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THE TURF OF OLD.

(Prom "Chambers's Journal.") The first mention of racing in England occurs in Malmesbury, who speaks pf certain racers, or, as they were at first called,riinninghorses,being sent by Stugh, founder of tho royal House of Capetyias a present to King Athelstane, to whose sister he was paying court. Fit-stephen, secretary to Thomas-a-Becket, gives an account of Smithfield. races in the time of Henry 11., in Latin, which therefore can have afforded but limited pleasure to the sporting characters of that epoch. He ''speaks of- "earls, barons, and knights, as Well as tho masses of citizens'' being present, aud taking a great interest — which was probably a pecuniary one\— in the amusements in question. In Richards L's reign, we learn from the old metrical romance of Sir Bevis of Stampton that races were 'run for what were very large prizes for those days— Who that might ryde him Lthe winner] shoulrte Stave forty pounds of redy gbldo ; and in another ballad of tho same date, we hear of a sum of money asked, by poetical licence, for a racer such as scarce anybody of that time could have paid. LThe rhymer is speaking of races in the king's campTwo steedes found King Richard, That von fc'arell, that other Syard, ' Yn this worldo thoy had no pero, Dromedary, rabyto, ne cammele, Goeth nono so swift without fayle, For a thousand nounde of golde . He shoulde the one be some. Edward lll.— whatever sums he soldthem at—bought his race-horses much cheaper than Richard— namely, v at £13 6s. each, or about £160 in present value. The practice of racing seems to have gradually languished until the reign of James I, who gave five hundred pounds to Mr. Markham for an Arabian, probably the first ever introduced into this country. It was, however, very small, not well shaped, and was beaten in every race he ran. "In this reign, races were run for silver bells, at Croydon, Chester, and Theobalds, on Enfield Chase; and the ! food, physic, exercise, sweats, and weight (which wag usually ten pounds) began to be rigidly attended to." The first races at Newmarket were held under Charles I. in 1640, about which time they were also held in Hyde Park. From the poem of "Newmarket," in Durfey's collection, we learn that "this pursuit was not a whit more honest than it is to-day — Let jades that are foundered be bought ; Let jockeys play crimp to make. sport ; Another makes racing a trade, And dreams of his projects to come, And many a crimp match has made By bubbhig [bribing] another man's groom. Burton, in his " Anatomy of Melancholy," touches also on this matter, speaking of horse-races and wild-goose [steeple] chases as being " disports of great men, though many by such means do gallop themselves out of their fortunes." Oliver Cromwell, some folks will be surprised to learn, kept a racing stud, and his Master of the Horse, Mr. Place, imported the Arabian White Turk. It was in Charles ll.'s time, however, that that famous importation of eastern blood took place, which has made our racers what they are. He not only kept running-horses but founded many annual plates. The Darley. Arabian, sire of Childers, was brought to this country in the reign of Queen Anne ; and the Godolnhin Arabian in 1724. This latter' animal was first imported into France from Barbary, a present (it is supposed) from the Emperor of Morocco to Louis XIV. ; but so little w^he valued in Paris that -he was a-ttt-J^*emproyed"ih''"draugfitr Every superior English racer partakes of Ms valuable blood. He died at HogMagog, in Cambridgeshire, in the twentyninth year of his age, and is buried there in a covered passage leading to his stable, with a flat stone without any inscription, sence epitapli he did not need. In all the prints of the day, he is represented with his faithful feline friend — the cat, that pined to death for the loss of him. These Arabians, however, are much less celebrated for what they did themselves than for the feats of the progeny which they begat. The illustrious Flying Childers (got by the Darley Arabian out of Betty Leeds, a mare said to have produced no other offspring), a chestnut horse, white on his nose, and with four white legs, was foaled in 1715. He was the fleetest horse that ever ran at Newmarket, or probably anywhere else, and was never beaten. Eclipse was also a chestnut (got by Marske out of Spiletta), foaled during the freat eclipse of 1764, from which he took is name. He also was never beaten, and has the reputation of having been second in speed to Flying Childers only. He was the first horse that ever travelled in a van, but this was as a stallion, arid when his racing-days were over : in his youth, he was by no means a pampered animal. His temper was so terrible that it was thought impossible that he could ever be brought to the post. On this account, he was placed under a rough-rider at Epsom, a poacher by profession, who frequently kept the horse out all night ; but in spite of this discipline, his jockeys never attempted to hold him, contenting themselves with sitting quiet upon the saddle. In his first race — there were four-mile heats in thoso days — though the horses were all together at the three-mile post, he distanced the whole of them, though pulled with the whole strength his rider could exert ; yot he had not been struck, but only alarmed by a flourish of the whip. Eclipse is generally believod to have covered eighty-three i'eet of ground in a second when at the top of his pace, or about twenty- five feet at a single stride. Flying Childers, it is said, covered the same ground, but performed still more wonderful feats of speed. Carrying nine stone two pounds, he ran over tho round course at Newmarket (three miles, six furlongs, and ninety-three yards in length) in six minutes and forty seconds; and also over the Beacon course (four miles, one furlong, and 138 yards) in seven minutes and a half. These instances seem to be well authenticated, and though published with every detail at tho time, do not seem to have been denied. Racehorses of the present day, however, it is certain, cannot accomplish such marvels, to whatever reason — such as the being mn too young, whereas Childers and Eclipse did not appear in public until five years old — their inferiority may be ascribed. Nevertheless, if beaten by their forefathers, they cannot be vanquished' by the pffsprmg of any foreign stock. For instance, on tho 4th of August, 1825, two second-rato English racers, Sharper and Mina, contended against the much celebrated Cossack horses from the Don, the Black Sea, and ' the Ural, in a race of the cruel distance of forty-seven miles. "At starting, Sharper and Mina ran away with their riders more than a mile, and up a very steep hill, where the latter horse broke down, : and was pulled, up. Half the distance was run in an hour and forty minutes. In the last half, only one of the many Cossack horses who started was able to contend with Sharper, who, notwithstanding every -. '■ foul advantage was taken,, by changing the weight, and even dragging along his opponent with a rope, won his race in gallant sgtyle, 1 perforating the *listja_cce in two hours fand forty-eight, niinutesj y'iAt starfog^the

English horses carried three stone more weight than the Cossacks' ; and during the last half of the race, the one Cossack that 'remained in it was ridden by a mere child." Thus much oftho horses that advanced the British Turf of old : we will now mention a few particulars of the Men, foi\ which, as for much of the preceding, we are indebted to Mr. James Christie Whyte's " History of the British Turf," a very exhaustive treatise of. tho Subject upto 1840. In spite, however, of our author's invectives against " that numorous' class whom, in common charity, I will call misled fanatics.." who arc always vituperating the national pursuit of horse-racing, it must be confessed that, as, a rule, people who have much, to do with the Turf arc loose in their morals, and that the patrons thereof are frequently not much better than those that make it a, means of livelihood ;. ancl it is amply proved by his own shewing, that matters were no better of old in this respect than they are now. Trcgonwcll Frampton, Ejsq., keeper of the runing-horses to their majesties William 111., Queen Anne, George 1., and George IL, is the gentleman who is generally spoken of as the Father of the British Turf; and, like other offspring, seems to have inherited the paternal vices. Frampton's career was marked by various singular and by no means creditable transactions, the most notorious of which was • that connected with the running of his horse Dragon against a certain celebrated mare for ten thousand pounds. The proceedings throughout were marked by unparalleled cruelty to the unfortunate Dragon, which fell dead almost immediately after the race. In No. 37 of the " Adventurer," in particular, he got castigated as he deserved by Dr. Hawksworth. It is not likely, however, that the Father of the British Turf was veiy sensitive to literary satire. Merlin, a northern horse, was on one occasion, matched against one of this man's stud, and the matter excited great interest and much betting between the gentry of the north and south. Frampton's groom was instructed to represent to Hesletine, the groom of the rival animal, that if a private trial could be arranged between the horses, which wero both in training near Newmarket, they might make their fortunes. Hesletine refused, but in such a manner as to give hope to the Father of the British turf. In the mean time, the former wrote to his own master, who replied that he might accept the offer in question, only that he was to be sure to let Merlin carry seven pounds more weight than was agreed upon. Mr. Frampton's proposal was then closed with, ancl. lie also gave the same identical instructions respecting his own horse. The trial-race accordingly took place at equal weights, though each party thought otherwise, and resulted in Merlin's winning by one length: only, after a hard struggle. This being communicated to each owner, their confidence in their respective steeds was redoubled. On the one side, it was said, since my horse was only beaten by a length when carrying seven pounds extra, he must win at even weights ; while by those ou the other, it was argued, since my horse won by a length, although he carried seven pounds extra, his victory is a certainty. The news of the trial, too, having oozed out, each party was as confident as the owners, the south country gentlemen observing to their rivals that " they would bet them gold whilst gold they had, and then they would sell their land." The race was of courso won by Merlin; and in vebrtsequercce- of the ruin that overtook many of the losers, a law was passed against the recovery of any sum of money, betted for the future, which shonld exceed ten pounds. No doubt, the same lamentations concerning the decay of the nobility and landed gentry, through gambling on the Turf, were heard on that occasion as at present ; and indeed, one who took notes afc Newmarket during Queen Anne's reign tells exactly the same story that might have been told by a visitor to almost any race-course of the present day. "Being there in October," (says this ancient chronicler), " I had tlie opportunity to see the races, and a great concourse of the nobility and gentry, as well from London as all parts of England ; but they were all so intent, so eager, so busy upon the sharping part of the sport, their wagers, their bets, that to me they seemed just so many horse-coursers in Smithfield; descending, the greatest of them, from their high dignity and quality, to the picking one another's pockets, and biting one another as much as possible, and that with so much eagerness, that it might be said they acted without respect to faith, honor, or good-manners." " On the Bth of May, 1785, died John Pratt, Esq., of Askrigg, in Wensleydale, perhaps tlie next most remarkable turf character'to Frampton, in point of time, and interesting beyond the limits of the " Fancy," as having afforded a most ingenious and witty epitaph, iv which his favourite racehorses and their performances are introduced : — " Various and wonderful were the means that enabled him, with unsullied reputation, to support his Course of life, in which he saw and experienced many Trials, and many vicissitudes of fortune, and though often hard pressed, whipped, and spurred by that jockey, Necessity, he never swerved out of the course of Honour. Once, when his finances were impaired, he received a seasonable supply by the performance of a Miracle. At different periods, he exhibited, which were just • emblems of his own life, a Conundrum, an Enigma, and a Riddle; and, strange to tell, even these enriched his pocket. Without incurring censure, he trained up an Infidel, which turned out to his advantage.-* He had no singular partiality for flowers, shrubs, fruit, or birds, yet for several years he maintained a Florist, and his Red Rose more than once obtained the premium. He had a Honeysuckle and a Pumpkin, which brought hundreds into his purse, and a Phccnix, a Nightingale, a Goldfinch, aud a Chaffinch, which produced him thousands. In the last war, he was owner of a Privateer, which brought him in several valuable prizes. Though never famed for gallantry, a Virgin, a Maiden, an Orange-girl, and a Bal-lad-singer, besides several Misses. [Miss Sims, Miss Lightfoot* &c] wero among those to whom his attachment was notorious ; and what was still more a Paradox, though he was childless, yet the numerous progeny of these very females proved to nun a source of supply. With all his peculiarities and foibles, he retained his Purity till a. few days before his death, when his Prince thought it no • diminution of royalty to obtain so valuable an acquisition by purchase; yet his honour and good name remained untarnished to the end of his life." We are not sure that the foregoing epitaph is not the very best thing that the ?ractice of horseracing has given to us. t certainly might have omitted, with advantage, the gift of Dennis O 'Kelly, Esq., .who may be set down as the third Turf worthy.. This astute adventurer, seems to have been the ;first owner ' of horses who ' retained a jopiey by "annual . stipend to !"• 'Tide : for hiiiiseit, onlj^ /a precantwn in. which lie doubtless fouhd liis advantage. ; While- making this nOvel 'engagement, tho i jockey wasca littlcd puzzled- when 0 'Kelly i; 'stipulated that he was not toridfeJor_any_

ofthe " black-legged fraternity." So his new master thus explained himself. " Who do I mane ? Why there's the Duke of Grafton, the Duke of Dorset, and all the set of. thaves that belong to tho humbug societies and bug-a-boo clubs ;" into which (such as the Jockey Club) Dennis O'lvelly, Esq., was denied admittance. This man was the ownor of Eclipse, and once, when the best horses of the year were entered at Newmarket against the noble animal, he offered ton lo ono that lie posted the whole of them : this bet being taken to an immense amount, he, being called upon to deolare, pronounced "Eclipse firsthand rest liowhere ;" implying that his horso would distanco all his rivals, which he accordingly did, the rider having received instructions to go oIT at score. Among the racing ana, communicated by Mr. Whyto, is a curious accident which occurred at Ascot in 1793. A horse had gained the summit of the hill, whon he suddenly, fiilt,ered," and, with the shock, threw his rider tb a considerable distance, though without falling himself. On examination, it * was discovered that both his fore-legs were broken, aud that ho had galloped over eighteen yards on the stumps, when he made a dead stop. It was supposed that the hardness of the ground dislocated the fetlock joint of the off-leg, and afterwards, in running-kt full speed, the near leg was broken just above the joint. ; About the same time, an action was brought against, a /man for striking a racehorse while it was running, and causing it thereby to lose the race, an almost unprecedented offence, and one which would be very dangerous to commit in these days,,, although much worse things are done in secret, such as physicking and even poisoning " crack" horses. This last is 'not, however, exclusively a modern crime, In July, 1810, one Daniel Dawson was hung at Cambridge for poisoning thoroughbreds. He suffered under what was called the Black Act, passed in George I.'s reign; but it is not surprising, at a time when property was held in so much greater estimation than human life, that the capital penalty was inflicted. The money dependent upon races was even then enormous (though the gambjing of to-day is much heavier), nor did the income derived from a first- class horse by any means cease with its public running. Mr. Fenwick, of Bywell, cleared, for instance, by Match'em, as a stud-horse, the enormous sum of seventeen thousand pounds. On the 25th August, 1804, a very remarkable fOur?mile race took place on Knavesmire racecourse, between the wife of Colonel Thornton on Yingorillo, and Mr. Flint on Volunteer, for fifteen hundred guineas. There were a hundred thousand people to see it, and the 6th Dragoons kept the ground. "It was difficult to say whether the lady's horsemanship, her dress, or ber beauty was most admired." She wore a* leopard-coloured body, with blue sleeves; her vest was buf£ her cap --was blue. She took the lead for three niiles, and would have won, but that her saddle turned round through tho slackening ofthe girths. At York races the. next -year, however, she redeemed her laurels, receiving a thousand guineas forfeit from Mr. Branford, and beating the great jockey, Buckle, hi a two-mile race for five hundred guineas. Dressed in a purple cap and waistcoat, with nankeen-colored skirts, " which, being short, shewed her embroidered stockings and purple shoes," she was rapturously applauded when, after a severe struggle, . she lauded her horse a winner Uy half a. neck. - It was no wonder that the lady was incited to poetry by this achievement ; but the lines are scarcely worthy of the occasion, as may be gathered from the concluding stanza : My pleasure alone that sensation defines Which the Laplander courts from the breeze of the south, When I saw my Buck distanced, and dashed up the lines With my mare hard in hand, and my whip in my mouth. This victory must, however, liave had. its allojs at all events for her husband, from tho circumstance of liis having beon horsewhipped immediately after the race by Mr. Flint, on account of some pecuniary difficulty connected with the less successful event of the previous year. The simple fact seems to be, however folks may wish it otherwise, that transactions on the turf, whether of old or of today, have but too frequently something disreputable about them. The Prince Regent himself was not above tho suspicion of sharping, and in consequence of a certain race at Newmarket in 1791 — where a horse of his own was beaten, although he defeated the same competitor tho next day with ease — he withdrew from the turf for several years. No better, indeed, can be said of such a profession than that, like War, it is a necessary evil. Perhaps, also like it, it may new and then produce a virtue. " Confederates" ofthe racecourse do not invariably betray ono another ; some of them are faithful evon to the end. Old Sykes the trainer, when on a sick bed, and softened by illness, sent these parting words of advice to an old friend : " I have done many in my time, Tommy,, but never did you ; don't be agin' Merlin for the Leger."

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Bibliographic details

Hawkes Bay Herald, Hawke's Bay Herald, Volume 12, Issue 900, 14 December 1867

Word Count
3,366

THE TURF OF OLD. Hawke's Bay Herald, Volume 12, Issue 900, 14 December 1867

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