JOCKEY CLUB LEGISLATION.
[From the Saturday Review.]
The meeting of the Jockey Club at Newmarket has resulted in resolutions which go far to prove that the regulation of the Turf may be safely left in the hands to which it has hitherto belonged. Three rules have been adopted which promise to do much to remedy the abuses lately complained of in the House of Lords, and notice has been given for the next meeting of a proposal which would carry the much-needed work of Turf Reform to a point which we had scarcely ventured to think possible. The first of these new rules relates to what may seem a slight, but is really a very important matter. An addition of 3 lb. is to be made to the weight carried at the Derby, Oaks, St. Leger, and two or three other three-year-old races. At present the weight is Bst. 7lbs., and it will in future be Bst. lOlbs. The effect of this change will be that the best jockeys will be able to ride in these great races without making such painful and even dangerous efforts as they have often been obliged to do to bring themselves within the weight at which (heir competitors have been allowed to ride. It seems to be agreed that the limit of Bst. 71bs. stood just two or three pounds below the lowest point of weight which many jockeys found it possible to reach without impairing their strength, and even injuring their constitutions, by excessive wasting. A popular sporting writer, speaking of two celebrated ; jockeys, has put very forcibly the necessity for the change which has now been made : —
In physical power, Marson was the stronger of the two, as he was always able, from his alight make, to ride Bst. easily; while Butler ought never to have gone to scale for some seasons before his death under Ist. lOlbs., and wore and fretted himself away in getting off the other three pounds. And he proceeds to say that had the new superseded the Bst. 71b. rule, "which just crushes the heart out of many a jockey, we might, humanly speaking, have had Frank yet." It is not possible that the highest skill and experience should altogether counterbalance the loss of physical power and of steadiness of nerve produced by severe exercise and starvation. Some of the best jockeys either cannot ride at all in important races, or they do not ride so well as they would do if their energies were unimpaired; and sometimes their careers have been prematurely closed through the violent treatment to which they have subjected themselves at the opening of every season to get rid of the winter's growth of flesh. It is true that there have been and are many good jockeys, who, being very small and at the same time very strong, can ride easily at much less than the Deiby
weight, and who never throughout their careers are troubled with a pound of flesh that they need wish away. Thus we read, among the chronicles of bygone heroes, of Conolly and Pavis, " who had immense practice, both being able to ride under 7st. 81b. ;" and of Johnny Gray, " who could always ride Cst. 81b." On the other hand, we are told of Sam Day the elder, who was recalled from farming to the saddle, and for that purpose wasted from list. 61b. to 7st. 121b.; and of Sam Arnull, to whom "wasting was a sore burden," but who nevertheless " performed the unrivalled feat of knocking off 71b. in a single day," to qualify himself for a muchcoveted mount. Such things have been done in moments of enthusiasm, or at the bidding of inexorable necessity, for the jockey is apt to spend his money almost with the same speed at which he wins it ; but they can scarcely be done without risk of impaired health and vigour, and of consequent poverty, and even of untimely death. We have it on the authority of one who in his own line well understood horses and their management, we mean the elder Mr. Weller, that " width and wisdom always go together ;" and it is probably true that the mysteries of steering either one or four horses over difficult ground only begin to be thoroughly understood as the progress of years is marked, or, in the undisturbed course of nature, would be marked, by a slight lateral development of the steersman's person. Hence as the jockey's mental capacity for managing a great race grows, his physical inability to bring himself within the required conditions grows also, and he is pushed from his seat by younger men or boys, while the improvidence of his class too often causes him to feel acutely the force of Sir John FalstafFs wish that " his means were greater and his waist slenderer." But if we are right in thinking that many jockeys are like the famous Frank Butler, who could have ridden Bst. 101b. without the disastrous consequences which resulted from going three pounds lower, the new rule of the Jockey Club will do much to secure to the most deserving men the mounts to which they are able to do the fullest justice. So far, too, as this change affects the horses, it will be in favour of the soundest and most valuable breeds; and a more searching test of the quality of the three-year-olds which run in the greatest races, wjll certainly produce, in course of years, an improvement in English horses generally, for which, in spite of some assertions to the contrary, we venture to think that there is ample room.
Another of the new rules provides that no horse shall carry in any race a less weight than sst. 7lb. This is the same measure as was proposed by Lord Redesdale in the House of Lords, except that the mimimum named by him was 6st. Its most obvious effect will be to prevent races being ridden by little boys, and this will be for the benefit of the boys themselves, and also, of all persons present on race-courses, who are not unfrequently in danger from the inability of weak children to hold in the horses upon which, perhaps, they can stick with admirable tenacity. But ardent humanitarians must not think that this new rule is pure gain to their cause, because, undoubtedly, if all horses were ridden by men, there would be much more punishment. Boys, however willing, are scarcely able to use the whip as it is sometimes used by a man who thoroughly understands its management. Of course, the objection to this law of a minimum, if carried further, and even at its present point, is, that it tends to discourage handicaps, and this is an objection which some persons would rather say is an advantage. But the betting world demands plenty of handicaps and full fields of horses, as furnishing the best opportunities for its speculations. Those who think that mankind grow more wicked as time advances will be prepared to learn that handicaps have increased enormously during the last thirty years. Those, on the other hand, who believe in the moral and material progress of the human race will be perplexed on finding that railways cause handicaps, and that handicaps tempt to gambling. One chief reason of the increase of this sort of races is undoubtedly the facility with which horses are now transferred from one course to another, and the opportunity which would be thus offered to a few first-rate horses to sweep away all the prizes in the country if weight-for-age races had been instituted in the place j of all these handicaps. The object of handicapping of course is to equalize, as near as may be, the chances of horses of different degrees of merit, by weighting them according to their proved or supposed powers. If it be true, as is alleged, that the handicapper needs a range of five stone, the highest weight under the new law would be lOst. 71b., and the owner of a first-rate horse on whom such a weight should be imposed would probably do well to refuse to run him. But even under the present system, the finest horses of their years do not often run in handicaps, and therefore at the top of the scale there would be no great loss, while at the bottom there would be a great gain, by banishing from the race-course a sort of flashy feeble animals which are a disgrace to it. If some of the speculators upon the performances of these useless creatures could be banished also, the respectability of the turf would gain by it. "We conceive that this new rule, so far as it interferes with handicaps, interferes exactly where it ought. Lightweight racing is suited to the powers of the kind of horses which two-year-old racing is likely to produce. Thus the supporters of one part of a vicious system are also supporters of the other part. As the weights of handicaps are raised, breeders will find that forcing horses forward unnaturally does not pay them so well as it has been used to do ; and if the pecuniary inducement to this forcing were diminished, the course of those who seek to abolish it would be free from difficulty. Such a body as the Jockey Club could not longer refuse action in a matter where the real interests of horse-racing, as well as the public advantage, so urgently demanded some attempt at remedying an enormous evil.
It is provided by another rule that, so far as the power and the example of the Jockey Club extend, the practice of running yearlings shall be abolished. No step has yet been taken to restrain the running of two-year-olds, but notice has been given for a future meeting of the Club of a resolution that no two-year-old shall run iv any race before the Newmarket
July meeting, and also that no two-year-old shall run in any handicap. Thus the education of the young horse will be prolonged some two or three months, and this period, brief though it be, will not be unimportant in the life of an animal whose most important business iv the world has to be got through in about the same number of years. The exclusion of two-year-olds from handicaps is a considerable step in the direction of abolishing two-year-old running altogether. It is said that the void created at the Spring meetings by doing away with the two-year-old races must be supplied by offering prizes for older horses. We shall rejoice to see this done, and we trust that noblemen and gentlemen who run horses not so much to make money as to spend it in a splendid and popular way, will set the example of keeping horses in training to a later age than is now usual, or would be exactly convenient to those who look to horse-breeding for their livelihood. If the course of reform now entered on be steadily persevered in, we confidently predict that the country will hereafter get a much better return thau it now does for the vast sums lavished upon horseracing.
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