Great Plungers of the Past: Transactions in Which Famous English Owners Figured and Not Always Creditably, Daily Racing Form, 1916-08-11


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GREAT PLUNGERS OF THE PAST. Transactions in Which Famous English Owners Figured and Not Always Creditahly. There is no such betting now as was transacted in the lifties and sixties and in the early seventies, says the sporting writer of Truth. The last really great stake which was landed over this race the Cesarewiteh was won by Rosebery. and two years earlier F. Swindell had backed the Truth gelding to win 00,000 by a long course of dexterous, but perfectly unscrupulous, maneuvering. Mr. Swindell won a huge stake over Dulcibolla, which had been tried a certainty, and she came in alone. There was an immense win over Lecturer, Lord Hastings himself clearing 8100,000, while the total winnings of "the party" were not less than 1916.sh50.-100. When the weights for the Cesarewiteh of 18iti were published Lord Hastings considered that, his horses had been unfairly treated by Admiral Rous, and they were all struck out. Lecturer was not included in the lot, as he had been nominated for some reason or another by the well-known Peter Wilkinson. Everything in those days was utterly chaotic and hugger-mugger in the department of ownership and partnership, but under the present rules Lecturer would surely have been disqualified. The most sensational race was that won by Lioness, as it led to unpleasant developments which had far-reaching results. Colonel Ouseley Higgins, who was one of the most popular members of the Jockey Club set, had been for some time on intimate terms with James Merry. He was consulted as to the running of Mr. Merrys horses and was quite behind the scenes in the stable tactics. Lioness, was systematically "steadied" witli a view to her winning tiie Cesarewiteh, the coup having been for several months in contemplation, but ou this occasion not only was Colonel Higgins kept in the dark, but he maintained that he hail been deliberately misled and that, not only had he been put off backing the mare himself, but he had prevented many of his acquaintances from supporting her. Mr. Merry, as was said of a celebrated turf tactician, had been "as sly as a fox and as mute as a mackerel." The fact was that he gave his commission to a shrewd man, who undertook it only on receiving a most solemn promise that not a word should be uttered in recommendation of Lioness until the numbers were up. Mr. Merry carefully held his tongue and, although Lioness was obviously being backed for a great deal of money, neither Colonel Higgins nor anyone else received a particle of encouragement from the owner. When the numbers were hoisted, Mr. Merry looked out for Colonel Higgins, but in those days it was easy for men to miss each other at Newmarket just before such a big race. One would be in the Birdcage and the other might be at the ring, or in the crowd of horsemen, or in a carriage by the ropes. Mr. Merry met Lord Stamford, who was galloping to the rhlg, and begged him, if he saw Colonel Higgins, to tell him to be sure to make Lioness a winner. However, the tip did not arrive in time, and directly after Lioness hud won easily. Colonel Higgins galloped up to Mr. Merrys carriage, almost speechless with fury, and assailed him publicly witli a rich flow of invective, including such epithets as are commonly associated with Ananias and Iiarabbas. Lord Stamford, who came up during the attack, vainly attempted to explain away matters, but Colonel Higgins was implacable, and vowed that only "satisfaction" would compensate for his grievances. Mr. Merry did not relish the prospect of standing opposite a bloodthirsty Irishman who was known to be :t sure shot, and later in the day Lord Stamford was sent to confer with Colonel Higgins with much the same secret instructions as were given by Lord Steyne to Mr. Wciiham when he deputed him to meet Colonel Eawdou Crawley. Happily, the offer was referred for final decision to Admiral Rous and Mr. George Payne, whose strong common sense ami line tact enabled them to patch up what. Ivord Rea-constield has defined as "a bad-tempered understanding." Tin; episode caused a great fuss at Xewniarket, but it was kept very quite, as people wen; not in those days so fond of proclaiming quarrels and scandals as they are now. It was this unfortunate affair which prevented Mr. Merry from being elected a member of the Jockey Club. A few years afterwards his name was to be put forward, but Admiral Rous and Lord George .Manners advised the proposer and seconder to withdraw the candidate, as it was absolutely certain that, he would be blackballed. Admiral Rous was sensiblv averse to subjecting a man of Mr. Merrvs position on the turf to a public snub, as it. might" very likely have caused him to sell iiis stud and give up racing altogether. In those days the names of candidates Tor the Jockey Club were published in the Calandar before the ballot, so if a man was blackballed every one knew of his failure. There was a great to-do about 1807 when the lute Duke of Hamilton was blackballed for the Jockey Club, and not only did the welkin ring with the indignation of the candidates friends, but Admiral Rous pointed out the absurdity and folly of rejecting a candidate of unexceptionable position who raced on a very large scale. At. that time, however, there was a positive craze for blackballing at Xewniarket. and a certain clique vowed to keep out of the club any candidate connected with "the city." Lord Glasgow nearly always put in a black ball, and for years one of the great objects of his life was to keep Colonel Forester out of the Jockey Club.

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