NOTES OS SPORTS AND SPORTING.
" There was a sound of revelry by night " as tho belated Parisian wayfarer passed down the Avenue de Neuilly a few mornings ago. The windows of the Restaurant Gillet were illuminated a, gioruo, and a ball was being given, preceded by a dinner, in honour of the dual victory of Plaisanterie, by the Messrs Wilde, who have won a large stake over the mare, aud enriched both M. Bouy and his trainer, Carter, for life. The party was a most enjoyable one, and good humour could only prevail" after such a handsome spread, although some cruel wit altered the " Punch a l'Anana" to " Punch a I' Ananias " on the menu, and passed it along to the person who was so eager to assure everyone-that the mare would not go over to England to keep her engagement. The " Plaisanterie'''soup was excellent, and the Messrs Wilde have shown that they have not forgotten the old-fashioned English hospitality, although they have- settled, down in a strange laud. We had a good " Rosebery " dinner given by Messrs Morris and Wright at Jack Coney's hostelry in the Rue Scribe* and now, the Messrs Wilde have followed suit, although the poor of Chantilly are still waiting for the roast ox and barrel of wine which they thought would have been given them after the double victory of Plaisanterie in England.
One of the strangest realisations of a dream that we have " struck," as the Yanks would say, is the following from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News : — " In 1854 a man dreamed that the Steward's Cup at Goodwood was won by a horse named Pumicestone. When he woke he looked at the entries and found that there was no horse named Pumicestone in- the race, and only one colt without a name— an animal entered .by Lor,H Chesterfield. He wrote to Lord Chesterfield, relating ' the circumstance, and asking whether he might take the liberty of begging his lordship to name the horse according to his dream. Lord Chesterfield replipd that he had sold the cold to Lord Wilton, that it was a very moderate animal, in no way likely to wiu a good handicap, but that he would forward the letter to the present owner. Lord Wilton received it in ,due course, thought that Pumicestone was, as good .a name as any other he could think .of, and so the colt was named. It won the Stewards' Cup in a field of thirty-seven."
Few books would be more interesting or more extraordinary than a real secret history of the tyrf. If we only knew how and why all the famous iraces have been won since the days of Diomed or Eclipse what an astonishing story it would be ; how it would alter all our preconceived notiqns of those events. Now and again a stray story crops up, full of suggestiveness, making us long for more, such as the following : Prior to the- starting of Blair Athol for the Derby a ring of bookmakers had the management of the horse. They had backed General Peel, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas, for the great Epsom event, and stood to win a large sum, but they ,so cleverly hedged that in case of his breaking down before the day they had Blair Athol in the back ground, though they gave the preference, from a pecuniary point of view, to Lord-Glasgow^s horse. Jackson, however, the owner of Blair Athol, whom his confederates never quite trusted, got away from them late one night' at Newmarket and went off to the White Hart. There meeting with some jolly fellows he indulged pretty freely, and was bounced into backing his horse to such an amount that the, ring in self-defence were compelled to let the horse win. And that was how it was' a Blair Athol instead of a General Peel year.
At that same White Hart another coup equally peculiar wag effected some years ago. A certain horse called Delight was entered for the City and Suburban Handicap; one night during the Newmarket Spring meeting a company of heavy speculators upon the turf assembled within that famous hostelry and put their heads together. Above all it was necessary to their plans that there should be nothing aboub them in the newspapers next morning, so it was not until the gentlemen of the Press had sent off their last communication, drunk up their last tumblers of grog, and, thinking that all business was over,for the day, had retired to rest, and the house was closed and lights were put out, that , the bookies, like the conspirators in "Madame Augot," stole from their retreats, locked themselves up in a room, and in a very short time Delight was backed to win a fortune Next morning, while the newspapers and their agents were in blissful ignorance of what was going on, the telegraph office was besieged by bookmakers, backers, commission agents and touts, all eager to apprise their clients' and patrons of the pood thing on. It need scarcely be added that Delight won. There is a highly interesting bit of gossip now going the sporting rounds (says a Melbourne paper), the dramatis 2>ersonm to the narrative being a trio of well-recognised figures on the turf, one a well-known racing medico, who owns horses, and sometimes bets heavily! , The second may be termed a turf habitue, who
apparently exists by the exercise of his knowledge in connection with the turf. He bears the reputation of being an uncommonly good "loo" player, has occasionally been known to " throw a main," is never adverse to taking a hand at " nap," and, iv fact, can fairly hold his own at any round game he is ever asked to participate in for the accommodation of friends. Besides, he is what may be termed " well liked " on the turf, and supposed to possess the confidence of certain owners, trainers, aud jockeys sufficiently to enable him to throw in for good stakes periodically. He is, in fact, said to be a rara avis of the Australian turf — a lucky backer; and what with presumablj lucky backing, and perhaps still more lucky card playing aud main throwing, he is privileged to lead a luxurious existence. The third and last party to the sequel is a ward in chancery in quest of " colonial experience;" a decided masher (well known in Dunedin), with apparently unlimited capital when he comes of age, but not similarly blessed with brain power. This embryo commoner's eccentricities are said to have already cost him £100,000 during a twelve months' sojourn in her Majesty's dominions. Now for the latest " incident " of his interesting career. Scene I. — A banquet room in a delightful suburban villa : Enter the sporting medico, his friend the habitue, and the ward in chancery, who is the guest of the evening. The trio do justice to a recherche dinner. " Let us to billiards," says the immortal bard. No such inclination prompted this small but select party of three. Their tastes were otherwise. Scene 11. — Another room in the delightful suburban villa: Enter the sporting medico, his friend the habitue, and their youthful guest. While the fragrant weed is being indulged in one of the company proposes a quiet game of 100, a suggestion that meets with unanimous approval. Enter Jeames with the cards, and immediately withdraws. " Unlimibed, I presume," remarks the ward, as the three proceeded to take their places at the table. "Anything you like; I'm not particular," responded the habitue, whose confiding and agreeable manner is such as always places his associates at ease. To make a long game short the doctor's luck was exceptionally good from the start, albeit he Is said to have played a cautious game, never overtaxing the strength of his hands. The habitue's luck was even greater, and as he " played up " the game like a nobleman he won largely. The doctor was content to knock off playing when his winnings amounted to something like £1200, by no means a large sum considering the amount of stakes occasionally in the pool. The ward's losings made him desperate, and when the man of medicine retired from the game the ward persisted in continuing operations with the habitue, who happened to be in one of his accommodating humours, and the pair played single-handed 100 wibh the grace, and for stakes worthy of the Marquis of Hastings period. That deadly ingredient, commonly called bad luck, adhered to the ward with cruel obstinacy, and when he finally relinquished the cards his losings to the habitue represented on paper no less a sum than £25,000. This will at once convey an impression of the princely manner in which the two gamblers contested with the good edged squeezers. Even wards in Chancery, who succeed to immense fortunes on attaining their majority, do not carry £20,000 or £30,000 in their pockets on being invited out to a quiet dinner party, hence this scion of a departed English millionaire commoner had no alternative but to put his name to paper for the full amount of his indebtedness to his newly-intro-duced acquaintance, the habitue, of whom he will probably give a remini¢ sigh when he has occasion to call to mind the pleasant evening he spent in a quiet Melbourne suburb, partaking of the hospitality of the sporting doctor and the sporting doctor's friend.
Referring to the uproar by certain people over the scratching of Paradox for the Cambridgeshire. The Field says : — " The scratching of Paradox is important, as raining the whole question of the rights of owners over their horses after the pWic have been pleased to back them. It would, indeed, be a happy day for the turf if the action of owners were altogether independent of monetary considerations ; but as that enviable state of things has never existed since the turf was a year old, and is never likely to exist, it is useless to speculate upon the advantages that would accrue if it did. It is a favourite theory that when once an owner has accepted for his horse, the animal is, to a certain extent, the property of the public. Racing men of the type of the Duke of Westminster, Lord Falmouth, and Lord Cadogan can very well afford to give the public a run for their money. They sue the weights, make up their own minds whether their horses have a chance or not, and act accordingly. Should they accept, they will probably remain of opinion that they have a chance until the sequel has proved them wrong. The being forestalled never enters into the question ; and it is because the same considerations have hitherto applied to Mr Cloete, that his horses have been regarded with the same confidence as those belonging to the aforesaid noblemen. But when we come to the business owner, the man who backs his horses for a substantial sum, it is difficult to see why they should be controlled by what the outside public choose to do.» It is the owner who pays trainers' bills, jockeys' fees — a heavy item nowadays — entrance fees, forfeits, travelling expenses, and what not ; it is the owner who pays for the horse ; and it is the owner upon whom the -loss solely falls in the event of death or accident. To argue in the face of that, because Tom, Dick, or Harry choose, in the exercise of their own discretior , to put a sovereign or two upon any horse they may fancy, the owner of that horse is morally bound to put up with whatever price he can get, and to start his horse for the benefit of outsiders, is, to say the least, somewhat startling. If an owner does do so he is entitled to be considered a very high-minded and chivalrous person. Now, let us ask whether an owner of racehorses is encouraged to act in this straightforward manner by the conduct of backers generally ? Do ' the talent,' as they are called, ever bestow one single thought upon the owner and his expenses ? On the contrary, do they not seek by every means in their power to obtain information not intended for them, but which shall enable them to take advantage of the market, and to ' get on ' at the best price, regardless of what the owner of a horse may be able to do. And if men who make racing a business are at liberty to act as they undoubtedly do in matters of this kind, why are other owners, whose conduct is not guided by mercenary considerations, to have less freedom of action? Unfortunately, however, in the present case, as already stated, the matter is complicnted by less disinterested individuals 'rigging' the betting market between the time when the owner rpsolvcd to ' scratch ' tho horse and that at which he carried his intention into effect. But it may not be out of place to remark that, if Mr Cloete's conduct be so had as to ' represent another nail in the coffin of the turf,' 'to strike a harder blow at racing than has been struck for a long time,' what is to be said of the probi by of men who knew the horse was to be scratched, and yet betted on the certainty? For our own part, while we respect the owner who takes the
public into his confidence, and sacrifices his own interests to theirs, / we hold that, so long as backers and bookmakers seek to pry into stable secrets, either by themselves or through the agency of touts, and so long, in short, as racing remains a business, owners are, in strict interpretation, entitled to consider themselves first. A man who bets heavily can hardly afford to do otherwise ; persons who do not rank self-interest of the first importance are, of course, men who act not at the dictates of mere honesty, but from the highest sense of honour. These, of course, are the men who race for sport and not for gain ; and that they are in a very decided minority is a circumstance that may be lamented, but canuot be changed. Half a century ago Lord George Bentinck taught backers a lesson. Elis had been backed for the St. Leger of 1836 for so much money that his party could only get a very short price about him. ' Very well,' said Lord George ; ' unless Lord Lichfield or I can get 10 to 1 to any amount we require Elis does not run.' Were they wrong ? The required odds were immediately forthcoming, and Elis both started and won. If we remember rightly Mr Peck adopted very much the same line in 1882 with respect to Hackness, whom the public took under its wing for the Cesarewich of that year. Being forestalled, and failing to get 10 to 1, he scratched the mare, and reserved her for the Cambridgeshire, which she won. There was no sacrifice to sentiment, but business was kept in view throughout, and the public had only themselves to thank for what occurred. Mr Gretton was another who uever hesitated to put in force his strict rights; nor did Mr Gomm, whose policy in connection with Fraulein is not yet forgotten. In the case of Paradox, had his owner been forestalled, and scratched his horse iv self-defence, he could have pointed to the instances we have mentioned, and to others, as precedents and justification of iris conduct ; but the weak point in the case is that, the weight allotted being more than the maximum decided on by his owner, he was not intended to run for the Cambridgeshire. This being so, it was negligence of a more or less culpable kind to allow him to remain iv until Monday last ; because, although what appears to us to be a perfectly valid excuse can be made for an owner who is ready to run his horse but is forestalled, and who therefore 'scratches him as soon as he makes up his mind not to start him, it is more difficult to find extenuating circumstances where a hor.se that is not intended to run is left in for several weeks, and, so far as can be ascertained, for no earthly reason."
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NOTES OS SPORTS AND SPORTING., Otago Witness, Issue 1783, 23 January 1886
NOTES OS SPORTS AND SPORTING. Otago Witness, Issue 1783, 23 January 1886
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