done in life was to deceive people by making them fancy that certain good horses were had ones; strictly speaking, be made money by lalse pretences, and yet such is the twist given by association with genuine gamblers, that educated men wrote of him as if he had been a saint of the most admirable order, This disposition is seen all through the piece; successful roguery is glorified, and our young men admire “ the Colonel ” or “ the Captain,” or Jack This and Tom That, merely because tho Captain and the Colonel and Jack and Tom are acute rascals who have managed to make money. Decidedly, our national ideals are in a queer way, J nst think of a little transaction which occurred in ISB7. A noble lord ordered a miserable jockey boy to pull a horse, so that the animal might lose a race. The exalted guide of youth was found out, and deservedly packed off the turf; but it was only by an accident that the stewards were able to catch him. That legislator had funny notions of the duty which he owed to boyhood. He asked ids poor little satellite to play the scoundrel, and he only did what scores do who arc not found out.
A haze hangs about the turf, and all the principles which should guide human nature are blurred and distorted ; the high-minded honorable racing men can do nothing or next to nothing, and the scum work their will in only too many instances. Everyone knows that THE GROUND IS PALPITATING WITH CORRUPTION,
but our national mental disease has so gained ground that some regard corruption iu a lazy way, as being inevitable, while others —including the stay-at-horne-horso-racers —reckon it as absolutely admirable.
Some years ago a pretty little mare was winning the St. Lsger easily, when a big horse cut into her heels and knocked her over. About two months afterwards, the same wiry little mare was running in an important race at Newmarket, and at the Bushes she was hauling her jockey out of tho saddle. There were not many spectators about, and only a few noticed that, while the mare was fighting for her head, she was suddenly pulled until she reared up, lost her place, and reached the post about seventh in a large field. The jockey who rode tho mare, and who made her exhibit circus gambols, received a thousand pounds from the owner of the winning horse. Now, there was no disguise about this transaction—nay, it was rather advertised than otherwise, and a good many of tho sporting prints took it quite as a matter of course, Why ? Simply because no prominent racing man raked up the matter judicially, and because the ordinary turf scramblers accept suspicious proceedings as part of their environment. Mr Carlyle mourned over tho deadly virus of lying which was emitted by Loyola and his crew ; he might mourn now over the deadly virus of cheating which is emitted from tho central ganglia of the turf, The upright men who love horses ami love racing are nearly powerless; the thieves leaven tho country, and they have reduced what was once the finest middle-class in the world to a condition of stark putridity. Before we can rightly understand the degradation which has befallen us by reason of the turf, we must examine THE POSITION OF JOCKEYS in the community. Lord Beaconsfield, in one of his most wicked sentences, said that the jockey is our Western substitute for the eunuch ; a noble duke, who ought to know something about the matter, lately informed tho world through the medium of a Court of law that “jockeys are thieves.” Now, I know one jockey whoso character is not embraced by the duke’s definition, and I have heard that there are two, but I am not acquainted with the second man. The wonder is, considering the hare-brained, slavering folly of the public, that any of tho riding mannikins arc half as honest as they arc ; the wonder is that their poor little horsey brains are not led astray in such fashion as to make every race a farce. They certainly do try their best on occasion, and I believe that there are many races which are not arranged before the start; but you cannot persuade the picked men of tho rascals’ corps that any race is run fairly. When Melton and Paradox ran their tremendous race home in the Derby I heard quite a number of intelligent gentry saying that Paradox should have won but for the adjoctired and participled propensities of his jockey. Nevertheless, although most devout turfites agree with the emphatic duke, they do not idolise their dimiuutive fetishes a whit the less; they worship the mannikin with a touching and droll devotion, and when they know him to bo a confirmed scamp they admire hia cleverness, and try to find out which way the little rogue’s interest lies, so that they may follow him. So it comes about that we have amidst us a school of skinny dwarfs whose leaders are better paid than the greatest statesmen in Europe. Tho commonest jockey-boy in this company of mannikins can usually earn more than the average scholar or professional man, and tho whole set receive a good deal more of adulation than has been bestowed on any soldier, sailor, explorer, or scientific man of our generation. And what is the life history of the jockey ? A tiny boy is bound appren-
tire, ami submitted to tbe diaoiplino of a training stable; he goes through the long i online of morning gallops, trials, and an forth, ami when lie begins to show signs of aptitude he is put up to ride for his master in public. If he is a horn horseman, like Archer or Robinson, he may make his mark long before his indentures are returned to him, and he is at once surrounded by a horde of flatterers who do their best to spoil him. There is no cult so distinguished by slavishncss, by gush, by lavishness as jockeyworship, and a boy needs to have a strong head and sound, careful advisers, if lie is to escape becoming positively insufferable. When the lad Robinson won the St. Roger, after his horse had been left at the post, he was made recipient of the most frantic and silly toadyism that the mind can conceive ; the clover trainer to whom lie was apprenticed received Ll.oOO for transferring the little fellow’s services, and he is now a celebrity who probably earns a great deal more than Professor Owen or Mr Walter Besant. The tiny boy who won the Cesarewitch on Don Juan received LI ,000 after the race, and it must be remembered that this child had not left school. Mr Herbert Spencer has not earned LI,OOO by the works that have altered the course of modem thought; the child Martin picked up the amount in a lump, after he had scurried for less than five minutes on tlio back of a feather-weighted thoroughbred. As the jockey grows older and is freed from his apprenticeship ho becomes a more and more important personage. If his weight keeps well within limits ho can ride four or five races every day during the season, lie draws five guineas for a win and three for the mount, and he picks up an infinite number of unconsidered trifles in the way of presents, since the turfite, bad or good, is invariably a cheerful giver. The popular jockey soon has his carriages, his horses, lih valet, and his sumptuous house, Noblemen, millionaires, great dames, and men and women of all degrees conspire to pamper him, for jockey-worship, when it is once started, increases in intensity by a sort of gcomctiical progression. A shrewd man of the world may smile grimly when he hears that a popular rider was actually received with Royal honors and installed in the Royal box when he wont to the theatre during Ids honeymoon ; but there arc the facts. It was so, and the best people of the fine town in which this deplorable piece of toadyism was perpetrated wore tolerably angry at the time. If the sporting journalists perform their work of puffery with skill and care the worship of the jockey reaches a pitch that borders on insanity. If General Gordon had returned and visited such a place as Liverpool or Doncaster during a race meeting, he would not have been noticed by the discriminating crowd if Archer had passed along the street. If the Prime Minister were to visit any place of public resort while Watts or Webb happened to ho there, it is probable that His Lordship would learn something useful concerning the relative importance of Her Majesty’s subjects. I know for a fact that a cleverly-executed cartoon of Archer, Fordham, Wood, or Barrett will have at least six times as many buyers as a similar portrait of Professor Tyndall, Mr James Payn, M. Pasteur, Lord Salisbury, Mr Chamberlain, or anyone in Britain, excepting Mr Gladstone. Ido not know how many times the ‘ Vanity Fair ’ cartoon of Archer has been reprinted, hut I learn on good authority that, for years, not a single clay has been known to pass on which the caricature was not naked for. And now lot us bring to mind the plain truth that those jockeys are only uneducated and promoted stable-boys after all. Is it not a wonder that we can pick out_ a single honest man from their midst? Vast sums depend on their exertions, and they are surrounded by a hugecrowdofmoneyed men who will stand at nothing if they can gain their ends; their unbalanced, sharp little minds are always open to temptation; they see their brethren amassing great fortunes, and they naturally fall into line and proceed, when their turn comes, to grab as much money as they can. Not long ago the inland revenue officials, after minute investigation, assessed the gains of one wee creature at L9,0b0 per year. This pigmy is now twentysix years of age, and ho earned as much us the Lord Chancellor, and more than any other Judge, until a jury decided his fate by giving him what the Lord Chief Justice called “ a contemptuous verdict.” Another jockey paid income tax on LIO,OOO a year, and LI,OOO is not at all an uncommon sum to be paid merely as a retainer. Forty or fifty years ago a jockey would not have dreamed of facing his employer otherwise than cap in hand, but tbe value of stable-boys has gone up in the market, and Lear’s fool might now say : “Handy-Dandy! Who is your jockey now and who is your master ?” The little men gradually gather a kind of veneer of good manners, ami some of them can behave very much like pocket editions of gentlemen, but the scent of the stable remains ; and, whether the jockey is a rogue or passably honest, ho remains a stable-boy to tbe end. Half the mischief on the turf arises from the way in which these over paid spoilt menials can be bribed ; and certes there are plenty of bribers ready. Racing men do not seem able to shake oft the rule of their stunted tyrants. When the gentleman who paid income tax on Li), 000 a year brought the action which secured him the contemptuous verdict, the official handicapper to the Jockey Club declared on oath that the jockey’s character was “ns bad as bad can be.” The starter and a score of other witnesses followed in the same groove, and yet this man was freely employed. Why ? We may perhaps explain by inference presently.
(To he continued.)
A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7933, 14 June 1889
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