Told of George Fordham: "The Finest Jockey I Ever Saw Ride," Says Henry Custance in Memoirs, Daily Racing Form, 1923-05-17


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; ! j . . , I , t i . , . t " , _ t , is , , , , n of - . at t IT ,t| II E. ... j,j , ,e in i_ _ a the ie r. to t0 is js Sb n his ls a u did jj sc id ig is to rt Pd Ky. * Bd had id and - a m and id ■p E. l" ,1 colt , . the «•!- er Lie this lis TOLD OF GEORGE FORDHAM 1 "The Finest Jockey I Ever Saw g Ride," Says Henry Custance in Memoirs. In his "Riding Recollections and Turf Stories," Henry Custance, a contemporary of b to the late John Osborne and himself a rider of V note, devotes some pages to George Ford- r ham, one of his foremost rivals in the saddle. • Says the writer : "In speaking of one whom I consider all round to be the finest jockey I ever saw or rode against, it is needless for me to say r that I refer to my dear old friend, Gecrge s Fordham. He was the most unassuming and, perhaps, honest man I ever met. As an in- a stance of the latter I can vouch for the fol- t lowing facts : In 1861 I rode a horse named Trovatore, belonging to Mr. Merry by Irish a Birdcatcher — Catherine Hayes, against a J a 2 mare named Lady Peel at Newmarket. The -race 1 was reduced to a match and the odds 4 to 1 were wagered on Trovatore. On our way to the post George said to me : "Yours is thought to be a certainty, isnt it? I re- J plied, T think mine is sure to win. He an- c swered, 1 have told a friend of mine to win 1 1 me a bit on yours. . t LOSES BY WINNING. ] "It was an extremely close finish, and I I dont think that he ever rode a finer race t in his life, as he just beat me by a short i head, nor do I think I ever saw Fordham c more pleased with himself, although he had 1 lost 00 by winning. "On going home after the last race that ; day I met the same two animals returning i to the course on the flat. Lady Peel had ; been claimed and Colonel Higgins and j Mathew Dawson, with Norman and W. Bot- ] torn as jockeys, were going down to try the j two animals again over the same course, the Rowley mile, at the same weights. Mr. Dawson asked me to be judge and I complied. "When the runners came into the Abington . Mile Bottom you can imagine my horror at , seeing Trovatore three lengths in front, and looking. like walking in; but half way up the hill he put his ears back, and cut across the s course, running nearly into the judges box. where I was standing. I gave the verdict . three lengths, but as I was an amateur judge it might not have been more than two. The horse I rode, Trovatore. was a dreadful rogue. I recollect he cost Mr. Hughes of Epsom, who had him afterward, a lot of money through his tricks. WINS THE CAMBRIBGESHIRE. "It is quite impossible for me to mention all the fine races I have seen Fordham ride. With one especially I was much impressed and so were many others who will corroborate me. This was when he won the Cambridgeshire of 1871 on Sabinus. This race was especially most beautifully timed and resolutely finished. While on this topic I must relate a little anecdote of Fordhams reappearance in the saddle after an absence of two years through illness. Mr. Jennings gave him his first mount in the Bushes Handicap, on a horse called Pardon, belonging to Count Lagrange, at the Newmarket Craven meeting of 1878. Fordham would not mount in the Birdcage, as no one hated flattery more than he did. e wer,t down to the course together to the Ditch mile starting post and he mounted about half way down. He seemed all right at first, but just before we reached the post his spirits failed him, and he said to me: " Cus, I wish I hadnt got up. " Why, George was my answer; whereupon he replied: " Look at those kids: I dont know one of them. There were several small boys, and only Archer of the older ones riding. "I said: My dear George, dont you trouble about that; they will soon know you when you come alongside of them, especially at the finish. ARCHER WINS WITH ADVANCE. "In the end Archer won on Advance, and Fordham was second, "beaten three lengths, so the judge said. It struck me Fordham didnt exert himself much in this race, which I attributed to his being rather weak and out of condition. Afterward I went to him and said: Why you didnt have half a go. He answered with a most knowing wink: You dont think 1 was going to let him Archer beat me a neck the first time I rode, which he would have just done. "I wont to Mr. Jennings and told him wnat George had said and asked him if he would run Pardon in another race — the Bretby Plate — later en that day. He said: Certainly. It is pleasing to be able to say that Pardon won this time. I never heard anyone receive a greater ovation than George Fordham did on his return to weigh in that day. I need hardly say how he regained quite his old form and rode as well as ever. That is well known in turf history. "Another story afejmt Fordham is worth repeating. He was riding Brag for Mr. Rothschild against Reputation at Newmarket, in a match for 31.000 a side on the T. Y. C. at the second spring meeting of 1883. Archer was piloting Reputation and as he was going out of the Birdcage a friend said to him: "Fred, mind the demon dont do you again. He had just beaten him two or three times that week. Freds reply was: "I wiil he half way home this time before the old gentleman knows where he is. FORDHAM FOOLS ARCHER. "Reputation was an extremely quick horse off the mark. I overheard this observation and jumped on to my hack at once, knowing thai George was walking on foot to the post. I caught up to him and told him what 1 had heard Archer say. He simply smiled a;:d said : All right, Cus. I never saw anyone get into such a muddle as poor Fred did on that occasion. He was giving fourteen pounds away on a horse with a fine turn of speed. and he had only one chance, to wait and come with a run at the winning post. How-lever, through Fordham kidding him that he had the best of the start. Archer made too j much use of his horse with the worst of the weights. Instead of being half way home. Reputation tired, and Fordham beat him out on the post and won by a neck. "Pocr Archer told me himself after that match that he cou.d always make out what every other jockey was doing, but he never could understand what old Fordham was up to. "Fordham and myself were always the greatest of friends. I was best man at his wedding and godfather to his eldest son. • We were always being taken for each other r when apart, although there was not the I slightest resemblance when we were together. I was much taller and bigger. That people S thought us alike is shown by the following ! ; amusing incident that happened to me one night in London : It was in 1861. after Starke had won the B Goodwcod Cup, and when out one evening I went to the Alhambra. I had not been 1 there long before up came a man who spoke e with a Yankee accent and said : " Waal, George, I guess I won a bit on you at Goodwcod last week, and I guess 1 knew Dicky Ten Broeck out in the States. "Indeed, I replied: whereupon he said. " Yes, I did, and I had many a nights play with him. "My friend suggested a drink, and I think u I concurred. Presently he remarked : " I am not a rich man and cant afford j a large present, but should like to give you ;, something in remembrance of your winning. I am a dealer in rugs and if you will accept t one and tell me where to send it you shall , have a good one. "I thought. "Weil, this is too good a joke to miss, so I told him to send it to Webbs Hotel. Piccadilly. On reaching the hotel j I r.aid to the porter: If a parcel comes he:e addressed to Mr. Fordham. please send it up ., to my room. Sure enough it arrived the next t morning, and contained a real good skin rug. , A few days afterward I went to Slough to Q spend a week with George, and when I came e into the house Mrs. Fordham remarked : " What a swell rug you have. Cus. 1 answered, Yes. and I came by it in a funny .. way. And then told her all the circumstances. _ She said directly : Well, of course, you will give it to Ceorgo." M "Certainty not," 1 answered. It was bad enough to he taken for him. without giving up what little compensation I received. "I dont know any little story the poor old boy liked telling more than this. Of course. he always made out I introduced myself to this Bunkum Yankee and received the rug under false pretenses, which was certainly not the ease. The man only addressed me as Ceorge, and although I knew he was under a wrong impression. I never undeceived him, and let him send the rug to me. Which naturally I kept."

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