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MEN AND HORSES I HAVE KNOWN
By The Honourable George Lambton
Published by Thornton Butterworth, London, October 1924.
Some American owners and trainers – Doping – Savage Horses
The first American owner I knew was the late Mr. Ten Broeck. I was only a boy at the time, but he struck me as typical of the shrewd, dry, humorous American that one reads of in the novels of Mark Twain. I know that he was very much liked over here, and his colours were popular on the English Turf.
Mr. Lorillard and Mr. Whitney were the type of sportsman that any country would be proud of, and their trainers, first Huggins and later Andrew Joyner, were two good fellows. Both of them, especially Joyner, were very popular with the racing world. Their horses were always run out in the most straightforward manner. I can say that at the time when Joyner made up his mind to leave England and return to America there was no more popular man in Newmarket, and I shall always look back with pleasure on the dinner we gave him before he left. The more Americans of this sort that come over, the better.
At the time I write of, Mr. P. Lorillard had a large string of horses in England trained by J. Huggins. He was as great a gentleman and as good a sportsman as ever went racing. He was not a new-comer on the English Turf, for in 1881 he had won the Derby and St. Leger with Iroquois, and in 1879 he had a wonderful old gelding called Parole. This horse created a sensation by beating Isonomy for the Newmarket Handicap in April. He was ridden by Charles Morbey, and started at a hundred to fifteen. His victory was not unexpected by his connections, and he followed it up by winning the City and Suburban and the Great Metropolitan, in both of which races Archer was his jockey. Mr. Lorillard’s horses were then trained by a curious character, Jacob Pincus, who remained in this country when Mr. Lorillard for a period gave up racing in England and returned to America. Pincus had practically given up training, but occasionally had a horse or two of his own. I remember one year when, as a very old man, he owned two shocking bad horses, and, much as everyone would have liked to see the old man win a race, they were so bad that they were the despair of the handicapper. Yet on the same day at Lingfield both these horses managed to get their heads in front, and the public was as delighted as the owner.
I believe it was the interference of the Government with racing in America that brought Mr. Lorillard and his horses back to England. He had an enormous stud in America: his yearlings were broken and tried at home, and he brought the best to England, where he had considerable success for some years. Mr. Harry Cuthbert, well known to race-goers of to-day, then quite a young man, came over with him as his secretary, made his entries, and had much to do with the breeding of his horses. Mr. Lorillard was a great believer in English blood, and frequently replenished his stud with it. Eventually, Lord William Beresford entered into partnership with him, and, with Sloan as their jockey, they had a right royal time.
The late Mr. Whitney and his son were both of the same class of owner. When they gave up and retired to their own country, they were a great loss to English Racing. Mr. Whitney got his racing colours in rather a curious way. One August Meeting, at York, I was in a vein of bad luck, my horses being continually second. Mr. Gerald Paget came to me after one of these reverses and said, “Are you fond of your colours?” They were light blue with a brown cap. “No,” I replied, “I hate the sight of them.” He then asked me if I would take £100 for them. “Give me the money,” I answered, “and they are yours.” The deal was completed at once, and then I learnt that it was Mr. Whitney who wanted my colours, and as long as he lived his horses carried them. At his death I got them back again. Partly on account of my old colours I was always fond of backing his horses, and I had a good race on Volodyovski when he won the Derby.
Another American trainer, Wishard, was a very shrewd man, who won a great deal of money. He went in for a different class of race, and trained for a different class of owner, but I personally liked him very much. He was a remarkably clever man with horses. There is no doubt that he supplemented his great skill as a trainer by making use of the dope. In those days there was no law against this pernicious practice.
Wishard brought over with him as jockeys the two brothers Lester and Johnny Reiff. Lester was a very tall man, and had great difficulty in keeping his weight down. He was a fine jockey, and a wonderful judge of pace, while Johnny as a boy was the best light-weight I ever saw, excepting Frank Wootton.
I always thought it was a great pity that Wishard ever took to doping, for he was somewhat of a genius with horses, and would, I am sure, have made a great name for himself without it. His horses generally looked beautiful, and I am sure whatever dope he used could not have been a very powerful one: they looked too well for that, and kept their form too long. I had many a talk with him, and found him a most agreeable man, but we never got on to this subject.
Perhaps his greatest success was with Royal Flush. He was a very handsome chestnut horse by Favo, and had passed through more than one man’s hands, but at the time Wishard bought him he belonged to Mr. F. W. Lee, who is well known to the present-day racing public as the Handicapper at most of our big meetings. I am sure that Royal Flush must have taught his genial and kindly owner what an uncertain thing a race-horse may be, for he, while well known to be a good horse, seldom produced his home form in public, and he continually disappointed Fred Lee. But when he had been for some time in the hands of Wishard he began to show what he could do. After running a good third for the Jubilee at Kempton, he won among other races the Hunt Cup at Ascot and the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood.
I remember Wishard telling me to back him for the Hunt Cup, but, knowing how often he had disappointed his former owners, I would not do so. And what a fool I felt when I saw him run a game, honest horse and win a head. From that time on “he got better and better”, and ended the season by running a match for £500 at Hurst Park against Eager, the best sprinter in England at the time, at even weights. The excitement over this match was intense, and the betting close. I was firmly convinced that Eager would win, which he did with ease, but the career of Royal Flush bears out my theory that Wishard was a great trainer as well as a good doper. Whether Royal Flush was helped by a dope of course I do not know, but if he was it cannot have been a very injurious one, or he would not have kept his form throughout the season as he did, and come out always with the appearance of a perfectly trained horse.
There is no doubt that the Americans started the practice of doping, though it must not be supposed that they all doped their horses. Both Huggins and Joyner detested it. They had seen too much of the mischief it caused in their own country, but, when they came over, there was no law against doping and those people who, like Wishard, made a study of it were perfectly within their rights.
It was Huggins who told me how it originated. In America they used to race eight or nine days in one particular place, and would then move on to some other district, where the same thing would take place. The consequence was that towards the end of these meetings most of the horses had run several times and were played out. In fact, it became a survival of the fittest, and every dodge and device was used to keep the poor devils up to the mark, and some man hit on the marvellous properties of cocaine for the jaded horse.
After the Americans brought the dope over here, many Englishmen took it up, but they were not very successful, as they did not really understand enough about it. My own experiences were rather interesting.
I remember at the Newmarket First October Meeting of 1896 running a horse belonging to Sir Horace Farquhar, called East Sheen, in the Trial Selling Stakes. He was a useful plater, and anything that beat him was worth buying. In this race he was beaten a neck by a chestnut mare, Damsel II. When she was put up to auction I bought her for £450. She was pouring with sweat, looked very bad, and I thought that I could probably improve her. That evening, when I went to my stables, my head man remarked that the mare I had bought was a wild brute, and had been running round her box like a mad thing ever since she came home. I went to look at her, and she certainly was a miserable object, with eyes starting out of her head and flanks heaving. This was the first doped horse I ever saw, although at the time I was quite unaware of what was the matter. I gave the mare a long rest, and got her quiet and looking well, but she was no good. Eventually Charlie Cunningham bought her for jumping, but he could do no good with her. He afterwards put her to the stud, where she produced a dead foal, and beyond that I know no more of her. But in 1896 doping was in its infancy, and it was not until about 1900 that it really began to be a serious menace to horse-racing. Even then, although there were mysterious hints of its wonderful effect, few people knew much about it, or really believed in it. After 1900, this horrible practice increased rapidly, and by 1903 it had become a scandal. I myself was still sceptical about any dope making a bad horse into a good one. But very strange things occurred, and one constantly saw horses who were notorious rogues running and winning as if they were possessed of the devil, with eyes starting out of their heads and the sweat pouring off them. These horses being mostly platers, and running in low-class races, did not attract a very great deal of attention, but three veterinary surgeons told me that the practice was increasing very much, that it would be the ruin of horse-breeding, and ought to be stopped. Then there occurred a case when a horse, after winning a race, dashed madly into a stone wall and killed itself. I then thought it was about time that something was done, so I told one of the Stewards of the Jockey Club what my three friends, the veterinary surgeons, had said. He was as sceptical as I had been, and declared he did not believe there was anything in it. At that time I had in my stable some of the biggest rogues in training, and I told the Stewards that I intended to dope these horses. They could then see for themselves what the result was.
The first horse I doped was a chestnut gelding called Folkestone. This horse had refused to do anything in a trial or a race. He was always last and would come in neighing. I first of all doped him in a trial. He fairly astonished me, for he jumped off in front and won in a canter. I sent him to Pontefract, where he beat a field of fourteen very easily, and nearly went round the course a second time before his jockey could pull him up. He won a race again the next day, was sold and never won again. I had told my brother, Lord Durham, who was not a Steward of the Jockey Club at that time, what I was doing. So much did he dislike this doping that he was inclined to object to my having anything to do with it. But when I explained that my object was to open the eyes of the Stewards, he withdrew his objection, but begged me not to have a shilling on any horse with a dope in him. To this I agreed.
I obtained six dopes from a well-known veterinary surgeon. They were not injected with a needle, but just given out of a bottle. Their effect on a horse was astonishing. I used five of them, and had four winners and a second. Not one of these horses had shown any form throughout the year. One of them, Ruy Lopez, who had previously entirely defeated the efforts of the best jockeys in England, ran away with the Lincoln Autumn Handicap with a stable boy up, racing like the most honest horse in the world. At the end of that Liverpool Autumn Meeting I had one dope left. I had made no secret of what I had been doing, and Lord Charles Montague asked me to give him one of these dopes. He wanted it for a horse called “Cheers,” winner of the Eclipse Stakes, belonging to the Duke of Devonshire; so I gave him my last one. “Cheers” had run badly all the year. The following week he beat a big field for the Markeaton Plate with the dope in him, including a horse of my own, Andrea Ferrara, who I very much fancied.
By the following year, doping was made a criminal offence, the penalty being “warning off.” Some people think there is a great deal going on now. I don’t believe it: the penalty is too severe, although it is possible there are trainers who will take the risk.
A dope undoubtedly has a wonderful effect on a bad horse, but I am told it acts in just the contrary way on a good, honest one. In the bad horse it supplies the pluck and energy that are wanting, in the good one it overdoes it, and he will run himself out quickly.
Rather a curious case occurred with a horse that I trained. He came to me from another stable, and his trainer told me that he was sure he had been doped previously, for after he had got him the horse was in a most peculiar state, and that all his coat had come off. Acting on this information, I gave the horse a good chance to recover, and after a long rest got him in splendid condition, and tried him well. But directly he got on a race-course there was nothing doing. After several races I advised the owner to get out of him, as by this time doping was illegal, and I was convinced that he would not win a race without it. So he was entered in a selling race, and advertised to be sold after the race. I said to the owner, “You will see, this horse will be bought by the man who did so well with him before.” In the race the horse was nearer last than first, and when he was put up for sale I saw the agent of the man I suspected bidding for him, and he fetched quite double what he was worth on the form he had been showing. Ten days later I went to a race meeting, and just got there in time to see the first race. Something ridden by Danny Maher came out looking all over a winner, when I saw the horse I had sold ten days before come up like a whirlwind, with his tail going round, and snatch the race from Danny in the last hundred yards. Now there is no doubt that a change of stables and a change of trainers sometimes works wonders with horses, but that is not done in ten days! This race attracted considerable notice, and the activities of this particular trainer ceased not long after this event. Not that he was warned off, but I believe that he was closely watched from that moment, and being a clever man he knew that the game was up.
As I have said previously, the Americans certainly taught us much that was simple and intelligent in the treatment of the horse.
When I began racing horses were not given enough fresh air in the stables, which were often badly ventilated, and without sufficient light. Open doors and windows were unknown at that period, and horses were heavily rugged up when at exercise. I think the change in this respect partly explains why horses of these days are so much better tempered than they used to be, and also so much sounder in the wind. Roaring in horses used to be exceedingly common, and it was not unusual to hear a string of horses coming up the cantering ground making as much noise as a band. Nearly every stable would contain one or two really savage horses, and when, as occasionally happened, one of these got loose, there would be a regular stampede to get off the Heath. Time after time I have seen a loose horse galloping about for half an hour or more before he could be caught, trumpeting like a wild beast. Now, when you see one, he generally trots up to his stable companions and stands quietly eating grass until he is caught.
I remember one occasion when I was the only person left on the Limekilns, and it happened in this way: it was at the time that I was suffering from my back and could not ride. I was on foot waiting for my horses to come up the gallop when I heard a most extraordinary noise proceeding from the plantation that runs along the side of the Bury road. Then a loose horse dashed out from the trees, and stood there roaring and trumpeting in a way that I have never heard before or since. I at once recognized that it was a noted savage called Prince Simon, owned by the French sportsman, Monsieur Lebaudy, and trained by Golding. My assistant, Harry Sharpe, was with me, and I hurried him off to turn my string on to the Waterhall ground out of the way of this mad brute, who would savage anything he came near. Away went Sharpe, and everyone else made themselves scarce. I could see and hear Prince Simon charging about the plantation in a mad state of fury kicking and biting at the trees. He then went for Golding, who rode a white pony. Golding discreetly left his hack: it was said that he climbed up a tree. The pony galloped off towards Moulton, pursued by Prince Simon, and I thought all was well. But somehow the pony eluded his pursuer, and the Prince again appeared on the Limekilns. Standing there, lord of all he surveyed, he was a fine sight, although rather too close to be pleasant. Still, I did not think he would bother about me on foot, but, finding nothing else worth his attention, he suddenly came charging down at me. It was not a pleasant position, as I was more or less of a cripple. I had my shooting stick with me, and when he came at me I gave him a crack over the head which made him stand on his hind legs and roar with rage. At this moment, by the greatest piece of luck, Golding’s white hack emerged from the trees on his way home. Prince Simon, catching sight of him, went after him like a dog after a rabbit, and chased him home to his stables, where they managed to let the pony into a box and shut the door on his pursuer. They were not able to catch the savage till late in the afternoon, when, I suppose, being hungry, he went into his box of his own accord. Prince Simon was well bred and a good performer. After this episode, he was sold to the French Government as a stallion, but when they got him over to France he was so unmanageable that they shot him and rightly refused to pay for him.
On another occasion, two horses, the property of Mr. Abington Baird, got loose, also on the Limekilns. One was King of Diamonds, a good sprinter, the other a big chestnut called Snaplock, who was a good stayer. Mr. Baird’s horses were then trained at Bedford Lodge, Newmarket, either by Charles Morton or Joe Cannon, I forget which. When they got loose, these two horses went for each other, but King of Diamonds soon had enough of it, and away he went as hard as he could down the Bury road for home, pursued by Snaplock. It must have been much like a hare and a greyhound, for, when they came to the entrance to the stables, Snaplock was so close on King of Diamonds’ heels that he could not turn, so they went straight through the town down to the Rowley Mile stands. Jack Watts followed them on a hack. They went into the enclosure for hacks, by the Birdcage, and came to a barrier by the steps in the Jockey Club Stand. There they had another scrap, and then King of Diamonds jumped the barrier and Snaplock knocked it down. Then they both jumped a similar barrier out again, and on they went across the Heath, for, whenever King of Diamonds stopped, Snaplock attacked him. Eventually they both came to a standstill just beyond the Cesarewitch starting post. Jack Watts found them there, both so thoroughly exhausted that there was no fight left in them, and they were taken home without any difficulty. Neither horse was ever worth a shilling again.
(For more information on savage and murderous horses, see “Deadly Equines”.)
All this has taken me some way from the Americans, and their doings. I must say that at first the “American invasion” was not much appreciated over here, and I frankly confess that I hated it for it upset so many of my old theories and ideas. Also, the crowd that came over was a pretty tough one. I remember saying to Huggins one day that I supposed there were a good many rogues and thieves racing in America, and he replied, “There is not one, they have all come over here.” But there is not the slightest doubt that the coming of the Americans did us a lot of good and roused us from that feeling of superiority and complacency which is fatal to all progress. When I came to know them I found there was so much to be learnt from them and they were so ready to be friendly that I changed my opinion. “Skeets” Martin was one of the first American jockeys really to make his home in England. He was the first jockey to the Whitneys and J. Huggins. No man was ever blessed with better hands than Martin. He was a wonder at getting away from the gate, and I never met a starter who was not loud in his praise. He never gave them trouble, and they could always trust him. There was no more popular jockey in England, both with owners and his brother professionals. He was a fine rider, especially on two-year-olds and free-going horses, but good jockey as he was, he would have been a great one if he had only had more confidence in himself. If he was riding a horse that was greatly fancied he would worry himself to death before the race and be over-anxious, and if he was beaten, whether it was his fault or not, he would be terribly down in his luck. He won the Derby on Ard Patrick for Mr. Gubbins and Sam Darling.
Two other American owners whose colours were always popular in England were Mr. Keene and Mr. Belmont. Mr. Keene was the owner of that good horse, Foxhall, who won the Grand Prix, beating Tristan, and the following year won the Ascot Gold Cup.
Foxhall was trained by old William Day, of Woodyeats. William had trained at one time for my father, and, when I was about seven or eight years old, I was staying with my mother at some place about eight miles from his training establishment. I got hold of a donkey, and somehow found my way to his stables, and when I turned up and told him who I was he was tickled to death.
He never forgot it, and when, as a young man, I was racing and betting, he would sometimes tell me things which he would hardly let his own right hand know. William was of the old school, and went in for big coups and handicaps.
There is no doubt that things were done then that would raise a storm in these days. I remember three horses running in a race at Winchester, an open course, with no rails round it. One of these was trained by my old friend. He was one of those mystery horses which appeal to the public, had been entered in the Cesarewitch, and was supposed to be a “rod in pickle” for some good handicap.
I had been losing a lot of money, and I asked the old man if his was good enough to bet on. He hesitated a moment, and then replied, “If you know which of the other two will win, back it.” I had no idea which was the best, so I backed them both for as much as I could get on, ending up by laying four to one on the pair. I went up to the Stand to watch the race, which was a mile and a half. Coming to the turn into the straight, to my horror I saw William’s horse ten lengths in front. There was a beautiful field of standing corn on the left-hand side of the run-in. Whether the horse was hungry or not, I do not know, but instead of coming round the turn he dashed into the cornfield, and there was an end of him as far as the race was concerned. The funny part of the story was that the horse, whose name, I think, was General Scott, was really not worth a shilling, and was a good-looking impostor. William Day knew this when he advised me to back one of the others, but when, after the race, there were nods and winks about General Scott’s extraordinary dash into the cornfield, and talk of the Cesarewitch, he held his tongue and looked mysterious. He knew that when the weight came out for the Autumn Handicaps the horse would be thought by many people to be his best, and would afford a screen for him to get his horses well handicapped.
There was a tremendous plunger in those days called Sir Beaumont Dixie. At some race meeting, where he was entertaining a large party, very early in the day Sir Beaumont asked William if one of his horses would win a certain race. William told him he fancied it, but said, “You must keep it quiet, or I shall get no price.” The horse started a hot favourite, and was beat to the d-v-l. After the race Sir Beaumont came up reproachfully to William, who said, “Never mind, you will get your money back on him another day.” “Oh,” said Sir B, “I am not worrying about my losses, but all my party have lost their money.” “Ah,” said the old man, “that’s just what I expected,” and went off rubbing his hands.
Writing of Foxhall, who no doubt was the best horse William Day ever trained, reminds me of Tristan, a very queer-tempered horse, but game. Tristan was a dark chestnut by Hermit, just under sixteen hands, most beautifully made, with legs and constitution of iron. All courses came alike to him, and shortly after winning three long-distance races at Ascot, the Vase, the Hardwicke Stakes and a Biennial, he won the July Cup, six furlongs, at Newmarket.
The following year, as a five-year-old, he won the Ascot Cup and again the Hardwicke Stakes.
He was the property of Mr. Lefevre, a French owner, and was trained by “Young Tom” Jennings, the son of old Tom. Like his father, young Tom believed in a very strong preparation, and I remember Tom Corns, the commission agent, saying of their horses that they were so hard “you couldn’t drive a nail into the beggars.” Tristan remained in training till he was six years old.
That year St. Simon was entered in the Ascot Cup. A curious match was made between these two horses at Newmarket over, I think, a mile and a half, each with his own pace-maker. Good as Tristan was, he met more than his match here: St. Simon won in a canter. Shortly after they again met in the Cup, which was won easily by the younger horse. But Tristan won the Hardwicke Stakes again for the third time.
Tristan was not a great success at the Stud, but he was the sire of Canterbury Pilgrim, the wonderful little mare who, as I have said, laid the foundation of Lord Derby’s great successes on the Turf, and whose descendants I have trained for the last twenty years.
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