Golden Age of Plungers: Some Anecdotes of Race-Track Betting on the English Turf in Days Long Gone, Daily Racing Form, 1910-07-24


view raw text

GOLDEN AGE OF PLUNGERS. Some Anecdotes of Race-Track Betting on the English Turf in Days Long Gone. In these days when you hear of » man making a bet of 0,000 on a horse race yon are apt to throw up yiiur hands in surprise, but there were times, especially in connection with the Bhglisfa I turf, when such a wager would be considered mere childs play and unworthy of notice, savs the gam. The "OOs, ami perhaps for a generation earlier, might ■ be characterised as the golden age of the plungers. ; for a string of liets is on record for that period which completely dwarfs anything since or before. , These were the days of the IMarunls of Hastings , and the Duke of Hamilton, while somewhat earlier were tbe Earl of Glasgow, the Marquis of Exeter, heylrttmn Da vies, Lord George Rentinck and several others. Of this brigade of reckless plungers ml dpubtediy the most remarkable character was tlie Marquis of Hastings, whoae short life was one con- |i»i s romance of the maddest plunging. It could be said of him that he was a liorn pinaster, for he 1 let no event f note pass without wagering on it. When he was aboal twentv five years of age and 1 at the heyday of his career lie owned a crack two-year-old Ally named Lady Elizabeth, ami she was t. nominated for all the big three year old fixtures. lor the first few times site carried silk tlie fillv was fairly successful and the marquis thought he saw in her a chnneo to retrieve his waning fortune. Tlie climax of her two-year-old season came in tbe Midair Iark Plate. Then, as now. the race was considered tlie two year-old Derby trial. Ladv Eliza . both was a splendid animal to tlie eve. and for tin-test her trainer had her in the liest possible fettle, and at the same lime be informed tlie owner that she was a sure winner, and. acting on the advice, lie backed her for the sum of 3250.000. As the horses went to the post the owner of Ladv Elizabeth was sitting with Maria Marchioness of Ailesbury in her carriage, ami he watched every move of the horses through a field glass. The horses were a long way off. but verv earlv in the fray the keen eye of the miar.juis saw that Ladv Elizabeth had not tbe ghost of a chance, but. being one of the best losers, he never unalled. Onlv as the horses flashed pas! the post he was a trifle pale, but bis mouth was set ami his eyes glared. Then the mar eUoness. noticing his pallor and being a woman of ouick perception and at tlie same time resourceful, offered the am gala her betting book and asked him to calculate how much she had lost. He did some figuring ami. returning the book in the coolest and politest manner. Informed her that she had lost Snout 25. It was a must clever Interruption, executed lor the par nose of distracting the thoughts or l arcjuis lor Hie time being from his disaster. and yet the marchioness only guessed that he must have had a heavy Nt on the rati. In her three year old year Lady Elizabeth gave promise that she might land Hie Derby, for in the early spring races she showed high class form. Her most dangerous opponent was Hermit, which Im-longed to a wealthy man named Chaplin, who was at thi time engaged to marry the Marchioness of Ailesbury. Tliis state of affairs involved a romance —-tlie marej less was madly in love with the Marquis of Hastings, and it was an open secret that ho had the highest regard for her. However, the Derby came around and some enormous betting was recorded. The marqufi took one last cliai ami he backed Lady Elizabeth to the amount of i.M Hi. but he was doomed once more to disappointment, for Hermit won the much-coveted race and his owner gathered in the handsome sum of SiOo.titiO. which is probably the biggest aimaint ever won by one ni.ui over tlie race. Tlie marchioness never became the wife of Chaplin, for she eloped Wfta tlie marquis and married him and shared some of Hie misfortunes which befell him later on. Over this same race of Hermit there was a still more tragic episode. William, the third Duke of Hamilton, being the chief actor. People went mad over tlie chances of Hermit, and especially when it was reported that he bud burst a blood vessel. All sorts of bets were laid against him and the wildest sort of plunging Was done over what he might do in the race. His trainer was the famous Captain Machell. tlie very keenest judge of horses, and. of course, he knew whether Hie bursting of the blood vessel affected the horses chances. One night about a crnple of weeks before the race Machell walked into Longs Hotel, where there was some brisk betting going on. No matter what size bet a man wanted to make he could always find a taker at Long s. for it was a plungers resort. On this occasion they were laying 20 to 1 against Hermit and before he was long in the house Machell had covered bets which would bring him 3225.000. He put up his money so freely that a few of the wiser division began to think the trainer had a good thing, knowing, of course, what Hermit could do. so naturally after a little while there came a lull in the anxiety to lav odds against Hermit. Then it was MaehelPs turn to create a surprise and he did it when in a loud voice he announced that he stood ready to take 00,000 to .NN| about Unhorse and in a very short time the aaoney was covered. Just at that moment in walked tlie Duke M Hamilton and he was immediately told about the betting and he was atlanie in a minute for a plunge, but when a few of his retainers who were there wanted to give him the exact figures lie waved them aside, saying that the sums were not worth talking about. At the same instant he walked over to where Captain Machell was standiug. and. drawing himself up to his fullest height, said be would lav S150.000 to 35,000 against Hermit — • that he would do so once, twice, three times, four times, five times and six times. It was as if a thunderbolt had fallen, and then everyone present looked toward Marched and. after a few moments pause, be unietlv but firmly Informed the duke that he would take the full amount - that is. tMO.OOO to $.;tt.iNH. The end of this wager was rather tame, for later in the even ing the duke offered a nice BUB to have the bet canceled, but Machell refused. Next dav. however, lie took a different view of the situation, for he declared the bet off altogether. A generation earlier George, fourth earl of Glasgow, nourished, and though he was a notorious plunger he was the worst kind of a loser and a testy sort of a sportsman at tlie best. He did some luavy betting over the St. Lege* in 1X21. and after be balanced up bis accounts he found that he was a winner to tlie amount of 385.000. but be lost 3$.-000. over the Derby in 1827. when he laid long odds against the winner. Mameluke. There is a Story told of Lord Glasgow having jumped up on the table at the Star Hotel. Doncasler. the night before tlie St. Leger of 1S23 and offering 25 to 1 against Bru-tamlorf in thousands. John Gullv getting a big slice of the odds on the s|Mt. Some years later Lord Glasgow and Lord George Rentinck were constant opponents in the plunging line. Whenever the least opportnnitv arose they wagered against each other. Iird Bentinck had a horse named Gaper in the Derby of 1813, ami the night before the race he strolled into Cockfords to make a few wagers. Cockfords was in St. James street and in those days was the great haunt of the plungers. Lord GbnUrow. who happened to be there, said lie was willing to lav £90.000 --something like 34504W0— at odds of 3 to 1 against Gaper. The size of the bet staggered Lord Rentinck and lor once in his life he had to take water by admit tiiiL that the sum was a little larger than he ex-I led. The second Marquis of Exeter was another of the big turfmen who liked to do sonic pin aging occasionally, and lie did it in the most off hand manner. One day at Newmarket he walked up to the betting ring and asked for Mr. Davics. He meant Leviathan Davles. a bookmaker who at the time bandied the biggest bets on the turf and was well known to all the noblemen, on Paries making his appearance Exeter asked him how much he would lav against his horse, which happened to be running in one of Hie races. Davics told his lordship 350.000 to 5.iii i. and the figures being satisfactory the bookmaker was told to jot them down, after which Exeter strolled away to the paddock. The advent of Davics as a bookmaker occurred In a most peculiar way. He was a carpenter by trade, and When a young man was sent to Newmarket to do some work around the stables. There was a meeting under way. and on the advii f some stable, hands he made a few small bets, which were successful. Another scquaintance which lie made around the stable advised him to back Attila lor the Derby of the following year. At that time the horse was Hot even mentioned for the classic, and in the winter books Davics got 1 1 Mt to 1 against the 35 which be invested. Attila won. and the money, along with other small wagers which Davles made on the horse, tempted him to give mi work and take to bookmaking. That he was a success call be gleaned from the fact that when he was thirty years of age he was worth WOO.OOO. due of his biggest losses while in busi ness was over West Australians Derby, when he dropped OfMXOOO. but that same year he won 3250, Mai on the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewltcb, One of the most peculiar instances of plunging occurred one* at Tattersalls to Erv. the bookmaker. A .somewhat seedy-looking stranger presented him self at the box and asked for the price against Com mon for the St. Leger. Fry. not being iinntessed with the strangers looks, answered _ to 1 sharptr. and the new investor was further Informed that he would have to put mi cash or get a reference. Tbereunon the stranger coolly took out a greasy old wallet, and from it extracted live Bank of England notes, each, for *5.00l and laid them in front of the bookmaker. Fry was so surprised that lie nearly fell off his chair. Common won. and the shabby person sauntered hack out of tlie crowd to collect the equivalent of 375.000. Fry had to give him an Open check and a letter to his banker, as tbe stranger refusal to tell bis name

Persistent Link:
Local Identifier: drf1910072401_2_4
Library of Congress Record: