Thoroughbreds and Blackguards

Inside the sordid world of horse racing

But that is only half the story. Eight years later we find Catesby’s son, Crickmore, carrying Governor Bowie’s colors in the Dixie Handicap. It is Maryland’s greatest race, inaugurated in 1870 at the opening of old Pimlico with the Governor as president of the racing association. Crickmore wins, and all Maryland toasts a Maryland-bred son of a Maryland-bred sire who ‘has shown the New York gentlemen that we can breed a race horse once in a while.’ And when a henchman comes up with a message about the state election, the Governor cries: -

‘Oh, the Democrats will sweep the state; Pinckney White will win. But confound your politics! A man who has won the Dixie Stakes with a colt of his own breeding doesn’t think of anything else.’

State rivalry found its warmest expression, and sportsmanship reached its highest level, on the race courses of that period. In Washington diplomacy shared attention with the thoroughbred, and high Government officials accepted it as an honor when called upon to serve in the stand at the nearby Benning course. It was at Benning in the eighties that three United States Senators Hearst of California, Wolcott of Colorado, and Wetmore of Rhode Island -were Stewards for the afternoon when the Clerk of the Course reported that a gentleman from Virginia, who was to take part in a special race for amateurs, was not in good condition to ride.

‘Tell him to mount,’ directed Senator Hearst. ‘No gentleman from Virginia ever got in a condition where he could not ride a horse.’

From the Virginia valleys came powerful Eole, who bowed to Governor Bowie’s Crickmore in the famous Dixie Stakes, and later to-the great Hindoo in the Coney Island Cup. Strangely enough, both Hindoo and Eole, like Governor Bowie’s cornfield prodigy, were sired by horses (Virgil and Eolus) that had been reclaimed to strengthen the thoroughbred family after having been consigned to inglorious ends as buggy horses. The strict disciple of the Stud Book may deplore such things, just as the strict disciple of the Book of Etiquette doubtless deplored ‘Messrs. Phil and Mike Dwyer, of Brooklyn and vivid memory, who owned Hindoo. But note their rugged sportsmanship, as set down by W. S. Vosburgh in his Racing in America, wherein he recounts the amusing controversy between the two Dwyers and Frederick Gebhard, owner of Eole, following Hindoo’s victory: —

‘Mr. Gebhard was terribly disappointed, as he thought his horse unbeatable. Social feelings entered into the controversy. Mr. Gebhard was aspiring, while the Dwyers prided themselves on being no better than their neighbors. "If you will come to the Union Club, I will match Eole against Hindoo for five thousand dollars a side to run the race over," said Mr. Gebhard. "If you will come over to our butcher shop, we will match Hindoo for ten thousand a side to run the race over,” replied Mr. Dwyer.’

Nor is all sportsmanship on our race courses ancient history. We need not go to the dim past to find the courtly Captain Cassatt climbing into the Stewards' stand at Belmont Park, immediately after a race won by his most beloved filly, Flying Fairy,. demanding that she be disqualified for bumping another horse on the stretch turn and roundly abusing the officials when they permitted the result to stand and tendered him the purse! It was only the year before last that Admiral Grayson won the admiration of every racingenthusiast when he sent his colt, My Own, to Belmont Park in the belief that he was to race against the English Derby winner, Papyrus, and took the verdict without a whimper when he learned that it was not to be.

Dr. Grayson had been the chief sufferer in the hopeless mess that had been made of the eliminations to select the American colorbearer for the international match, and had taken his colt into retirement in Maryland, smarting from the snubs of the Jockey Club. Then the emergency came. Zev, the selection of the committee to represent America, had 'gone wrong.' There was not another threeyearold available that was considered in the same class with Papyrus. Dr. Grayson immediately ordered My Own out of his stall and put him through a long hard workout over a heavy track, with full knowledge that such hurried conditioning might mean the end of his racingdays; a special train was sent, and the next morning the colt was at Belmont Park, luckily fit and ready to run. But in the meantime Zev had undergone a miraculous cure, and a fresh decision to place America's hopes in his care after all was unhappily not accompanied by notification to Dr.

Grayson, who learned from a newspaper, en route to the track for the race, that his colt was not to run in the most talkedof turfevent the country had ever known.

Some time later the Jockey Club voted Admiral Grayson a very fine silver cup in testimony of his sportsmanship. Being a sportsman, he doubtless accepted it without untoward comment. At any rate his affection for horses and his ambition to breed a great one had not been touched, and last October he had the pleasure of seeing Sarazen, a son of his own horse, High Time, crowned king of American thoroughbreds with a victory over the best horse France has bred in a generation.

And so we find, in any year, some traditions worthy of the old ones, some examples of what racing might be if men were' as fine as the horses they race. It is only that they come less often, it seems, in times when the horse must struggle against a public opinion that would restrict his activities to more commercial pursuits.

Certainly the nobility of the race horse is more truly upheld in England, for instance, where racing is strongly entrenched and strongly governed under the patronage of the King himself, than over here, where the sport ekes out an existence under a kind of temporary and semilegal license.

The Englishman takes his racing straight. Pope may sing how 'Newmarket's glory rose but England's fell,' and John Bright may oppose the Queen's Plates and express his complete pain and disgust when the House adjourns for the Derby, but Sheffield men still walk eighteen miles to Doncaster and eighteen back again, feeling well rewarded if they bring home a handkerchief that has wiped the sweat from the St. Leger winner. They like to tell how Queen Anne who, as

Dean Swift wrote to Stella, 'drives furiously like a Jehu and is a mighty hunter like Nimrod' was much put out when her Pepper and Mustard both failed to win back the gold cup she had given to be run for, but died peacefully when her Star was successful, in four fourmile heats, on the afternoon before her passing. They are proud who were at Epsom to pat King Edward on the back when he led his victorious Minoru through the Derby throng, and saw him smile later inside his cordon of police when a wag shouted, 'Never mind, Teddie, we '11 come and bail you out.'

They approve Bismarck's remark to Disraeli, 'You will never have a revolution in England so long as you keep your racing,' and they are sure that the splendid groan to which Disraeli con confessed in his memorable 'blue ribbon of the turf' passage was evoked not so much by news of the defeat of his cherished West Indian motion as by the Derby victory of his still more cherished Surplice in the colors of another.

Small wonder that political writers seriously considered a Tory restoration, with Lord Derby as the new premier, when that diehard leader won the Derby last summer!

Such support for racing affords the governing bodies of racing the background for stern discipline. That stern discipline, perhaps, is the cure our turf needs for most of its ills.

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