Early Bookmaking Days: Incident in Careers of Old-Time Layers Harry Stedeker, Joe Gleason and Others., Daily Racing Form, 1924-04-27


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EARLY BOOKMAKING DAYS Incident in Careers of Old-Time Layers Harry Stedeker, Joe Gleason and Others. NEW YORK, N. Y., April 26— When bookmaking was the popular vehicle of speculation on the races in this country, Harry" Stedeker and Ridge Levein were prominent among the old-time layers. The former was once asked to tell something about the early days of bookmaking in America, and contributed the following : "In the year 1872 the late Joe Gleason and I were selling theater tickets in front of the old Olympic Theater on Broadway, where George L.. Fox was playing in Humpty Pumpty. Two years after that both of us were dead broke, and I suggested to Gleason that it might be a good idea to locate in some billiard room and lay odds on the races then being run at Saratoga. Monmouth Park, Pimlico and in the West. We found a place at 3S4 Third avenue and began to do a little business. "A year or two later we went up to Jerome Park, and I was one of the nine men parading up and down and carrying bags over our shoulders, offering odds a la Newmarket. Among the nine were the late Modoc Fox, S. Rowland Robbins. John McDougall, John HHckett backed by Ridge Lavcin , A. H. Cndge and Henry Stanford. The last-named was an Englishman with a long gray beard, who was induced by Pierre Lorillard to come over here and educate Americans in the then unknown method of bookmaking. Howland Itobbins also had Mr. Eorillards support, not only moral but actual. In fact, as was often the case in those days in England, when many noblemen became amateur bookmakers. Pierre Lorillard really was an amateur layer in this country. That was the beginning of bookmaking here." ACCUMULATED A HANDSOME FORTUNE "How much money did Joe Gleason accumulate?" was asked. "That I dont know," said Stedeker, "but I do know that the amount accredited to him was vastly exaggerated. However, he had almost a monopoly of the one, two, three form of betting long enough to start the accumulation of a handsome fortune. He lived for many years in one of the finest houses in Saratoga. It was on Union avenue. Gleason used to invite prominent racing men from various parts of the country to partake of his hospitality. It had taken the public a long time to realize that it was just as hard to make money betting on horses to be third as it was to pick winners straight. It really never was 1 to 2, 2 to 2, and 3 to 2 in his books, as some have said, but he framed the odds in such a way that, of course, he had the best of it, no matter how-it would come." Stedeker, W. H. Cheppu and W. Atkinson were pioneer odds layers in the West also. At the spring meeting at Lexington in 1880 they were the only layers doing business. All three of them made money. Atkinson kept a tish store on Third avenue, Cheppu was at one time half owner of the strongest stable of horses that ever went to Saratoga from the West. It was the joint property of Cheppu and Milton Young, and was trained by Brown Dick, a negro horseman, who developed, among others, the famous Ben Brush. In 1877 Stedeker and a friend instituted the combination form of betting on the books, and at Saratoga they made it a custom to lay ,000 to 0 that no one could name the five winners, which in those days composed the program. They won 2,000 that season and had many imitators. Then years later P. J. Dwyer, as president of the Brooklyn Jockey Club, killed all combination betting at his track, because of a scandal involving the gigantic horse Gleaner, and this was the final blow which practically knocked out this alluring form of speculation. If left to pure chance alone combination betting would always be popular, but it led to so many mean attempts on the part of small operators to "correct fortune" that it was justly eliminated. The least offensive form of "correcting fortune" was by paying some trainer to scratch a horse which looked to be an absolutely sure winner of the last race, which usually meant losses of thousands for the layers. WHERE LARGE SUMS WHO WAGERED. Present-day race goers easily recall a period when Barclay and Fulton streets were honeycombed with places where horses could be backed to win large sums. It was not at all difficult to do business in these rooms. In the neighborhood of Broadway and Twenty-eighth street, too, were the large poolrooms of Tommy Johnson and Bill Johnson, A. H. Cridge. Kelly Bliss and William Lovell. In these rooms on the night before a race could be seen hundreds of eager men anxious to make wagers, and this helped to increase interest in the contests at the track the next day. Of all men most responsible for the introduction of bookmaking into America Charles Reed stands pre-eminent. About fifty yeurs ago he induced George Haughton to come to New York fre»m England. Haughton was an up-to-date bookmaker and lteed. having large capital, backed him. The duel between lteed and Haughton on the one hand and "Ilunger" Walton on the other one day at Shet-pshead Bay is recalled by old race goers. It was in 1882 when Girofle beat Barrett and Bootjack. Walton, well known at that time as a professional backer, arid particularly as a backer of horses trained by Eph Stedeker and ridden by Billy Donohue. made two wagers of 0,000 each on Girofle, the odds being 6 to 5. Heed and Haughton were depending on Barrett to win for them. Walton was flush with his enormous winnings of the year before in England on Iroquois and Foxhall. and his long career of success made him unpopular with prominent layers. It culminated in his trip to England in 1883 with Girofle, which wound up disastrously.

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1920s/drf1924042701/drf1924042701_13_2
Local Identifier: drf1924042701_13_2
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800