EPSOM SUMMER MEETINGS
THE DERBY-DAY.— Wednesday,
May 26th, 1869.
A special correspondent of the " Daily Kews " furnishes the following interesting article on the all-important •'Derby":—
If it be hard to tell a thrice-told tele, how much harder must be his task who has to record the glories of a Derby-day — glories which have been celebrated by so many pens, and as to the true pourtrayal of which one is necessarily exposed to the criticism of so many thousands of devout believers. But if there ever was a Derby which might naturally evoke Pindaric strains, or raise a momentary enthusiasm in the most hackneyed of turf reporters, it was surely that one of yesterday. With weather which would redeem the faults not only of all the other twentyfive days of this month, but of numberless other months of May which have departed to unhallowed graves under the influence of a strong north-east wind ; with a crowd, which if not so large as has under exceptional circumstances been seen upon the Downs, was at least up to the average in numbers, and not below it in good spirits and inclination for amusement ; and with a race so closely and keenly contested, that hardly all the records of Epsom can show its parallel, surely the oldest and most cynical, the youngest and niosb blase, must "be satisfied, If there are any faultfinders I certainly — except as to one or two private grievances of my own which I will mention presently, am not to be found among their number. As a person of considerable, and even — I may perhaps without presumption remark — of large experience in Derbys, I unhesitatingly say (and none but a loser will, I am sure, contradict me) that there is hardly any that for excitement, sport, and true pleasure will compare with that which Tvill hereafter be known as " Pretender's year."
For the first time the course was honoured by the presence of the Princess of Wales, who, with her royal husband, and accompanied by her brother, the Crown Prince of Denmark, and a brilliant attendance, occupied a private stand which had been provided for their accommodation. The royal party were received with enthusiasm, and in juxtaposition to it, on the reserved ground for carriages, the- ISTawab of Bengal and suite gazed upon a scene which to Asiatic eyes must have been indeed a strange ono.
There are four topics with which i every one who writes about the Derby i now-a-days is expected to deal — the j weather, the Prince of "Wales, the ' road, and the race (including in this last the appearance of the course, and some indication of the various merry diversions, in which feebleness, vice, and intoxication lead the spectators to indulge). Of these four topics, let me dispose of the easiest first. The weather, aj> I have already more than hinted, was during the afternoon so unexceptional, that if one could place the slightest reliance upon the pratings of those pulmonic meteorologists, who try to persuade us that our climate is all fogs and east winds, ono could not for a moment have supposed that we were standing upon a " bleak hill-side in Surrey," but must have supposed that the scene of the afternoon's amusement was some " bakny region of the south," where suns ai'e ever bright and winds are ever soft. This, however, was only after noon. If an English May day is often worse than its word, it is sometimes better than its promise ; and so it was yesterday. The morning was dull and chilly, not to. say gloomy and cold, lam a man of sanguine temperament so far as the weather is concerned — especially on Derby Days — but those three delusive drops of rain which fell upon my face just after starting drove me home again for an overcoat, which I — let me say — maledicted all the rest of the day. If I wore it as an overcoat should be worn, it not only concealed the shining garments in which I was arrayed beneath, but it made me decidedly and uncomfortably warm ; if I carried it under my arm it was tramped beneath the high heels of " the girl of the period," and if I threw it over my shoulder in ignorant imitation of the plaid of the kilted Highlander, it caused me almost irremediable trouble by its interference with her chignon. ISTo, I have been cold, and I have been wet at the Derby, but the experience of a fine afternoon has taught me that there is no convenient compromise between a substantial great coat and a modest surtout. As for overcoats, no overcoats for me-^a man might as well carry an umbrella, Next to the weather in importance on these occasions comes the Prince of Wales. The day will come perhaps when he will take the first place, but of that we have not yet begun to think, much less to write. His Royal- Highness drove 4own y er y quietly yesterday, and made himself as little conspicuous as possible upon the cpurse. It is, however, the misfortune of princes that wherever they go they must produce some amount of annoyance and inconvenience. When the Prince of Wales was supposed' to be upon the G-rand Stand, or the Stewards' Box, or in the Jockeys' Enclosure, thousands of people crowded round these several — for the moment — sadvei spots. l?or the foolish rustic who had never seen the young
gentleman who will probably be his future Sovereign I could feel some sympathy ; it was, on his part, a merely natural curiosity; but the bulk of the crowd were made up of stupid Cockneys, to whom his Eoyal Highness's features are, or ought to be, as familiar as those of their nearest acquaintances — your true Cockney has no friends. If this crushing had been meant as a tribute of respect to a future Sovereign, or an expression of congratulation upon his return from a prolonged and — for a prince — adventurous expedition, I could have forgiven and borne with it, but when it is the merest and most vulgar curiosity which brings 20 stone on my toes, and drives the elbow of a lathy individual who, with more than six feet of height, is nearly " fit to ride the winner," into my side, I confess I become what an American friend of mine used to call "wrathy." We have all heard that "the worm will turn," and when I have a heavy man on my feet and a thin ono squeezing on either side, I confess I feel very like the warm under those peculiar circumstances which are supposed to lead to this special development of his rotatory powers. After this ebullition of spleen let me record, as a matter of history, that wherever the prince was recognised, either going or returning, he was very warmly cheered. Some cheers were wasted upon unworthy — or at all events unroyal — objects, and it was curious to notice the mistakes which were made by the best informed as io the personality of ijhe hen.- apparent. Within ten minutes I saw a banker well advanced in years, a plethoric stockbroker^, a gentle youth still innocent of beard, and a respectable city attorney, all pointed out by ignorant or designing persons as " the prince." It is very hard upon royalty that these mistakes should occur, but if noblesse oblige, I suppose that a superior status involves even more disagrceablo responsibilities.
Of the road there is, in sooth, nothiug new to be said, and its appearance yesterday did not differ in any material particular from that which it has worn some half-dozen years past. During all and more than all that time " the rail " has been gradually making way against the slower and more expensive, if more amusing, method of transport; and year by year the vehicles which are driven through Clapham and Sutton have become less handsome, and, it' truth must be told, more vulgar in appearance. Testerday I saw some dozen or so well-ap-pointed drags, about as many handsome barouches with those curious white horses which only come out at j weddings and races, but the great mass of vehicles was maclo xxp mainly of ' phaetons, waggonettes, dogcarts, gigs, i cabs, and still loss pretentious vehicles. The vans were there in stroug force, and driving in and out, wherever the road was most difficult and the crowd most dense, was the inevitable costermonger and his barrow. The "moke" did not "show." A well-informed friend tePs me that in and about the New Cut and Whitcchapel it is not considered " the thing" to go to the Derby "in your own carriage" until you can keep " a galloway." But I am sure that many a well-fed jackass of my acquaintance would have quite as much speed and about three times as much strength as many of the ponies which crawled the hill to the course yesterday. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer been there — and where is he not, either in person or by his myrmidons the taxgatherers — he would have found abundant evidence in the microscopic quadrupeds which were set to draw an ill-constructed vehicle, laden with "master, missis, and her sister" (all stout), to justify the steps which he has recently taken to encourage the employment of tall horses in the room of " ponies under 12 hands." One sensation we altogether missed. Eor the last half dozen weeks the amateurs of A r elocipedes — those gallant gentry who, reckless of advancing years and extending waists, have dared the dangers of the bicycle — have promised us that upon the road to the Derby we should see what their favourite "instrument " — I suppose even a bicycle is hardly an animal — could do. Somewhere the other day, if I mistake not, I read of a gentleman who mentioned the colour of the wheels of the machine upon which he pledged himself to travel to the Downs and back. I kept my eyes as wide open as possible both going and coming, but not only did I not see that particular pair of wheels, but my glance did not fall upon even the humblest imitation of this most speedy of automatic steeds. The Bantoons were in their stables, tricycles must have "hit their logs," and the bicycles appeared to be entirely amiss. However or wherever they were, they were not on the road to the Derby — at all events not upon much of it.
The crowd upon the course was not larger than — I doubt whether it was as large as — in some previous years. I speak with some hesitation upon the point, because although every one agreed that the hill was not co well covered as of old, there was an unmistakeable extension of booths and carriages, and mob to the left of the Grand Stand towards Tattenham Corner, and the muster at the starting point was, I think, larger than I have witnessed in any previous year. When • I was'i very young —a - long time -before | the Consulate of Ple^cus — ' ii u^ecl i to be though $ a, good thing to' go
down to the rails, see the start, and then rush across amid a perfect crowd of ungovernable horses to witness the ' ( finish." If a tenth part of those who crowded the rails yesterday afternoon had atttenipted such an adventure, the hollow ground would have been strewn with killed and wounded thickly enough io furnish out the " butcher's bill " of a more than usually severe severe skirmish. The Grand Stand and its enclosures and appurtenances were crowded from grass to tiles. It really is time, now that that little matter about the course is settled, that "the authorities" of Epsom should devote a little attention to the extension of the G-rand Stand That hideous and inconvenient structure is utterly unequal to the decent accommodation of one-half the persons who pay for admission to it ; and as there appears to bo no limit to the number of tickets which are issued, " any schoolboy " can tell how severe must be the sufferings of those who ignorantly, but innocently, seek shelter in what ought to be the most comfortable house upon tho ground. The lines of carriages were as thick as ever along the rails, but there were many weak places upon the hill, and knock-em-downs and gaudy booths had, if I do not mistake, intruded where one has been accustomed to see the proud barouche and the humble fly. Of some of these booths I have a word to say. I make no complaint of those excellent and substantial canvass structures which are devoted to the sale of refreshments, I am. told that the sandwiches retailed within their calico walls are apt to run to fat, and that the stout is generally almost all froth. But this last phenomenon is, as you are assured upon the indisputable authority of the waiter who serves you, entirely " howing to the 'eat of the weather," and of course you can't expect either him or his master to control the temperature. Upon the whole I am inclined — from what I hear, of course — to believe that they supply the hungry and the fchirsry wilh moderately wholesome food, and not unusually adulterated liquors at prices which under the circumstances may be regarded as moderate, if not indulgent. I never complained of those curious tents where a couple of illlooking scoundrels used to make believe to punch ono another's head. My only regret was that they did not do it in earnest. It does not seriously l'aise my bile that impoverished parents should stain the arms of unwelcome twins, and show them to an overcurious public at twopence a head, as " The Spotted Sisters." If the proprietor of that celebrated bulldog " Dan " can make an honest living by exhibiting tkat ugliest and worst bred of all cwyyuvs inoivstYosvties for "a permy — always exhibiting and no time to wait," he does not thereby in any way shock my moral feeling, and the worst that I can wish is that the celebrated animal in question should be allowed to " make an exhibition " of his owner. But why should human remains be made a matter of show, and "the poor dumb corpse " be exposed to the callous regards and ribbald jests of halfdrunken apprentices? In two or three places, yesterday, was such a spectaclo to be witnessßtl. True, the bleached bones and shrunken muscles which we looked upon had belonged to no relation of yours or mine. Ho or she, as it might be, had never mixed in good society, had never sate at good men's feasts, was a mere heathen, barbarian, savage, only an aboriginal Australian, or Cafire. Surely Dr. Colenso's Zulu friend will be treated with more respect — or an ancient inhabitant of those islands from which the Bi'itisK farmer imports his guano ; but still this bleached skull was once the seat of a human soul; beneath this hard, brown chest there may have beat a heart as warm, as loving, and as faithful as that which throbs beneath tho boddice of the loveliest maiden in Mayfair ; many a task of love or duty may have been performed* by those black shrunken arms and even if he were the vilest ruffian that ever disgraced even aboriginal society, why may he not rest in peace Avhere his brethren have laid him — why should these whitened bones, this shrunken flesh, be made the means of enriching j a still greater scoundrel ? The managers of Epsom races — aided by the police — have, as far as my observation goes, banished gambling — except by betting — from the course ; and I hope I know my du|y to society too well to say a word in favour of the roulettetable ; but as far as I am personally concerned, I could overlook the presence of a hundred gambling boards, rather than forgive this intrusion of the graveyard upon the race-course. The 90th Derby Stakes of 50 soys. each, h ft, for 3-yr-olds ; colts-, Bst 101 b ; fillies, Bst olb. The owner of the second horse receive 300 soys, and the third 150 soys out of the stakes. 1 mile and a half. 247 subs. Mr. J. Johnstone's Pretender (Osborne) 1 Sir J. Hawley'sPero Gomes (Wells) 2 Mr, G-. Jones's The Drummer (Morris) 3 The exciting struggle between Pretender, Pero G-omez, and The Drummer continued to engross conversation on the following day, and on all sides it was admitted that a more magnificent or memorable finish had never been witnessed on Epsom Downs. So close indeed, was it that it was impossible to tell which animal had won until Pretender's number, "4," was exhibited at the judge's box, this being the same number as Lord Lyons' when he only defeated Savernake by the same <3is- i tance — a head. "Wells thought he had j
won ; and, after the pair bad passed the post, said to Osborne, " I've just done you, Johnny;" but the latter replied, confidently, " No ; it's a dead heat," which, plainly shows how close a thing it was, the jockeys being unable to decide. Every one was gratified at the success of Osborne, who within a year Las been married and won the Two Thousand and Derby — a very unusual but auspicious treble event to land in a single season. The jockey's aged mother had come all the way from Yorkshire on purpose to see her son win his first Derby, and was not a little gratified and elated at the triumph of one of the best behaved and most masterly horsemen of the century,
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SPORTING., Tuapeka Times, Volume II, Issue 80, 21 August 1869
SPORTING. Tuapeka Times, Volume II, Issue 80, 21 August 1869
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