图书图片
PDF
ePub

for the crack handicap was nowhere. Passing Croxton Park as too unprofessional for our purpose, we arrive at Epsom Spring Meeting. Here, for the first time, the public had an opportunity of forming an acquaintance with the great improvements in progress for the future éclat of the metropolitan races, by the spirited new

lessee of the Grand Stand-Mr. Henry Dorling. The stand itself was being almost wholly remodelled and decorated both inside and out, while a new Derby Course, which should enable the spectators to see every move of that breath-suspending contest, was presented to their admiration. The removal of the ring to the lawn in front of the stand gave universal satisfaction, though a set of grumblers tried to bring ill-odour on it. The judge's chair, too, had been brought to the whip-hand, so as to enable that functionary to catch the horses as they rounded Tattenham Corner, and such a plan of centralization was carried out as completed the ensemble of perfection. The Downs, too, had been put in order, and the meeting gave us as good a day's pastime as could be wished for. Of course the feature was “The Great Metropolitan Stukes” handicap, worth net £825. Nine-and-twenty horses started, and the winner was Chamois, out of Treen's stable, carrying, as a five-year-old, 5st. 7lbs., thereby holding out an inducement to turf philosophy to endure for a long time-hopefully. Mr. Hibburd, as starter, did much to add éclat to the business part of the affair; and Mr. Clark, in the ermine, was as eminent as he always is. Next season it is probable the bonus added to the Great Metropolitan Stakes will amount to £500. Who shall say your Boniface is not the true Amphitryon after that? Of Hampton Spring Meeting the less that's said the better. Things are conducted with a vulgarity too scarlet for the most bitter cockney. At Epsom the Grand Stand was thrown open gratis ; at Moulsey Hurst, they charged you half-acrown for sitting in your own horse and chaise on the ground, as Paddy might say:

We will now adjourn to the Craven Meeting at Newmarket, where some of us arrived rather by good luck than good guidance. As a judgment upon Sunday travelling, the special train put on for the Sabbath-day wayfarers was capsized, and great was the fall thereof .... It began without either a Craven or a Riddlesworth ; nevertheless, it was far from an indifferent anniversary. The sport on Monday was tolerable, and no more. The race for the 50 sovs. sweepstakes, in which Free Lance beat Joy, had a bad effect, naturally, on Sting's popularity, though some there were who said it was too fine-drawn a conclusion. Tuesday was very brilliant, with its sunshine and handicap, as well as its peculiar Riddlesworth. For the former (not the sunshine, but the handicap) a field of five-andtwenty ran, and ended in the total overthrow of the “crack’s” men, for it was won by Kesheng, an animal never named, I think, in the betting. My Lord Exeter was fortunate enough to carry off the Tuesday's Riddlesworth, with his Galata colt-no man better deserves a slice of luck; but latterly he gets one very rarely, and then it's very thin. Wednesday introduced to public canvass the form of Iago“Honest Iago," as he subsequently proved himself. He won two remunerating races, a 200 sovs. sweepstakes, beating the winner of the Riddlesworth and the Column, and the history of many a Derby

nag was already published. Thursday, however, was the occasion of most work; it was the scene of the Tom Tulloch movement, when the animal, whilom at 66 to 1, found backers, greedy as gudgeons, to back him at 11 to 2. When your stable-hope jumps from any odds ai all to about first favourite for the Derby, it is not an excuse for a man's drinking ten bottles of port and standing on his head on the table. I have heard of such things being done. Binnacle, they said, was the best of the three-year-olds that showed. Alarm won the Claret, beating Pickpocket alias Ould Ireland; Jericho, after a slashing set-to, beating Old England on the post. Idas ran, but the distance left him no chance. Without saying much of Catterick Bridge, save that it was an improvement on its predecessors, and brought out a few Derby_nags of no worth-or touching at all such small deer as Durham, Burton Constable, and the like, we proceed to the Bath Meeting. The sport here of late years has been rapidly -rising, I was going to say, but that would be impossible, unless it was transferred to the summit of Snowdon. It is growing more popular—that will do. Burlesque, for the Trial Stakes, beat Crown Prince, Pantasa, Refraction, and Buttress; and Nat, with the Queen of Tyne, won the Somersetshire Stakes, after a dead heat with Lord Saltoun. There was plenty of racing; but the state of the ground was awful—the Crown Prince, for instance, winning the City Cup up to his middle in mud. Here began the practice of timing” races; with what success, and what utility, may be gathered from the fact that a Sanday sporting paper made the time for the Cup 5 minutes 44 seconds, and the other authorities 3 minutes 40 seconds, or a difference of about two minutes in a distance of two miles and a half. The fact is, as done so far, the thing has been “a mockery,” if not“ a snare.” The only way that racing can be timed, with any claim to be supposed correct, is where two stop-watches are employed-one for the start and the other for the finish. Heretofore one has served the double purpose after this fashion occasionally. Take the race for the Cesarewitch as a sample. This is started for just beyond that portion of the Beacon Course known as Choke Jade. Well, this being at the far side of the ditch, is out of sight at the winning post. To enable the timekeepers, therefore, to record the seconds occupied in running this important trial of speed, a man was stationed on the ditch with a red flag, which he was to elevate when the horses came to the post, and drop when they left it. In a space occupying some four minutes, then, there were these certain deductions from the time actually occupied in the running. The time lost between the start and its notification by the fall of the starters' flag; the time lost between the fall of the signal flag and its notice by the timekeeper; and the time lost by him in looking for the exact position of the seconds' hand on the dial of his chronometer. This is written in no invidious spirit. No one is to blame for it. The gentlemen who made the attempt did it with the desire to serve the turf; but to carry out their object, if it is to be attained at all by such means, which I take leave to doubt-a far more perfect machinery must be brought to bear upon it. One of the morning journals has announced its intention to employ agents for timing all the great races: the essay is novel, and evinces a good spirit: we may take occasion to examine what practical good comes of it,

The First Spring Meeting, if not absolutely the most interesting of the whole seven celebrated on Newmarket Heath, has no parallel, except it be the Second October. The great vernal week opened on its last anniversary with an almost unprecedented amount of sport. No portion of it, however, went to witness any peculiar claims the three-year-old stock, which it brought out, had upon the public estimation. The chief issue, of course, was the race for the Two Thousand. Nothing was listened to in the ring but the certainty it was for Tom Tulloch, Iago, his stable companion, being drawn in despair, and the party growling out their anathemas that the secret of his flying had transpired, and they could not get more on him at 7 to 4that he won. The day was a beautiful one, but so was not the face with which Bill Scott mounted Tibthorpe (subsequently Sir Tatton Sykes) for the great event--neither those of the Tullochs, when the crack was beaten easily in a bad run race. After it was over, Tibthorpe was examined as to his years, which turned out to be right; though beyond all doubt he was the most ancient-looking colt I ever saw. The great Filly Stakes Mendicant won, but by no means brilliantly, nor indicative of the glory she was destined to achieve. For the Newmarket Stakes we saw out the future winner of the Derby. Pyrrhus the First, however, only succeeded in vanquishing Iago, after a hard tussle; notwithstanding which, thereupon his stable went into the market resolutely, and backed him for a good stake at Epsom. There might, it is true, have been more in his victory than met the eye; but I doubt it. Of the manœuvring on the Two Thousand I have said nothing; it only proved there was something rotten in the state of the nominations. Of the varieties of the meeting, I have been silent per force, for they were legion. Had I began with Squire Osbaldeston, a gentleinan who walks about, weighing some 11st., riding his mare Sorella, for the Queen's Plate, going to scale under 8st. 3lb.-where should I have ended? You could not avoid remarking the obvious falling off, I do not apply the phrase regret

fully—in the fashion of the betting during this meeting. There was nothing resembling the off-hand speculation for which the ring at Newmarket once enjoyed a bad pre-eminence. People had grown cautious, on the principle that "a burnt child dreads the fire; and what fingers, employed in book-making, have escaped a scorching during the last half-dozen years ?....

Chester races seemed at one time threatened with the loss of that holiday character for which, in days of yore, they were wont to be celebrated. They revived, however, in the past season, manifestly, may they so go on, and prosper! The feature at this meeting is the Trades' Handicap, one of the earliest heavy-betting races of the year. It fully bore out my view of selecting, as a principle, leading favourites for such events. Two of the fag-end, or thereabouts, in the market, were Nos. 1 and 2 at the finish; that is to say, Coranna, the winner, was laid against eagerly at 50 to 1; and St. George, that rar second, at double those odds. A vast field of horses was backed for it, and some thirty came to the post. Of course, there was a row, as usual. Some declared that “ Hope told a flattering tale;" but is not that what hope generally does? Next to the cup, as a public race, is the Dee Stakes. It brought eleven to the post, including seven Derby nominations. The winner was Fancy Boy, an animal that subsequently occupied a prominent place for the Derby: his performance on the Roodee was certainly quite as good as anything done by the three-year-olds of the season, up to that time. Newmarket Second Spring Meeting falls, in relation to the racing season, like a minor passage in music between two sparkling major movements. Still, it was this year of a far higher scale than its late anniversaries. Like too many other meetings, the Suffolk Stakes gave it its greatest éclat. That is to say, in the estimate of the ring. As a racing achievement, it was poor indeed : a dozen went for it, and A-la-mode won easily, where for Humdrum went up in the Derby betting, but wherefore it would be hard to decide. The once-important Rowley Mile plate was won by Cantley; but that was all the good it did him or his party-nobody fancied him for “Surrey or its field.” The result of this, however, the last of the spring weeks at Newmarket, was to indicate that the Second Spring Meeting may count on a long reign, if not a merry one.

It is rarely a season advances so far without its “coming event being more foreshadowed. The Derby was still as practically dark as I almost ever remember it-in a good year; for as to the betting, so far it was all moonshine. No three-year-old with any claim to the character of first-rate had been out; and rumours were already more than rife as to the status of the crack two-year-old of '45. Indeed, the aspect of Tattersall's partook of that already spoken of as pervading the ring at Newmarket. The jaunty style of doing business had given way to a more sober fashion. Young men no longer opened their mouths as if they had gold mines in their midriffs, nor were there old ones ready to gorge their offers of thousands, with the prospect of a compromise of £00s. 04d. in the pound.

Edinburgh and Eglinton Park are both a long way off. Neither, in legitimate racing, was of much intrinsic value. The latter had an abstract interest about it, because it was understood to be the last of its race that should be seen, at least for a season. Shrewsbury came out better than we are accustomed to see it. Many of the principal provincial stables patronized it with considerable spirit, and it served as an arena for many of the competitors of the Roodee to have another “shy.” For those who are curious in the glorious uncertainties of the turf, Shrewsbury was rife with matter of interest. Dulcet, one of the best four-year-olds of the latter part of the year, here received two stone and a beating from the Pride of Kildare. Thus, by deductions from which wisdom ought to have been reaped, the occasion grew ripe which was to place the great southern issue upon trial of its merits. Rumour, of course, was busy with those popular breaths which so often whisper away men's brains. The grimmest "tout" found some “green spot” whereon to sow and reap the harvest of his cunning;....and thus, in the appropriate livery of spring-all smiles and tears—the mighty Derby made its entrée.

The last meeting at Epsom was indeed a gallant one. The metropolitan races were never put on the scene in anything like fitting keeping, or with appropriate properties, till the present year. The clerk of the course and lessee of the grand stand proved himself in every way an efficient representative of two such important offices, in reference to the prosperity and popularity of a race-meeting. Mr. Henry Dorling has done and is doing more to promote the legitimate objects of our great national sport than any one who ever preceded him in a similar official career. Nothing ever approached the perfection of the arrangements. The alterations in the grand stand had transformed it into a courtly pavilion, provided with boudoirs for the fair, and such facilities for the brave-at jousting with fortune—that a man could be “done for" without almost crossing its threshold. The ring was formed on the terrace, and the saddling in front of it; and, in fact, all the necessary ingredients for ministering to enterprise and spirit were provided that ever entered into the catalogue of the completest ruination shop in the civilized world. The all-absorbing event, the Derby, went through its ordinary phases as the day of its destiny approached. Fancy Boy was the favourite at starting to say no worse of him a remarkably unfortunate horse all through for his backers. Sting, the young invincible, made his appearance at the post in a perilous plight. He looked as if he had just been drawn backwards through a thorn-hedge; his coat stood erect like that of a frightful porcupine. Sir Tation Sykes was brought on very theatrically; the others more or less artistically; the ensemble, as they cantered up the course to start, a panorama of peerless interest! It is the general opinion that Scott threw away the race—it is not mine. Sir Tatton's running with Iago for the Leger was far from a brilliant performance: it was good, and no more-nothing to entitle a horse to be backed for the two greatest stakes of his year. He was said to be “hard to ride”- his heart was none of the best; that was the solution of the difficulty. That want of honesty it was that gave Iago the victory over him at Newmarket. However, the Derby of 1846, like so many of its predecessors, went to prove that the market averages were for the most part all drawn from mistaken premises. The Oaks furnished a moral on the maxim, that “the race is not always to the swift.” Mendicant pulled through by the sheer dint of game. To the eye she was anything but a filly to pin your faith on over such a hill as that crossed by the Oaks course. These two great issues were won by Mr. Gully-his horse, Pyrrhus the First, and his mare, Mendicant, being trained by John Day, jun., at Danebury. It was a glorious achievement for the stable, and not the less cheering for the family, as it completely restored John Day, sen., who for some time previously had been in a very declining state. It cured him as if by magic; never was such a prescription as “the Derby and Oaks” for rescuing a patient from the jaws of death......

According to proverbial authority, after a storm comes a calm," and so it was with turf affairs. The meeting on the moor adjacent to Manchester is not yet, at all events, a matter of much racing account. The course is about the worst in the world, which may in somewise furnish a reason for it. Moreover, it—the meeting-exists upon the proceeds of its immediate industry: it lives from hand to mouth, on the revenue screwed out of the occasion. None of the races call for any especial notice, except the Hurdle-race, from its bad pre-eminence. It is astonishing that stewards are to be found countenancing such deadly exhibitions at a season of the year when the probability is the ground will be as hard as a hearthstone. One

« 上一页继续 »