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ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DERBY.

(From the "Saturday Review.")

During the dull months of winter which intervene between the close of one racing season and the beginning of another, the sporting newspapers occupy themselves in discussing the pretensions of various candidates for the honor of being made favorites for the Derby. The language in

which these discussions nre carried on seems to imply that it is necessarily an advantage to a horse, or his owner, to make the horse a favorite; whereas there is in geueral no more modestly disposed merit than that of the possessor of a promising Derby colt, although it is usually impossi--1 ble to avoid that publicity which entails the disagreeable consequence of shortening the odds obtainable about the animal, i Considering that in frosty weather there are not even training gallops to afford even the most minute scrap of news as a basis for speculation, there must at times be absolutely nothing except the transactions of the market and the statistics of last seasons to occupy all the minds which, in every corner of the kingdom, are engaged in study of the chances of the Derby. The widespread interest of the subject may be estimated by observing >he laborious and prolonged discussion which it undergoes. The principal materials for this discussion are the recorded public running of horses which have been " out," the writers' own recollections and estimates of the looks and per formances of these horses, the reports more or less authentic of private trials of " dark" horses, and lastly, the movements of the market, especially those which are supposed to originate with owners, trainers, and others who have access to authentic information as to the doings in particular stables. There could be no more certain and speedy road to fortune than to discover beforehand the destined winner of the Derby, and therefore it is not wonderful that so much time and pains should be devoted to this investigation. At the present moment, however, the most diligent explorers confess that they have accomplished very little. Judicious critics stop considerably short of absolute preference for any candidate, and it would seem .that either prophesying is more difficult or prophets have grown more cautious than in former years. It may be interesting to state briefly some of the' results which can be derived from these investigations, and then to consider the limitations under which such results may be prudently adopted as trustworthy conclusions. It should be noted, in the first place, that out of 234 horses engaged in the Derby, 146 have exhibited themselves in public. It is generally admitted that Pflle de lAir has shown a clear superiority over all these 146 horses. Some critics consider that, besides the French filly, Union Jack, who like her is not entered for the Derby, has proved himself better than any known horse in it. These critics are disposed to look to the "dark " division for the winner, although they do not forget that the experience of former years is strongly against this expectation. Enough is known of two of the "dark" horses, Blair Athol, and Forager, to cause their respective train-ing-grounds to be watched throughout the winter by many curious eyes. Nobody who has seen Blair Athol can find a fault inj him, whereas Forager does not please all critics. But why should Blair Athol's owner have paid forfeit for him in nine two-year-old engagements ? Surely, if he is what he looks, he might at least have paid for his keep during the past year. Mr I'Anson's horses have not usually to complain of too much repose. The native report is that no such flyer has been seen on Langton Wold since West Australian. The natives so report; but, . It is impossible to find anything more to say about the horse, except that his owner doubtless knows his own business better than other people. As regards Forager, he is in the same stable as Lord Clifden, and therefore, although the public may be in doubt, his owner, Lord St. Vincent, has good means of calculating how near he comes to the measure of a Derby winner. Looking now to public form, it is to be observed that several critics agree in questioning the right of Mr Merry's Scottish Chief to the place which he lately held of first favourite. He came out well at Ascot, winning in good style up a severe hill, but he had nothing particular behind him. He was beaten at Newmarket by Cambuscan and Midnight Mass. Lie won at Newmarket. He wa*. beaten by Fille de lAir in a canter at Goodwood, Why should he be a better horse than Ely, whose turn it will be to be mentioned presently ? Why should he be preferable to Midnight Mass, who beat him at Newmarket, and who has run ten races during the season and won five of them ? Yet the public have been taking 10 to 1 about Scottish Chief for the Derby, while they would not have Midnight Mass at any price at all. Doubtless there is fashion in racing, as in other things. , The performances of Mr Ten Broeck's Paris ought to make him nearly if not quite first favourite, but a doubt is thrown out whether he can stay the Derby course. He beat Linda twice at Goodwood, beating in her best day "a filly who is almost as good as Fille de l'Air. No horse in the Derby has done anything to surpass this. The question as to Camhuscan's ownership appears to be sattled, at least to this extent, that his present trainer is not likely to be changed. It will •be remembered that this is the horse which

was sold off with others, by Lord Stamford, in disgust at the disappointments of a season in which he had been by far the greatest winner of stakes, having won upwards of L 20,000. The auction produced a dispute, which has ended by constituting Captain White ostensible owner of the horse, although it is asserted that Lord Stamford has still an interest in him. ' Cambuscan beat Scottish Chief at New--1 market, and he won another race, and he 1 never lost one. But it is questitned in

some quarters whether he is sound enough to bear a-' preparation for the Derby. Historian won the Levant Stakes at Goodwood easily, and he has done nothing else either good or bad. Ely beat, at Doncaster, both Fille de lAir and Linda, doing the best thing that had been done up to that time. But two days afterwards Coast Guard beat him thoroughly. At Newmarket, in the Criterion, Fille de lAir took her full revenge upon him. In two other races of less importance he was the winner. Hewasbeaten at Winchester earlier in the season. Thus he has run six times and won thrice. Surely these performances are at least as good as Scottish Chiefs' and there can be no question of Ely's stoutness, but still he has been at more than thrice Scottish Chief's price. Coast Guard beat Prince Arthur at Beverley. He won a race and lost a race at York. He beat, at "Poncaster, Prince Arthur, Ely, and Fille de l'Air. This was a great performance, but against it must be set his complete defeat by Fille de lAir in the Criterion. Coast Guard is in Mr Naylor's stable, and so is another Derby horse, Apennine, of whose performances it is unnecessary to speak particularly. As Mr Naylor also owns Linda, he has good means of trying his two Derby horses. If he can make them as good as Linda, he may hope to win the Derby for the second time, but scarcely otherwise. It seems to be agreed that Claremont is the best horse in John Scott's stable, and if Blair Athol justifies the fears rather than the hopes which have been expressed concerning him, it 13 not improbable that Claremont will be the strongest representative of Yorkshire in the Derby. At the present moment itmust be admitted that Prince Arthur, who is in another Yorkshire stable, has far surpassed Claremont's performances ; but the effect seems to have been to convince the critics that the exact measure of Prince Arthur, is a good horse not quite good enough for the Derby, whereas they admit a difficulty in estimating the degree of improvement of which Claremont is capable. Lord Glasgow's lot provokes from year to year the criticism that half a dozen moderate horses do not make one good one. The public are bound to acknowledge his Lordship's kindness in enabling them to discuss the pretensions of the " colt by Brother to Bird on the Wing out of Physalis" under the more compendious designation of the First Flight. This colt, having won the Prendergast at Newmarket, was sure to be talked about if only he could obtain a handy name. Another colt, by Young Melbourne, out of Knowsley's dam, is remembered by all who noticed his magnificent appearance at Doncaster when he ran a match with Beloochee. Any honors which the future may have in store for the colt will be associated with the name of General Peel. The performances of Birchbroom scarcely warrant the attention which he receives. Idler is in the same stable with Paris, and the supposition that he is a better horse is only likely to be entertained by those excessively clever people who always disbelieve what they see. The conclusion of the whole matter appears to be that Coast Guard, Paris, and Camhuscan have performed better than Scottish Chief, Ely, Prince Arthur, Apennine, Claretnont, Birchbroom, and Idler. As Historian has only performed once, he may be better than he is known to be. Another horse who has only appeared once, Coup d'Etat, gained considerable confidence by his good looks, but it seems to be agreed that he is now amiss. As regards Ackworth, Baron Rothschild's Calista colt, and some other horses, which are believed in net because of their performances, but in - spite of them, it is impossible to offer any useful, observation. On the whole, there are but three horses —namely, Coast Guard, Paris, and Cambuscan—about whom there is anything like a general consent that they have shown themselves good enough to meet whatever may turn up among the "dark" division. Of these three horses, Paris is suspected to be deficient in staying power, and it is doubted whether Cambuscan can stand training; so that there remains uuimpeached only Coast Guard, regarding whom the most conspicuous fact is that Fille de lAir gave him a thorough beating in the Criterion. Perhaps, after all, the public may as well bring Scottish Chief back to his old price. It now remains to add some qualifications which must have the effect of still further reducing the very small amount of confidence which can be placed in any anticipations of the Derby put forward at the present early period. Admitting that public running is the best criterion that j can be applied to horses that have been ! " out," it is very far indeed from being conclusive. The winter which a colt passes between his two-year-old and three-year-old seasons is perhaps the most trying period of his life. No two horses require exactly the same amount of work, and it is in regulating the exercise according to the individual requirements of the animal that the trainer's skill is shown. Overtraining is, perhaps, the most dangerous error which can be committed. It is not at present an uncommon error in the treatment both of men and horses. When a colt's legs and feet stand strong exercise well the temptation is very great to put him to harder work than his constitution can bear, and the injury inflicted in this manner upon a young horse may be irretrievable. Many a fair second-class colt has been sacrificed in this way, because he was unable to do work equal to that of the flyer of his stable whom he accompanied in his gallops. Some horses again do not possess legs and feet equal to their constitutions, and with these the trainer finds his most difficult work. Many of the most successful trainers always like to run their young horses a little above themselves; for, as they rightly argue, • " How can you expect to get anything out of a horse if you leave nothing in him?" Besides past performances,, two "'considerations usually influence the position which a Derby colt occupies in the betting. One is the knowledge, however obtained,, of work the'animal is doing ; the other is. the amount of money invested on him by his owners and friends It is the practice with many backersof horses always to follow the stable "money. The great mistake which appears to pervade the minds of these speculators is, that they suppose the event of a race capaole of being things, impossible. If some observations of Admiral Rous on this subject before a Committee of the House of Commons received due attention, the business of racing prophecy would be much less prosperous than it is. "Some persons think," said the Admiral, "that racing is reduced^ to a great nicety; .but the more persons are conversant with horses, the more they will know of the uncertainty of racing." The spirit-rappers might perhaps turn their attention "advantageously' to the : forthcoming Derby. It would,'for example, be convenient to be informed on credible

authority, supernatural or otherwise, whether Blair 'Athoi's le<>;s au ! fvc-'t will stand severe -vorlc. But-perhaps shore fire no spirits sufficiently <.;ross and mundane to have anything to say to horse-i.r.iir^, and if. may be necessary to wait until the Derby in order to know what horse vvill win it.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DERBY., Otago Daily Times, Issue 708, 25 March 1864

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2,279

ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DERBY. Otago Daily Times, Issue 708, 25 March 1864

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