Great Antiquity of Chester Racing: Quaint Traditions and Incidents Attaching to Englands Oldest Race Track, Daily Racing Form, 1918-05-18


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GREAT ANTIQUITY OF CHESTER RACING Quaint Traditions and Incidents Attaching to Englands Oldest Race Track. The subject of the oldest racing venue is oil" which lias frequently liecu discussed and it is one on which the experts still agree to differ. With no intention of reviving the argument, one may safely state that the claims of Chester would bear a deal of ins| ectiou. Exactly how far back racing at Chester dates is a matter of doubt. Numerous entries in the "Cheshire Sheaf," which .-ipiicarcd in the "Chester Courant" some years ago. named DXRI as the date of the first authenticated race meeting in the city on the Dee, but in DMMJ Mr. Arkle of Oxtou, quoted Ormerod, the Cheshire historian, on the founding of races at Chester so ago as l.wttt. says an English authority. Then a former contributor came along with his little lot. This writer relied U|h ii Rices "History of Cue British Turf." wher -iii 1511 is mentioned as the time of the institution of Chesters racing carnival. Somewhere in the archives of the city was an order dated January lo in the third year of the reign of Henry VIII.. directing that a silver liell, the reward of "speedy runuiuge," should in future lie always run for by horses on a i-oiirse oil the Roodcc. Acl-ording to Rice, this is the earliest record of annual horse races in Britain. In "The Walls if Chester" Frank Simpson quotes Raudlc Holme, sen., one of the Chester Heralds, to the effect that " it has liecn customary time out of mind, niton Shrote Tuesday, for the Company of Saddlers of the ancient city of Chester to present to the lira iters a wooden ball, embellished with flowers and* plaeed upon the |Miint of the lance." In the year 1540. Holme goes on "the ball was changed for a silver tx-ll valued at three shillings and sixjH-nee or more to lie given to him who shall run the In-st and farthest on horseback before them on the same day, Shrove Tuesday." AN EXTRAORDINARY ACCIDENT. In his "Magna Britannia." Lysons gives 1512 as MM date of the first record of races at Chester, but Mr Simpson, on investigation, found a correction .,ttl nd of the iHM.k. It was discovered by l.ysoiis himself that in the Orders and Acts of Assembly of the Mayor. Aldermen und Common J- nil of the City of Chester preserved in the muniment room at the Town Hall the order referring to the races is dated loth of January in the ""Is* ear of Henry VIII. s reign. Lysons explains that in the copy procured for him "3 Henry VIII." was written of "31 Henry VIII." Thus, the Corporation rceords support the year l."»4 t :ls Is-iiig the date of the lirst race meeting at Chester, though the phrase "time out of mind" quoted ;iIm»v mi-iiis to provide cviden,-e that races were held ill Chester much earlier than suggested by the Cor|K rati..n records, but no older date has actually Im-cii di-c.ivered. Nowadays Chester has but a three-day fixture annually in May. though the city, like most other place*, has had to "close down" during the past couple ! year*, the most reecnt Cup winner licing Hal— Hll ia 1815. At one |m riod. however, the nn-cs n— I to hivi four M five dnys. whih a couple of .H-e.tsious iii the later years of the eighteenth e. utury they extended over six days. Then. in 1774. .hi autumn meeting lasting four days was held in SeptemlN-r. the May meeting licing reduced to thn-e days, this arrangement existing for eight years, after which the autumn fixture was discontinued. A somewhat weird story of one of these early meetings was told ill the "Cheshire Sheaf." According to this the autumn meeting of 1S70 "was remarkable for an extraordinary accident caused by two reckless young men riding furiously along the coins.- meeting two others equally reckless. The noise of the collision, it is said, struck oil the ear I i k . tie- crash „f ■ large tree falling. One voting man was killed and the other three badly hurt. The four hors.-s had to ! •■ destroyed." Fortunately «,• can take our racing these days, when |M-rniitlei|. without anticipating incidents of the kind iiImiw- related. In 1*23 the prizes included a cup valued at 70 pounds, presented hy tin- Karl Orosvenor. accompanied by a gift of i;o guineas by the m-iiilx-rs for the cil.i. though there are much earlier instances of cups being put up for competition by memliers of the Grosveimr family. At one time cock fighting used to figun- on the bill during race weeks, and mains were fought between the various counties of the district, such as Cheshire, Flint. Shropshire Denbigh and Lincashire. CORPORATIONS INTEREST IN THE RACES. The Chester Corporation has always lieen intimately ,,,,., -ricd with the meetings on the R hi- ami at period they gave plate of the value of iui guile is as ,-u, annual donation from the rates. and it was called the "Annual City Plate." That the citizens have derived lienefit from tl«- interest in and ussociatioa with the races of the fori»ora- tion — who. as owners of the Roodee. receive onp-eighth of the gross receipts — needs no emphasizing. In olden times the tradesmen of the city were the chief promoters of the races and our renders need scarcely be reminded that the Chester Cup was formerly run as the Tradesmens Cup. The original trophy was of the value of a hundred guineas, there being in addition a free handicap siake of fifteen guineas each. The race, it is re corded, started from the Castle Pole and the horses ran twice around the Roodee. finishing at the Coming-in Chair. There wen- six starters and the winner was a horse named Doge of Venice. A week prior to the race an advertisement appeared announcing that the committee who had conducted the arrangements on liehalf of the trade of Chester for presenting the Cup. intended to hold a meeting to audit the subscription accounts. Though the environment is redolent of the "good old days." Chester is now an up-to-date meeting and llie Cup is one of the most popular of the spring handicaps, even if it lias of late years Im-cii somewhat overshadowed by the Jubilee Handicap run at Kemnton Park in the same week. Years ago the Cup "attracted big fields and in 1S52 then-were no fewer than forty-three contestants. The winner was a three-year-old carrying sixty-six INiunds. named Joe Miller, which somewhat in appropriately defeated Stilton by a length. A Chester Cup often alluded to is that of 1K44. won lv Red Deer, which carried but .r»t» |xiiuuls. Bed liccr was ridden by Kitchener, and it is in connection with the liodily weight of that rider that argument frequently arises, ttn Cup day Kitchener weighed 49 pounds, but four years previously, when he rode at Ascot, he sealed only 29 liounds, and as a consequence no less than twenty-five MM deadweight was ri-quired to bring him up to the requisite weight, fifty -four pounds. Red I eers is tin-lightest burden associated with the winner of the Chester Cup. while the heaviest is that of Central Chassc. which as a six-year-old. in 1.V37, with 133 pounds in the saddle. Iicat nine rivals.

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