English Bookie A Monstrous Gambler.: Jem Bland and His Many Queer and Heavy Wagers in the Early Eighties., Daily Racing Form, 1908-05-16


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ENGLISH BOOKIE A MONSTROUS GAMBLER Jem Bland and His Many Queer and Heavy Wagers in the Early Eighties A scarcely less notable bookie of that date was Jem Bland whose origin like that of Robin ¬ son was wrop in mistery He and his brother Joe who afterward made a fortune of 100000 by farming the turnpike gates were I believe orl giimlly postboys and then rose to be livery stable keepers In Great Wardour street Be this however as it may one fact is certain Jem Bland was a wellknown betting man at any rate as early as the middle of the second decade of the last cen ¬ tury His acute rough expressions says The Druid such as never coomcd anigh and so on as well as his long nose and white flabby cheeks made him a man of mark even before he got enough by laying all round to set up a mansion in Picca ¬ dilly SportsmanBland writes Thonnanby in the London Sportsman Bland was tiie noisiest and most blatant of the betting men of his time His deep strident voice could he heard above any din he was the Boaner ¬ ges of the ring lie could neither read nor write though liis second wife so far educated him as to enable him to sign his name to checks with a great sprawling scrawl which was accepted as standing for M Bland Jem never could make a note of a bet but when be got home the list was read over to him and not cocker himself of the calcu ¬ lating Charles Babbage could have recounted more exactly what he bad been doing at the betting post The faithful helpmeet already alluded to I be ¬ lieve taught him to use a kind of hieroglyphic shorthand in which he took down bets in his later davs anil when he got home he and his wife between them puzzled out the cabalistic symbols Or as my Yorkshire friend already quoted would have put it he could soom in his cad cadSome Some of Jem Blands betting exploits have be ¬ come notorious for exaimde It is still remem ¬ bered hov in the long narrow room of the Saluta ¬ tion at Domasler which was the betting mart until 1J 2 on the eve of the St Leger of 1S22 he deliv ¬ ered his portentous offer of a hundred to your walkingstick against The dore and how Mr Wyville accepted the wager As everyone knows the despised Theoilore against which 2r 00 to 25 had been laid the previous Saturday ridden by John Jackson came In winner of the St Lcger to the intense surprise and chagrin of his owner Mr Petre who had paid Mr Wyville a bonus to take his bet ¬ ting book oil Ids hands Another odd wager of Jemmys but a more suc ¬ cessful one was bis laying Mr Ferguson the owner of Antonio 50 even that he couldnt whistle when the St Leger horses came in Mr Ferguson ac ¬ cordingly commenced when they were at the dist ¬ ance and right loud and shrill was the note Nay said the crafty layer thou must only whistle when I tell thee and as they swept past with Antonio in front of Wrangler at his girths the signal was given but the lucky owner could only make a blow of it itPerhaps Perhaps Jem Blands greatest coup was In the St Lcger of 1S2 when he landed upwards of 150 000 over Lord Scarboroughs Tarrarre on which George Nelson won his first and only Scllingcr It was a most sensational race The winner started at 25 to 1 and with the exception of his noble owner no one appeared to have given him credit for possessing the ghost of a chance Sultan the favorite Crockys white nose as they called him had broken down the Saturday before the race He could hardly be got into Mr Mawes stable at Belle Vne and some few who stood heaviest on hint raced off in chaises with bribed drivers to reach Shellield and Nottingham before the news and try to save a little of their money moneyAnother Another great year of Jemmys was that of the famous PleniK teniary scandal Plenipo as he was called for short had won the Derby of 1831 In a canter anil was without question far away the best horse of his year He was of course made a hot favorite for the St Lcger which seemed liter ¬ ally at his mercy He started with 5 to 4 on him and was nowhere That the liorse had been got at no one could doubt Two days before the race Plenipo was as lit as hands could make him light and bounding as Duvernay or Taglionl At the starting post lie was gross and helpless as Jack Falstaff or Daniel Lambert Mr Bat son the owner of Plenipotentiary was suspected of having been in complicity with Jem Bland on this occasion but no proof was ever adduced against either ant the mystery of Plcnipos St Leger is still un ¬ solved solvedTwo Two years later even the astute Jemmy was caught at last and It is said he dropped 100000 on Shillelagh The Duke of Cleveland the Jesuit of the turf as his contemporaries dubbed him was more than a match even for the craftiest Legs He vowed he would some day break the ring and he very nearly did in that year It was a solemn warning to Jemmy Bland and he did not trouble the race course much after he dropped his sugar on Shillelagh though that contretemps did not com ¬ pletely knock him out of time He died a rich man after all though nothing like so wealthy as he expected to be at his death deathAn An even greater celebrity of the betting ring than either of these was William Crockford Old Crocky The Father of Hell and Hazard who began life as a humble little fishmonger under the shadow of Temple Bar and died proprietor oC Crock fords Club in St James Street the most magni ¬ ficent gambling palace in the world It is probably as a hellkeeper that Old Crocky is now best re ¬ membered but in his day he was not less celebrated on the turf than at the gaming table tableOf Of tho ring men Crockford was the first to make himself conspicuous a head and shoulders alw ve his associates in penciling the odds Indeed he may have been taken to have been the prototype of ail the great turf speculators since his day of such men us Davis tho first Leviathan of Mr Jack ¬ son of Fairlield and others of the same kidney Many an eye followed Old Crocky with envy as he drove on the course or along the streets in his gorgeous chariot padded with down and silks with the powdered flunkeys behind and many an impe ¬ cunious gentleman as he looked at Crockfords mag ¬ nificent town mansion as large as Apsley House or thought of his noble country scat at Newmarket felt that there must be something wrong in a world which could lavish all its luxuries upon a lowborn seller of fish which had simply his luck to commend him himStrange Strange to say the turf which was the founda ¬ tion of Old Crockys fortunes was also the cause of his death He retired from the hellkeeping in 1840 bavins pretty well cleaned the fashionable world out of all its ready money and then he went in heavily for racing But tho Legs of the turf were too many for him and they fairlj killed him over the Ratan business In the famous Running Rein year Old Crocky owned one of the finest race horses ever seen Ratan which had won the Criterion Stakes in the previous year with such consummate ease that he was served up a hot favorite for the Derby From that moment Crocky never had a moments peace Treachery surrounded him on every side and he knew It Dark hints ami mysterious warnings reached him by every post The favorite was doomed he was told and he had better throw In his fortune with those who had laid against the horse But the old man would not bend or Continued on second page ENGLISH BOOKIE A MONSTROUS GAMBLER Continued from first page swervo from his purpose and fought stubbornly against the long unwearied attempts to break him down Ilia anxiety was fearful his health gave way under it but still ho hoped to circumvent his enemies and land the greatest coup of his life The night before the great race the sentries were doubled outside flu stable Sam Rogers his jockey was locked up alone with the horse sleeping In the adjoinii g stall Every conceivable precaution was taken ai d there seemed no possibility of foul play When he key was turned on Ratan he was In glorious 1 ealth with a skin like satin and muscles f st il When he showed on the downs the next mori ing his coat was standing like iuills upon the fretful porcupine his eyes were dilated wlfh terror and agony and he shivered like a man witli the ague The villainous confederacy had struck Its blow in tho night by sonic means and the noble horse was absolutely last among the lot which he could have distanced had not the cowardly poisoner done ills work too well wellThe The news was brought to Old Crocky1 as he lay desperately 111 in his bed and it killed him Two days later on May 24 just after the Oaks had been run the rumor spead upon the downs that Old Crocky was dead He had died that morning at his mansion in Carlton House Terrace when lie was within a week of his seventieth year There is a story told as to the circumstances attend ¬ ing Croekfords death which has at any rate the authority of the late Sergeant Hallantinc to support it itCroekford Croekford had been very ill for some time and about one oclock on the morning of tho Epsom meeting he was seized with n lit and died within an hour Of course is is well known that deatli cancels all bets and the utmost consternation reigned among the satellites about him at this un ¬ toward event by which they might lose thousands What was to be done In the grey dawn of that May morning some halfdozen whitefaced men look counsel together and came to the desperate resolu ¬ tion of concealing the old mans demise for twenty four hours no one of course being allowed to ap ¬ proach the chnnnVr of death save those in the secret How anxiously they watched for the carrier pigeons which In those pro telegraph days conveyed the news to anxious backers They came at last witli the intelligence that Running Rein had won And now that no suspicion might attach to them they clad the corpse in its usual costume put the well known white hat upon the head and carrying it to the first lloor front room facing St Tames street set it down in a chair at the open window so that people returning from Epsom might see it and as it were establish the alibi alibiAt At the liest of times Croekford looked more like an animated corpse than a man and at tho distance nothing peculiar would lie noticed while a man con ¬ cealed behind raised the hat in salutation as some wellknown person passed and another waved a hand supposed to be Crocks Tho next morning the news went abroad that the old man had passed away in the night and it was only some time after ¬ ward that the secret gradually oozed out outHut Hut In the meantime a curious Nemesis fell upon the conspirators There being a suspicion of foul play the Derby winner became the subject of an investigation by the Jockey Club the result of which was Hint Running Rein was disqualified as being a fouryearold and Orlando which had come in sec ¬ ond was declared the winner by which reversal of judgment these ghouls lost almost as many thous ¬ ands as they had hoped to win Despite the fact that he had squandered something like 3 500000 in unprofitable speculations Crock ford left real and per ¬ sonal property to the amount of more than half a million

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1900s/drf1908051601/drf1908051601_1_9
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Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800