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A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7935, 17 June 1889
A HEAVY INDICTMENT.
THE ETHICS OF THE TURF.
[James Runciman in tiik ‘Contemporary.’]
(Continued.) THE RULE OF THE TURF,
With tliis cynically corrupt corps of jockeys and their hangers-on, it may easily bo seen that tho plutocrats who manipulate tho turf wires have an admirable time of it, while the great gaping mob of zanies who go to races, aud zanies who stay at home, are readily bled by the fellows who have the money aud tho “information” and the power. The rule of the turf is easily formulated : “ Get the better of your neighbor. Flay the game outwardly according to fair rules. Fay Hue a man if your calculations prove faulty, but take care that they shall be as seldom faulty as possible. Never mind what you pay for information if it gives you a point the better of other men. Keep your agents honest if you can, but if they happen to be dishonest under pressure of circumstances take care, at any rate, that you arc not found out.” In short,
THE RING is mainly made up of men who pay with scrupulous honesty when they lose, but who take uncommonly good care to reduce the chances of losing to a minimum. Are they in the wrong ? It depends. I shall not, at tho present moment, go into details; I prefer to pause and ask what can bo expected to result from tho wolfish scheme of turf morality which I have indicated. Ido not compare it with the rules which guide our host of commercial middlemen, because, if 1 did, I should say that tho betting men have rather tho best of the comparison. I keep to the turf, and I want to know what broad consequences must emanate from a body which organises plana for plunder and veils them under tho forms of honesty. An old hand—the Odysseus of racing—oucosaid tome: “No man on earth would ever be allowed to take LIOO.OOO out of tho Ring; they wouldn’t allow it, they wouldn’t. That young fool must drop all he’s got.” Wo were speaking about a youthful madman who was just then being plucked to tho last feather, and I knew that tho old turfite was right. The Fung is a close body, and I have only known about four men who ever managed to beat the confederacy in the long run. " There is one astute, taciturn, inscrutable organiser whom the bookmakers dread a little, because he happens to use their own methods; ho will scheme for a year or two, if necessary, until he succeeds in placing a horse advantageously, and ho usually brings off ids covi> just at the time when tho Ring least like it. “They don’t yell like that when one of mine rolls homo,” ho once said, while the bookmakers were clamoring with delight occr tho downfall of a favorite; and, indeed, this wily master of deceptions lias very often made the pencillers draw long faces. But the case of the Turf Odysseus is not by any moans typical; the man stands almost alone, and his liko will not bo seen again for many a day. Tho rule ia that
THE EACH Eli MI'ST COME TO GRIEF in the long run, for every resource of chicanery, bribery, and resolute keenness is against him. lie is there to be plundered ; it is his mission in life to lose, or how could the bookmakers maintain their mansions and carriages ? It matters little what the backer’s capital may be at starting, he will lose it all if he is idiot enough to go on to the end, for ho is fighting against unscrupulous legions. One well-known bookmaker coolly announced last year that he had written off three hundred thousand pounds of had debts. Consider what a man’s genuine business must bo like when ho can jauntily allude to three hundred thousands as a bagatelle by tiie way. That same man has means of obtaining “ information'’ sufficient to discomfit any poor gambler who steps into the Ring and expects to beat the bookmakers by downright above-board dealing. As soon as ho begins to lay heavily against a horse the animal is regarded as doomed to lose by all save the imbeciles who persist in hoping against hope. Last year this betting man made a dead set at the favorite for the Two Thousand Guineas. The colt was known to be the best of his year ; he was trained in a stable which has the best of reputations; his exercise was uninterrupted,and wore amateurs fancied they had only to lay heavy odds on him in order to put down L 3 and pick up L 4. Vet the inexorable bookmaker kept on steadily taking the odds; the more he betted the more money was piled on to the unbeaten horse, and yet few took warning, although they must have seen that the audacious financier was taking on himself an appalling risk. Well, the peerless colt was pulled out, and, on his way to the starting post, he began to shake blood and matter from his jaws ; ho would hardly move in the race, and when he was taken to his quarters a surgeon let out yet another pint of pus from the poor beast’s jaw. Observe that the shrewdest trainer in England, a crowd of stable hoys, the horse’s special attendant, the horse-watchers at Kingsclere, and the casual strangers who saw the favorite gallop all these know nothing apparently about that monstrous abscess, and no one suspected that the colt’s jaw had been splintered. But “ information” —always information—evidently reached one quarter, and the host of outsiders lost their money. Soon afterwards a beautiful colt that had won the Derby was persistently backed for the City and Suburban Handicap, On paper it seemed as it the race might he regarded as over, for only the last year’s Derby winner appeared to have a chance ; hut our prescient poncillcr cared nothing about paper. Once more he did not trouble himself about betting to figures; he must havo laiil bis book five times over before the flag fell. Then the nincompoops who refused to attend to danger signals saw that the beautiful colt which had spun over the same course like a greyhound only ten months before was unable to gallop at all. The unhappy brute tried fora time, and was then mercifully eased ; the bookmaker would have lost LIOO.OOO if his “information” had not been accurate, but that is just the urux it was. So admirably do the bookmakers organise their intelligence department that X hardly know more than three instances in which they have blundered after they really began to lay fiercely against a horse. They contrive to buy jockeys, stablemen, veterinary surgeons —indeed, Heaven alone can tell whom they do not subsidise. When Belladrum came striding from tho fateful hollow in front of Pretender, there was one “ leviathan ” bookmaker who turned green and began to gasp, for he stood to lose L 50.000; but the “leviathan” was spared tho trouble of fainting, for the hill choked the splendid Stockwcll horse, and “ information ” was once more vindicated, while Belladrum’a backers paid copious tribute. Just two years before tho leviathan had occasion to turn green our Turf Odysseus really did manage to deceive the great betting corporation with consummate skill. _ The whole business throws such a clear light on turf ethics that I may repeat it for the benefit of those who know little about our great national sport—the sport of kings. It was rumored that. Hermit had broken a blood vessel, and the animal was stopped for a little in his work. Then Odysseus and his chief confederate proceeded to seize their chance. The horse started at 1,000 to 15, and it seemed like 1,000,000 to 1 against
hinij for his rough coat had been lott on him, and ha looked a ragged equine invalid. The invalid won, however, by a neek, the Marquis of Hastings was ruined, and the confederates won about LI HO,OOO. As we go over these stories of plot and counterplot, it is hardly possible to avoid thinking what a singularly high-souled set of gentry we have got amongst. What ambitions ! To trick money out of somebody’s pocket ! To wager when you know that you have made winning certain 1 The outcome of it all is that, in the unequal battle between the men who back and the men who lay, the latter must win; they will win, even if they have to cog the dice on a piuch ; and, moreover, they will not be found out officially, even though their “secret” is as open as if it were written across the sky. A strange, hard, pitiless crew are these same BOOKMAKERS. Personally, strange to say, they are, in private life, among the most kindly and generous of men ; their wild life, with its excitement and hurry, and keen encounters of wits, never seems to make them anything but thoughtful and liberal when distress has to bo aided ; Lut the man who will go far out of his way to perform a charitable action will take your very skin from you if you engage him in that enclosure which is his battle ground, and ho will not bo very particular as to whether he wins your skin by fair means or foul. About two years ago an exasperating, soft-headed boy brought a colossal fortune into tho Ring. I never pitied him much ; I only longed to see him placed in tho hands of a good schoolmaster who knew how to use a birch, This piteous wretch, with his fatuous airs of sharpness, was exactly the kind of game that the bookmakers cared to fly at; he was cajoled and stimulated ; he was trapped at every turn ; the vultures flapped round him, and there was no strong, wise man to give the booby counsel or to drag him by main force from his fate. There was no pity for tho boy's youth ; he was a mark for every obscene bird of prey that haunts the turf; respectable betting men gave him fair play, though they exacted their pound of flesh ; the birds of night gave him no fair play at all. In a few short months he had poured a quarter of a million into tho bursting pockets of the Ring, and he was at last “ posted ” for the paltry sum of L 1,400. This tragic farce was not enacted in a corner; a hundred journals printed every act as it was played ; the victim never received that one hearty flogging which might have saved him, and the curtain was at last rung down on a snug, grinning group of bookmakers, a deservedly ruined spendthrift, and a mob of indifferent lookers-on. So minutely circumstantial were the newspapers that we may say that all England saw a gigantic robbery being committed, and no man, on the turf or off, interfered by so much as a sign. Decidedly the ethics of the turf offer an odd study for tho moralist; and, in passing, I may say that the national ethics are also a little queer. We ruin a tradesman who lots two men play a game at billiards for Gd on licensed premises, and we allow a silly boy to bo rooked of a quarter of a million in nine months, although the robbery is as well known as if it were advertised over the whole front page of ‘ Tho Times ’ day by day. (To It continued.)
A HEAVY INDICTMENT., Issue 7935, 17 June 1889
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