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TALK OF THE DAY.

BY MAZEPPA.

*#* I attach very little credence to the rumour that Mr H. Driver contemplates resigning his office as starter to the Dunedin Jockey Club. Welieard something to the same effect about a year ago, and it proved to be a false alarm ; and until I know that the resignation is in the hands of the committee I shall decline to believe that this step is even contemplated by the 'gentleman referred to. It may, however be taken as settled that the question will be mentioned at the annual meeting next month.

* # * It was poor sport that was provided by the trotting and hack races on the fourth day of the D. J.C. meeting. In the Selling Hurdle Race we found that Kildare is not of much account as a jumper so far. He knocked down one of the hurdles and could not race over the remaining obstacles in the company of even the worse-for-wear Garibaldi and the indifferent Inchkeith. The party behind Rata had to take level money about their horse in the Threemile Trot. Everybody got wind of the good thing from Christchurch ; in fact none need have missed it after seeing the way in which the horse was backed, it being obvious that he was in higher esteem by those who knew than Lugnaquilla, though this latter was known to be a fast horse. The race itself was a perfect farce. Colac appeared to be on the job, but very few others seemed io be anxious to chase Rata, and he was allowed to jog on at his leisure and complete the three miles in 9min ssec, whereas if wanted he could have covered the distance in about 8.30. The Meph affair in the Pony Race was plainly a bad job, and the stewards showed a commendable concern for the interests of the public by disqualifying horse and rider for six months. If action were oftener taken by stewards on their own account, without waiting for someone to incur obloquy by entering a protest, it would tend very considerably towards preventing crooked racing. * # * The financial outcome of the meeting is not so satisfactory as in former years, there being a big falling-off in the totalisator receipts and no less a sum than £350 being taken off what was left in order to make up the State tax which some of the clubs charge directly to the investors. With these drawbacks, it is not so bad if it be true, as I believe it is, that the receipts and expenditure in connection with the four days' racing just abo ut make a balance. Some think that it would be better if the club were to abolish the fag-end day and remain satisfied with three days' racing, and I have an idea that some members of the club do not see why the State tax should be borne by the club while it is elsewhere made a charge upon investors, but whether either or both of these matters will come up for discussion is more than I can say. They are specially questions for the Finance Committee, who I have no doubt will give sound advice on these and any other points that may arise. The club has had a little bit of bad luck in not making a profit over the meeting, but it has any amount of recuperative power, and we may regard this temporary loss of profit as but a very small matter.

*** Hankins has turned out Wayland and Adventurer for the time being. The former, who has been galloping almost continuously since he was broken in, is not likely to be seen out again this season, and it will be the end of the autumn before Adventurer is tried again, if he is again taken up at all this season. He is now running in one of the home paddocks, and does not seem to appreciate his confinement, for the other day he made a heroic attempt to scale the 6ft fence surrounding his paddock — a feat which resulted in his getting impaled, though without sustaining any injuries beyond a skin scratch. The horses at work from this stable are Blacklock, Leinster, Assyrian King, and Dunville. The pony Carisbrook is also being trained by Hankins, and the Alluvium mare Waikaia was at the stable on Monday, but I understand that she is to be, or has been, returned to her owner at Winton.

*#* The English news to hand this week starts with one of the Kempton Park big stakes : a 5000sov event for two-year-olds which resulted in the defeat of the favourite, the places being filled by three of Galopin's stock — if we may take Lady Hermit to be one of that sire's. In the Champion Nursery, also, a surprise was worked off, the favourite finishing third and the winner turning up in Euclid, who earlier in the season had won a race at Sandown Park, when no one but his immediate followers expected to see him get home.

*#* The next fixture claiming attention was the Newmarket Second October, which retains its popularity in spite of the comparatively small stakes. The first important event, the newly-established Lowther Stakes, brought out Blue-green for the first time as a four-year-old, and as he had not only escaped a penalty but claimed an allowance for not having won this year, he was made a hot favourite in a small but select field. In cantering to the post it was evident that Blue-green had retained all his last year's action, and with Barrett judiciously using the weight everywhere he made a merciless example of his opponents, of whom Cuttlestone alone attempted to follow him out of the Abingdon Mile Bottom. For the Clearwell Stakes, established in 1850, Scarborough was most in demand on the strength of his Manchester running, but he swerved about all over the course and was rather easily beaten by the well-per-formed Gantlet. The Champion Plate was run in a tempest, the wind and rain being so violent that but few persons were able to follow the events of the race. Signorina was selected as favourite on account of her Lancashire Plate performance, but in such rough weather there was no certainty about anything, and as there

was also some doubt about the filly staying there was plenty of money for her at a shade of odds on. Orion was absolutely unbacked, as on form he seemed to have no show at allSignorina was the first one of the four to cry a go, and Orvieto immediately afterwards began to flounder about, leaving the other pair to fight out a tremendous finish, the end of which was that Orion got home by a short head. Note the time for a mile and a-quarter : a tick less than 2min 33sec. The course must have been in a fearful state. There were six starters for the Cesarewitch, and the ceaseless demand for the Australian mare Mons Meg deposed Victorious from the head of the quotations before the flag fell. The race was an easy one to describe. „ The Sportsman says that a mile from home Penelope and Ragimunde were out by themselves from Lily of Lumley, who had in turn beaten all the others. A long way from home the fate of Mons Meg was sealed. At the top of the Bushes Hill it was simply a horse to a hen upon Ragimunde, as Penelope could not make the least impression upon him. Thus, when allowed to take a couple of lengths lead from Penelope in descending the hill he won in the commonest of canters by that distance, with Lily of Lumley gaining the other situation from Ilsley. The Middlepark Plate, which, by the way, does not cost the Jockey Club a farthing, for the added money is £500, and the entrance fees amounted to £560, produced a field of 10, class being well represented, and included the champion youngster in Orme, whose form appeared to put the race at his mercy. With odds of 15 to 8 betted on him, the Duke of Westminster's colt won in the easiest possible fashion, and he would now appear to have been unlucky in missing the valuable Lancashire Plate at Manchester. The first winner of this race was The Rake, in 1866; and the last 10 winners are : 1882, Macheath; 1883, Busybody; 1884, Melton; 1885, Minting; 1886, Florentine; 1887, Friar's Balsam; 1888, Donovan; 1889, Signorina; 1890, Gouverneur ; 1891, Orme. On the last day of the meeting the Newmarket Derby was contested by Orvieto and FitzSimon, the former, in spite of his 51b penalty and his bad form in the mud in the Champion, being made a favourite at 2 to 1 'on. Orvieto set a fair gallop, and although Fitz-Simon was fighting for his head half-way across the Flat, he collapsed below the Bushes and received a sound thrashing. In the Rose Plate there was a great surprise. The wagering was mostly confined to Queen's Birthday and Eagimunde ; but both went to pieces in the race, and the winner turned up in Prince Soltykoff's Star.

*#* After a short interval, spent by racing enthusiasts at Sandown Park, the venue reverted to Newmarket for the Houghton meeting. The chief event on the first day was the old-fashioned Criterion Stakes, which has been won by such celebrities as Jannette, Thebais, Bruce, Macheath, Melton, and Ormonde. This year the public did not seem very sure what ought to be favourite of the seven starters, and the race proved to be a particularly open affair, Mortgage getting home by the shortest of heads, and all the others close up. There were 29 runners for the Cambridgeshire, and one of the two favourites, Comedy, was returned the winner with very little to spare. The win was not a popular one, and no surprise was manifested when the stewards called for an explanation as to the filly's previous running. Her previous performances this season were as follows : — At Kempton Park in May won a Maiden Plate by 10 lengths from the Doll Tearsheet colt, the pair having behind them Insurance, Gay Minstrel, and Jeannie. At Ascot she was among the unplaced lot for the Royal Hunt Cup. At Derby Comedy ran for the Peveril of the Peak Plate, for which the first three wereTrapezoid, Warlaby, and Fitz-Simon, and this essay was followed by her victory in the Cambridgeshire. As we have since learned, the inquiry ended in smoke. The presence of Orme spoilt the Dewhurst Plate field, only two owners being game enough to throw down the gauntlet to the Duke of Westminster's marvellous two-year-old. Of the three runners 100 to 6 was laid on Orme, 20 to 1 against El Diablo, and 50 to 1 against Hatfield, and they finished in the order of market precedence. At the Bushes the"f avourite came to the front, and though El Diablo essayed to reach him, the son of Ormonde and Angelica without being extended secured the judge's verdict by threeparts of a length.

*** What is known as "theMilford affair" is now settled, and, so far as I have heard, it is a satisfactory decision that the Taieri stewards have come to. The Advocate says that at the first meeting of stewards held for the purpose of considering the protest lodged against Milford, the winner of the Stewards' Purse, by Mr R. Barr, the owner of Le Roi, evidence was tendered by Messrs R. Barr, H. Alexander (who sold the horse to his present owner), Charles Reid (who was acting as clerk when the horse was sold at Mr Donald Reid's yards, Greytown), and J. S. Reid (the owner of Milford). At this meeting the stewards thought it advisable to request Mr Reid to produce the horse on the Forbury racecourse on the 30th November, for the purpose of identification. Mr Reid, however, intimated before the day mentioned that the horse had been kicked, and having been blistered could not be taken to town. On Thursday last one or two of the stewards visited the Berkeley estate and saw the horse, and the protest was further considered at a meeting held in the evening. Mr Reid was not present, and after discussion it was agreed to withhold from Milf ord the stakes in the Stewards' Purse and to award them to Le Roi. This was unanimously agreed to, and it was further agreed, by five votes to two, to disqualify the horse entered as Milford for life and the owner (Mr J. S. Reid) for the term of one year. Several of the stewards present intimated that they were of opinion that the backers of Milford should have their money refunded, while others stated that as they had backed the horse with their eyes open they deserved to lose their money. However, it was pointed out that the new rules of racing only gave a club the option of refunding money to investors where the horse was deliberately pulled during the race, and therefore no action could be taken.

*#* They have a Florrie in England ; and she,* too, has been winning ; and, moreover, her weighting has called forth comment in the public press. The facts relied on are that on Cesarewitch clay at Newmarket the first event Avas won by the filly referred to, carrying 8.11" whilst Grand Falconer, with 9.0 up, was unplaced. The race was run .over the Rous course, and the same evening the official compiler of weights issued the handicap for the Nursery, run over the T.Y.C. course, when, notwithstanding the fact that Florrie had easily disposed of Grand Falconer earlier in the day, the latter was set to concede Florrie no less than Ist 121b. I wonder what would have happened if Mr Dowse had done anything like that with our Florrie ? He would have been cursed and abused of course — he is paid to put up with that, and is supposed to smile like an angel after being slanged by a trainer for the weight given to a horse that wins with perhaps half a stone in hand. Being accustomed to thst sorb of thing, something more dreadful will have to be conceived as a punishment for

Jaim when he makes as big a bungle as the Englishman did. What this something will be I can't think out just at present. " Something with boiling oil in it," perhaps.

*** There is no doubt in my mind that our handicapping in New Zealand is quite as good as in other parts of the world, and very much better than the grumblers would make it out to be. To hear some of the professional faultfinders talk, one might he led away with the idea that the handicappers are corrupt and incompetent, but the results do not warrant that conclusion. Now and again a mistake is made, and little wonder that that is so. Look at the difficulties these officials have to contend against. Certain owners deliberately plan devices to mystify the weight-adjuster and secure an unfair advantage at a future period more or less remote ; by racing horses that are out of condition, or by putting up inexperienced riders that cannot bring a horse home, or by giving instructions that this horse's chance is to be given away at the start, or ordering that that horse is to be pulled off or allowed to be blocked— these are some of the commonest schemes to perplex the handicapper. He has also to estimate what a horse gains or loses by an indifferent start ; to judge how much this horse is benefited or that horse is prejudiced by the difference in distance when a- new handicap is being made ; and if he is a sensitive person he will very likely try to make a handicap look well, and thus escape as far as possible the severe and sometimes ungenerous criticism of press and public. These are some of the difficulties that always beset a handicapper ; and there is yet another which he is in danger of— viz., that the very best handicap in the world may result in a poor race owing to a lack of judgment on the part' of owners; that is to say, they may honestly think -that one horse in the race is too lightly weighted and make no effort with their own cattle, when, as the result proves, one of the non-triers might have won if it had been persevered with. I was speaking to an owner this season about a handicap just then issued, and he made this remark : " Well, lam going to take my joker out — I'm sure he can't win— but it is the first time I have ever done that with Blank's handicaps. Two or three times I've won when I really thought I had no show, and, though I only put a couple of pounds on, I got a slashing dividend." That is another thing, also, we have to remember, that a big dividend in a true-run race means that the clever people are all wrong in their judgment. Yet, though wrong, they will come up growling again next day, swearing -with the utmost assurance, as though they alone had any discretion worth speaking of, that the handicapper is a fool or a rogue. I for one am just about sick of all this. Handicappers make mistakes, of course, and so does everybody else— even owners and trainers, and sporting writers too ; but I am satisfied that on the whole the weight-adjusting is performed with greater judgment than is displayed by those who are so eager to criticise the work and then try to make the results justify their criticism.

* # * It is strange to those of us who know and recognise the advantages which the totalisator brings as compared with the other systems of betting to note the hesitation, amounting even to suspicion, with which the proposal to introduce the machine to Australia is received by several writers in newspapers. Recently I read a catalogue of more or less imaginary objections, among which was this one : ' ' If I back a horse at 6 to"l I like to know that I am going to get 6 to 1, and do not care to find on going for my dividend that I have really been taking 6 to 4-." There is not much, if anything, in this argument when one comes to analyse it. In the first place, though there is always a risk of the odds at the time of investment being reduced before the fall of the flag, there is at the same time somewhere about the same chance of the odds being lengthened. A case in point came under my observation the other day. A friend of mine, who was detained in town on business sent out a fiver with which to back British Lion for the St. Andrew's Handicap, reckoning at the time that he would be, satisfied to get a £4dividend. To his great surprise the horse paid £7 10s. Another friend of mine forwarded to Christchurch an investment for British Lion which he reckoned would yield him £50 if the horse won, and he received £150. When Quibble^won the Great Autumn Mr Goodman had only a couple of tickets on the machine, his belief being that it would pay him better to strand by his wagers with the bookmakers than to take the 7 or 8 to 1 which he thought the machine would pay; whereas as a matter of fact the inside dividend was within a shilling or two of 30 to 1. These are the first instances of an unlooked-for lengthening of the odds that occur to my mind; and everybody will call to memory cases within his own experience. Further, it may be said that if a horse does suddenly shorten in price on the totalisator it means that it has been genuinely backed — this was not always the case with the book-making system, the ways of which were tortuous — and if a man finds his dividend reduced it is at the same time made more secure. And, again, the critic quoted is anxious for an assurance that he will get his 6 to 1. Is he always sure of getting anything from the bookmakers ? The respectable men among them pay almost invariably, I know, but just once in a lifetime some of them have to ask for time, don't they, and we in New Zealand had a rather unhappy experience once with a certain horse named Lochiel. The difference between the tote" and the books is that the former is as safe as consols, and with the latter a man never felt inclined to shout on the strength of a win till the settling was actually over. I make no reflection on our present New Zealand bookmakers, who, trading in their own circumscribed way, are as good as the bank and always "part" promptly. My reference is to the olden days when the Ring had a monopoly.

*#* Talking of betting reminds me that I have something to say as to the limit which is made a condition of all starting-price wagering in this colony. My observation is simply this : that aloto 1 limit is too short a price. It is not really 10 to 1, though nominally so. What is meant is that for a £1 investment the dividend, whatever it may be, is paid up to £10. That is really a limit of 9 to 1. The people are grumbling about it, and at one recent meeting there was some talk among the bookmakers themselves, they being cognisant of the dissatisfaction, as to extending the limit, but nothing was done, so far as I am aware, in regard to New Zealand races. A firm doing business up North now announce that they are prepared to do business at a limit of 15 to 1. I have no desire to advertise this firm on the cheap, nor to prejudice our local men, who serve their customers well in every way with this exception, and I therefore refrain from mentioning what firm it is that is alluded to, but the chances are that their example will be quickly adopted, and that before long backers in Dunedin will reap the advantage. Layers can well afford to concede the point. They are for the most part doing a nice profitable business, and now they have a little extra advantage when betting over meetings where the State tax is charged to the public. There must be a limit, as no man can or should run the risk of being shot at for £100 dividends and knocked rig|it out at one blow, but 10 o 1 ist

too narrow a limit, and the law of compensation will stretch it to the 15 before next season if not immediately.

* # * By the time these pages are to press, or very shortly afterwards, the acceptances for the Auckland Cup will 'be published, and it would therefore serve no useful purpose to compile a critical analysis of the handicap. A few general observations will be more to the point. I have no hesitation in saying that if all were to start Freedom at 9.7 would beat the next two, Crackshot at 8.12 and Merrie England at 8.11. Crackshot could not win at Duuedin at a mile and a distance, and in his present state he can have no show at two miles. It is not the weight but the distance that will bother him. I don't pretend to know much about Hilda, but Mr Stead will not much care about them asking Palliser, to give weight to British Lion, and it may be that if the Yaldhurst studmaster has a go it will be with Lebel, who, on the strength of his Canterbury JCup running, is favourably treated by comparison with some of the other three-year-olds. This little fellow carried lib overweight in the race referred to, making his impost precisely the same as that at which he is now handicapped, while Freedom is raised 71b. I scarcely think that this half stone is the measure of the beating that Freedom administered, but there is always a chance that the top-weight may retire or stand aside in preference to something else, and therefore, though with all in I should take Freedom to beat Lebel and perhaps all the others, I would sooner back Lebel now, as perhaps the second best [at the weights. Then what about Flinders ? It is accepted as almost proved that he was overrated by those who thought they could pick the New Zealand Cup, but surely Dan O'Brien's judgment was not so awfully wrong as to warrant us in concluding that the colt is a proved duffer. I for one prefer to suspend a final decision on that point, and, though one naturally prefers Lebel, who is tried, I shall not leave Flinders out of count if Lonsdale Lodge elects to stand by him. Cruchfield, who on figures seemed to be well handicapped, was scratched as soon as the weights appeared. Of the others I fancy that Coalscuttle and Namoa (the latter for choice) are the most dangerous. Namoa was the Welcome Stakes winner last year, and that is a strong recommendation. My fancies for this Auckland Cup, prior to the appearance of the acceptances, are Freedom, Lebel, Flinders, Thame, and Namoa, and I might include British Lion if sure that he was going up. The Steeplechase is best left alone, though I may remark that Sentinel carries a very lenient impost for top weight. [Since writing the above Crackshot and Morion were scratched.]

*£* The police are proceeding against certain persons who get up sweeps at the Forbury. One man named Aitcheson has been fined £5 and costs. All I have to say on the subject is that the frequenters of racecourses do not ask for the suppression of those men who work on the square. It is a convenience to some to be able to put a half-crown into a sweepstake, and if one feels so inclined I don't see why he should be deprived of- the opportunity or in the alternative be compelled to go round among his friends. A country visitor, for instance, may not know two persons on the course, and for want of cash or want of information, or some other reason, he may not care to invest in the totalisator, but would enjoy the excitement afforded by the speculation of an odd half-crown. There are scores of such persons on our racecourse every day a meeting is held, and their wants are met by the half-crown sweep man. I hope, therefore, that it is not proposed to abolish him. Let the police do their best to discourage the untrustworthy of their number, and so make these sweeps as safe as the totalisator, and that will be quite as much protection as the public ask for.

*#* Ingomar, the stallion whose death is reported from Auckland this week, was bred in Ireland in 1872, got by Uncas out of Wild Deer by Red Hart. He was imported by Mr P. Campbell in 1884-, and for many years past has stood in Auckland, being at the time of his death one of the stallions in use at the Wellington Park farm, where Strathmore was bred. One of the first of Ingomar's stock to come before the public was Vandal, a useful horse, but rather ponyfiedin make, and therefore not quite good enough to rank among the first-classers. Strephon was a better one, not really Al, but able to win money in the best company under a moderate weight — indeed he was on form about the first public selection for the last New Zealand Cup. The spidery but fleet Fiesole comes next, perhaps, in order of excellence among Ingomar's stock, and others that have paid their way are Ingorina, Lochness, and Hukatere. The deceased sire was one of the most stoutly-bred horses in the land, and he was steadily advancing to a prominent place among the New Zealand stallions, for whereas in 1888-89 his stock won only £502, he increased that total to £14-24- the next season, and in 1890-91 they took £2168 of the public money, bringing the horse to the seventh place in the list of winning stallions. We can ill afford to lose so promising an entire.

*#* The Leader says that a case possessing some peculiar features will shortly occupy the attention of the V.R.C. It is in connection with a New Zealand horse who ran in the colony as King, and who is supposed to be identical with a five-year-old gelding named Chance, who was disqualified in New Zealand in April 1890. Last season King, whose sire was given as Robby Burns, ran six times in Victoria, and won races at Lancefield, Kilmore, and Nar-Nar-Goon. He is understood to be identical with the same horse now running as King (late Chance), by Merlin, who was the animal disqualified in New Zealand, but whose term of 12 months is now up. King won a race at the last Benalla meeting, and also ran at Nagambie last week. King was formerly trained at Flemington in company with another notorious New Zealander named Orator, and if supposition is correct that he and Chance are the same animal a gross fraud has been perpetrated, and some peculiar developments are likely to result. At present matters wear a highly suspicious aspect. *.£* At one of the recent Newmarket meetings there was a race in which none but apprentices were to ride, and it turned out a great success, every horse entered going to the post. The race was entitled "An Apprentices' Plate," and the conditions stipulated that the horses were "to be ridden by apprentices for their own stable who had never ridden a winner except in an apprentices' plate." Referring to this subject the Sporting Life says :—": — " That turf reform and improvement should follow in the steps of a Newmarkat meeting is natural enough, and at the time of the big handicaps useful suggestions frequently lead to discussions among the members of the Jockey Club. The dearth of jockeys has been a topic of conversation for years past, and it is just because the difficulties are so vexatious for those who want light weights. A horse under the 7.0 scale has a goodchance, but all the recognised jockeys of the weight are retained, and a trainer may or may not lend a likely lad who has already shown some pretensions to race riding. Two Cesare witches have been won during the last five years by apprentices, and in one case as much as £1500 was paid to nullify indentures, and in the other

the lad's master was put on a good round sum to nothing. There is nothing to say against such arrangements, as a trainer has quite as much right to a bonus for bringing a pupil into affluence as a lawyer who is paid so much down for the education of an articled clerk. The question is simply the rarity of jockeys, and to some people this may appear singular, considering the number of boys daily employed in riding horses at exercise, but experience trainers have oftimes told me that there is not more than one in a hundred of the many lads who pass through their apprenticeships that would ever have the aptitude or hands to win a race. Some of them pass their lives in the stables, and make excellent stablemen, but nothing more. A really likely lad is a rara avis, and it must be born in them to ride races. At the same time it becomes all the more important that opportunities should be given for finding out youthful talent, for a trainer may be mistaken in the estimate he has formed of a boy, or he may give a chance to one he has had his doubts about, and when a bit of head-piece has been required, or something more than extra handling, the talent in doubt has blossomed into repute. The allowance in weight to apprentices did not answer, as it upset handicap calculations, and some Very old apprentices were more than once put up, but the races to be confined to apprentices are quite a move in the right direction, as deserving lads may be given their first lift in life, and those {who own racehorses may be benefited in more ways than one."

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TALK OF THE DAY., Otago Witness, Issue 1972, 10 December 1891

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TALK OF THE DAY. Otago Witness, Issue 1972, 10 December 1891

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