AN AUSTRALIAN AT EPSOM ON DERBY DAY.
(Melbourne Age Special Correspondent.)
Wednesday, May 28,1884, is a day that will long live in the memory of those whose privilege it was, like mine, to be present on. the farfamed Epsom Downs to witness the second dead heat ever run for the English Derby, the other occasion being over half a century ago, when Cadland and the Colonel finished so close :together that the judge could not separate them. Those are, I believe, rightly spoken of as the "good" old days of sport, for then the question of dividing "the money" was nn-.. thought of, the ambition of sportsmeri of the old school being to achieve the' honour- of winning the blue garland. On the present occasion, however, the public were not left many moments in doubt, and, indeed, it is.generally; believed that so well pleased were the respective parties at pulling.off 50 per cent, of the good thing, that the only fear of each was that the other would insist upon a run off.. After! the Two Thousand had been run;a month previously, Harvester became a warm public favourite, and continued so -until some few days before the race, when it was announced that the colt had met with ariinjury'that bad necessitated -his" being [ eased in ' his work. Archer, who was, to have steered the son. of Sterling, relinquished the mount, arid "hiiri--dreds to six " were offered. As the presiding geniuß of the stable is acknowledged to bs one of the riiost astute racing men on the turf, it ;is natural enough that,-since the memorable 28th, .allusion has been made to' the "clever" coup effected ; but although the injury or its extent was no doubt enormoujly exaggerated, there is every reaßon to believe that when the stable put the dollars so heavily on Queen Adelaide they looked upon Harvester as alpiost " a dead un," and that.bis speedy recovery and capital performance were as surprising as; they were agreeable. However, it is not so-much the history of tho race, which has already reached you, that I intend to.touch upon as the surroundings of the'scene, and the impression formed by them upon a visitor fresh from an antipodean racing experience.
.. Thanks to the very kind attention of- a brother pressman, Mrj Martin Cobbett, who visited Australia with the Hon. Ivo Bligh's cricketing team, and whose kindness I shall long remember, my visit to Ep3om : was made under exceptionally pleasant.circumstances. Sleeping under Mr Cobbett's hospitable roof-at Ewell the night before the battle, the" road claimed my attention at an early hour in the morning. That the traffic from London had commenced the night before I cau affirm from personal observation, having, in company with my host, pasaed numbers of persons " padding the hoof " as we walked from the E well station at midnight, many on tho road quick and'ready with some jocular (no pun-meant) allusion'to the great race, and others camped for' the night on the roadside, ready to start again at sunrise. Notwithstanding the increased facilities of late years offered by the railway companies, the road to Epsom is as .'popular "as ever, and more enjoyable even than of yore/for whilst good-natured chaff is the order of tho day, the brainless shooters of peas and throwers of flour-bags are yearly decreasing iri'number. The well-equipped four-in-hand drag is conspicuous at every turn in the road, but I doubt if one of its occupants ia happier than the male occupant of the Newport cart, who, with his sweetheart by his tide, touches the pony gently as the four bays come alongside, and challenges their pace for a stride or two. - Happy faces peer through the open windows of omnibuses, whilst hata bedecked with blue,,green, arid yellow gauze veils adorn the roof; .the gay and festive " coster," no doubt persuading himself that the moke is enjoying the holiday too, spins along in: company with "his gal" or ".the missus"; whilst the one of all that motley throng who \ seems/ to bo least1 OQJoying himself ia the'city clerk, who, iv hose and knickerbockers,: traverses I that dusty road on a bicycle, arid whoso [ anxious countenance plainly shows his appreciation of the danger that would amidat all that confusion attend a by no-means improbable spill. Having thoroughly enjoyed the animated scene for about an hour, we strike across the fields to Epsom, distant about, a mile and a-half, and there piok up' the editor, of the Sporting Life (Mr Blake) and a couple - of friends. Through the courtesy: of Lord Roaobery, we are provided with cards which enable us to pass through his lovely estate, The Durdans, formerly the property;of Squire Hethcote, an old sportsman of the true grit, and owner of Amatos,_who won tho Derby in '3S, and whose grave is marked by a slab of granite bearing the name of the long-departed equine celebrity. A lovely spot indeed is this, in close proximity to tbe course, rich in luxuriant pastures and woodlands of rare boaui}', through which we stroll quietly, and emerge in close proximity to " thopaddock." An agreeable surprise awaits ua, for suddenly, " far from the madding crowd,"- we drop upon no less an illustrious trio than Harvester, Queen Adelaide, and St. Medard taking walking exercise. A grander-looking filly than Hermit's daughter one might search for in vain throughout the Kingdom, and although apparently-short of a gallop or two, I was by no means surprised at the continued confidence in her expressed by two of tho party, who bad stuck to her from the first. I confess that my fancy, was for ono who finished far behind her in' the race.—St. Medard, a cocky-booking littlo fellow, and to all appoarauce likely to leavo thoae dicky-looking foro logß of Harveator's far in tho rear if the paco down hill is a crackor. Alas ! howevor, for turf prognosticators, St, Medard got blocked hopolessly after passing Tottenham Corner, Tho handsome favourite with feminine pervoraity took it into her beautiful hoad to run unkindly just at the most important moment of her whole career. . Harvester's fore legs bore out tho truth of the old saying, "Handsonio is that hand3omo does," and the well-abused St. Gatien,(whose paternity
even was wrapt in mjrstery," beat everything but the reported cripple, who finished-with him.
, A stranger's feeling on Derby day muat, I think bo that tho show ia too big an imposing spectacle, beyond doubt; but a pleasurable experience? No. From a racim? point of ■viewalone, an Australian mußtbe disappointed i.- £ !l? , of a curse full of inequalitiea, en which the horaea run down a hill and round a sharp corner into a straight, which is on a sideways incline. It may certainly be accepted as a fact that nothing is more likely to make an Australian appreciate Flemington than a visit to Epsom on Derby day. A spectator who is fortunate enough to see the finish can (even from the moat favourable coign of vantage) see little else, and I am firmly satisfied that if there lives one man who can truthly -affirm that he has seen the race from start to finish, he muat have nd«en■ >n it, and in a small field been " a good last all tne way. In company with my friends who knew the run of the ropes, I took up mv poartionat Tottenham Corner, and to one who at Flemington is accustomed td view a race like the Melbourne Cup, with: a three-fold larger field, from such a favourable position as_ enables you to read it from end to end, it was a novel and amusing experience to. hear such remarks (from the thoroughly initiated mark you) as "I think they must have Btarted, " I'm sure they're off," and so on. • One advantage I certainly did gain through visiting the famous corner, and that was the sight.of a wonderful rush made by Archer to which no allusion was made in any description of the race that has come under my notice. Toe crack had made a mistake in taking an inside berth,when in the ruck, and was^ shut clean out, but when fairly in the !/*#'■ he brought the little- horse — ot. Medard—through a.cluster like the artißt no. no doubt is, but. died away again immediately. I say " mado a mistake " advisedly, for the Epsom straight-going slopes down towards the ,outer rails from the stand side making it a matter of the greatest difficulty to get away from them.unlesa in the lead. I had an opportunity of seeing Archer ride twice later in the day, and I never saw two men sit' a .horse so similarly aa he and Mick O'Brien— the same loose and unattractive seat before the real work commences, which changes to the model of the real artist when the actual tug of war begins. It is hard, however, to believe that even the great Fred, is so superior' as many people say to such men as Charlie Wood and Tom Cannon, the last named of whom afforded me a treat by the way in which he won bis race on Narcissa, as perfect a piece of riding as could be imagined. ." . ; As I have before suggested, the Bhow at Epsom has grown and.grown until it has at length assumed unwieldy, proportions and beaten the resources of the management. Making allowance for this, however, it must be also allowed that in very many respects there is more discomfort in the various enclosures than need.be. Fancy, for instance, working your, way from the topi of . the grand stand ,'doWii through its several tiers/ through exit passages positively too narrow for two people to walk abreast. The jockeys are not nearly so_ well provided for as'at Flemington, and it is fortunate for my good' friend ' Asmodeus" and his contetnporaries that the Press accommodation at Flemington was not arranged on tbe cramped .and inconvenient model which might have been fourid'at Epsom. The, paddock,. however, would delight the ■hearts of Australian owners and trainers, and muat soon, I am sure, be encroached upon for accomiriodatio'n for the people who at present in the grand.stand enclosure Btahd packed like anchovies in a barrel. , ' • j ,y'■ One missea Mr Byron Moore's neat and handy, little book while attempting to fold without splitting the only card published, a huge ugly thing about-10 inches long, smothered' all over the back with advertisements, showily printed in bright blue ink. The fun, however, to be enjoyed by the people who are not cribbed, cabined,, and confined in the expensive enclosures can hardly be. exaggerated, and on all sides are placarded attractive side-Bhows, with huge signs representing fat women, giants, dwarfs, cannibals, and other attractive monstrosities. Your London showman is, I must admit, hard to beat,.and is an adept, at tickling popular taste, his exquisite knowledge of which is ovidericed at; Epsom by such suggestive notices outside his tent as "No ladies admitted." Surely this can only mean that the show is a little naughty in some respect; so evidently reason the crowd, who pay their pennies, and'who were, I noticed, invariably thick where a notice such as this suggested the' exhibition of something which- ought not to be seen; but which may probably have been. a citizen of" credit," if not." renown," doing duty for the nonce as a South Sea islander. Epsom is probably the only place; and Darby day the only time, where,and when the vulgar herd may presume to come .betwoen the wind and the nobility of the upper ten, for on the downs thelower orders elbow.their way through the;,ranks of their more fortunate,;if hot feore respectable, fellow men "with .complete indifference, and with (for one day only) a pleasing lack of that painful obsequiousness which' ia so I prominent and unpleasant a feature in English | life, and which,-even in ; the free and open cricket field, compels a marked distinction to be made -plain Brown, the bowler, and John Jones, 'Esq, the schoolmaster's assistant.
A class of men and boys who deserve the capital trade which they do" are those who, as you are.leaving the course, invite you to the use of soap and water, towel, brush, comb, and clothe 3 brush—in fact, a general, smartening _up for " tuppence." Getting back by rail is a far easier task than returning by simi-, lar means frem a Melbourne Cup, and, indeed, wherever -you go throughout England tho miserable comparative accommodation and managerial arrangements of Australia ■ aro made; strikingly apparent. In England the comfort of the pasaenger. is scrupulouslystudied, and the; word " pbrter,"j instead of being a misnomer, is applied to a civil and obliging class of men, who anticipate. your' •wants,, and attend, to : them, with willing alacrity. - . ~- .-, Z r
.Well pleased with the ;-iovel. experience of the day, I reached. London in good'time for dinner,-and whilst thoroughly-realising the immensity of the Epsom-show as a show, -my thoughts instinctively turnedt'o a far distant scene-where I had witnessed another famous deadjbeat a quarter of a century back, arid where, since that time, I have seen-the champions of the' New South Wales and Vie-: tbrian turf fighting o'er-their yearly battles, : with the' assistance of South Australia, and sometimes Tasmania and' New Zealand; and as ; I thought of ■ cosy, comfortable, wellmanaged Flemington, I really almost entered into the feelings, of the Scotchman who, having done'the Continent, exclaimed to si friend on hisreturn," Paris is a real.fine city, but gi'e me Peebles for pleasure." , ..-,- 1 :•: ... ~
Permanent link to this item
AN AUSTRALIAN AT EPSOM ON DERBY DAY., Otago Daily Times, Issue 7015, 9 August 1884, Supplement
AN AUSTRALIAN AT EPSOM ON DERBY DAY. Otago Daily Times, Issue 7015, 9 August 1884, Supplement
Using This Item
Allied Press Ltd is the copyright owner for the Otago Daily Times. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Allied Press Ltd. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.