Racing in Ante-Bellum Days, Daily Racing Form, 1913-11-26


view raw text

RACING IN ANTE-BELLUM DAYS. a a spi Another old-time trainer of race horses is Bernard it ,,. Riley, who is comfortably quartered as one of the the regular guests of a lintel at West Farms, within a did ,j Jew steps of the Sahwav Million. While racing was I ... still nourishing at Morris Park .Mr. Riley, who was when "j, resting from active participation in the sport, took cif up Ills quarters at this hotel because it was within . easy reach of the track away hack in 1903 and on on after the close of the meeting- he had learned to I t, than consider himself so much at home and so thoroughly s.,j comfortable that he lias continued there ever since. f0 for Mr. Itiley, who. by the way. is a gentleman of I .a - education and intelligence, cannot fail to impress one I r,u with his comprehensive grasp of horse racing in the broadest sense. He has interesting experiences in I ov even riding and training horses away back in the antebellum days, but what seems to be of greater in- w. war. tercst to the turfman of today is his logical advocacy of racing as a sport, as a means for the im- ..fl provoment of the horses of this country and the pro-motion of horse breeding as a valuable and important yi Industry. I w Although born in Jersey City in the thirties, lie I Wl went, south when a mere boy and became such an r out-and-out Southerner that on the breaking out of f0 the war lie quit the turf temporarily aud joined a 0 cavalry troop in New Orleans which was assigned to the command of Lieutenant-General Polk, under A., whom he served until that officer was killed and sue- nc not ceeded by Lieutenant-General Steward, and under th him Mr. Kiley served until the last gun had been i tired in behalf of the lost cause. W His long service as a Confederate trooper ren- ai di-red him esuecially qualified to judge of the value w ,f the thoroughbred for military purposes, and he Bj unhesitatingly declares that it was largely due to I tlie excellence of its .cavalry horses, which were I i for the most part either thoroughbreds or half-hreds, ta that the Confederacy was able to astonish the civil- y isced world by holding out against overwhelming odds j iu as long as it did. I tl "We put up a great fight against tremendous ov odds in men and resources," he said, "and it was m mainly due to the fact that we had race horses and 0f of well bred saddle horses under troopers who were ac- in in customed to riding that we were able to do so. Of !H and course, untlinching bravery, patriotism and chivalry in D In the best sense counted for much in our successes. m but it must be remembered that the Federals had C all these qualities in array against us, aud we held i put out when our resources would otherwise have been 0 of exhausted because we could capture 70 per-cent. I ot or of our sustenance from the wagon trains of the Federals, which were constantly being surprised j, and plundered by our cavalry, regular and irregular. tj "At the time the war broke out racing was the , great amusement throughout the south and a great s: proportion of our cavalrymen were mounted on thoroughbreds of the old sort horses which for many generations had been bred and trained to run three and four-mile heats when riding was the most Kpu-lar means of recreation aud locomotion among the southerners. I cl -Federal officers who had been accustomed to green troopers mounted on clumsy, heavy-footed farm lr horses, totally unlit for saddle or even light harness i, purposes, could not believe possible the night jour- j nevs which our raiders would make, and even when w they were keeping the closest watch upon the move- , merits of our cavalry troopers, it was easy for us to i tl surprise their wagon trains and secure supplies v which were invaluable to us, while the loss of them w was cr ding our enemies. 1 "That was, in my opinion, the real reason why oir I n armies in the field were able to hold out so long against overpowering odds as far as men and money , were concerned. b This was undoubtedly the great lesson taught t to the civilized world by that terrible war. and yet, j, strangely enough, our own country, which, as the - greatest sufferer should have been first to profit in , bv it. is still about the only great power to ignore a a if. It is a crime to mount a good soldier on a had horse, and yet it is what is being done in this h country todav. England. Germany. France, Kussia -r and indeed all the great powers have recognized a the inestimable value of cavalry, especially for t to scouting, raiding and foraging, and they are making y the most strenuous efforts to systematically produce the highest tvpes of cavalry and artillery horses e by breeding animals having a strong infusion of the a warm blood of the race horse. v "Thev are buying stallions from the English race f courses at enormous figures to be placed on govern- f incut breeding farms, and they are doing everything in their power to encourage farmers to breed their . mares to thoroughbred sires for the production of the best tvpes of army horses and officers chargers: 0 and even Canada and Australia are actively engaged along these lines. On the other hand, in this country, wo are doing much to ruin horse breeding, especially the breeding of thoroughbreds, through anti-racing legislation. . I f "This at one time threatened to utterly ruin the . -Thoroughbred breeding industry in every part of this , if countrv, but fortunately Mr. Belmont, Mr. Whitney, " Mr. Kvan, Mr. Billings and other wealthy horsemen have this vear come to the rescue, and the result is that the sport lias been greatly rehabilitated, ; and that on the liberal and sportsmanlike lines I which were characteristic of ante-bellum racing. . "There is now an excellent prospect of a com- . plcte revival of the sport upon a foundation which cannot fail to appeal to the good taste and com- . moil sense of the best men in this country, even though thev may not have any especial liking for . the sport, but for the sake of what horse racing. t and resultant horse breeding, may do in the way of improving the equine product of the entire coun- J trv." I 1 "Referring to his own career as a turfman. Mr. j Hilev said that as early as the winter of 1S52-3 he rode in races at New Orleans, although when he , first left his home in Jersey City for the south he landed in Mobile, which was then a racing point of considerable importance. "I rode several races in Mew Orleans that win- , ter," lie said, "but few of my mounts were on 1 , horses which were at all prominent. The last horse ; 1 rode was a white stallion called White Eagle. He ; was by Gray Eagle, out of Hannah Harris. He be- longed to a gentleman named Drake who lived in ! , Michigan and who sent him south to race in New Orleans. White Eagle was fairly successful and 1 made a good showing at three and four-mile heats. Indeed, the gentlemen sportsmen of those days ! would not keep a race horse which could not run three or four -miles, and about all the races were at heats, dashes seldom being thought of. If a horse " could not win at more than a mile or two miles he was suspected of being short-bred and was sold to 1 a farmer or owner who raced at county fairs and . small meetings, such as we call bush meetings nowadays." , , , When asked if he thought Lexington could have held his own with the race horses of today. Mr. Jtilov answered unhesitatingly in the affirmative. "You see, he said "conditions were different t from those of today. Owners would not think ot v running their horses over such tracks as we have now. The running tracks of those days were so deep and soft that a horse would sink almost hoof-deep " in them, and a trotter couldnt show a road ! gait on one of them. A trainer of those days would 110 more think of working a race horse over a trotting ,j track than one of onr trainers of today would . consider working his horses over an asphalt pavement. One who has not seen old time racing could J not believe how slow the tracks were in Lexington s racing days. "Then, too, thoroughbred horses were bred and ,1 trained to run four-mile heats and 110 trainer ever ; tried to develop great hursts of speed. Ve were accustomed to leave extreme speed to the quarter horses, for they could heat the thoroughbreds at that game. . .... , A "Lexington was meeting and beating the best t horses of his dav and generation: that is what the V! kings and queens of the turf have been doing ever h since; thats what thev are doing now and that s What thev will be doing to the end of time. .It always has been, and always will be. pre-eminence that counts. Lexington was pre-eminent in his turf career and a large percentage of his sons and ,1 i daughters were similarly successful, and today the . blood of Lexington remains a potent factor to success on the turf. . . I "In the old days, before the -war, racing was at high-water mark in the south. The jockey clubs of ,f those davs were organized and maintained purely v for siKirt, and th? gentlemen composing them did Il not care whether the public attended the races or ,r not but no one could get into the members enclosure exceot through introduction by a member. r Xo non-member could race a horse over the track U of a jockey club unless a member would vouch for him and enter the horse in his, the members own name though the name of the owner would also ;o appear as owner with the entry, on the race pro- j. The old Metairie Jockey Club of New Orleans, 5 ind the Washington Jockey Club of Charleston, h. V C were perhaps the most powerful and aristocratic ic r-iting organizations of those days. The last-mentioned !- club had a stand opposite the quarter post 3t for the general public, where spectators were admitted 1. at a dollar a head, but no one could pay his uav Into the club stand and enclosure which were re open only to members, their families and invited There were three regular racing circuits in the ic south in those old days. One started at Crab Orchard Kv.. where they would liegin a six-day nieet-ln t- racing Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday, Friday. v ir-iTtinlnv a,uI t,le following Monday. This would Id !.. followed bv similar six-day meetings at Lexington in mil Louisville. Nashville. Tenn.. Atlanta, Macon, n S ivannah aud Augusta. Ga., and Columbia, Charles-ion s- and Pinoville, S. C. "Another circuit of the same character would be-in o- : at Richmond, Va.. followed by Broad Rock, v., and wind up at Charleston. S. C. Vtlll another of these circuits would include M-imdil Tenn., Natchez, Miss.. Now Orleans. La. ., ind Mobile and Montgomery. Ala., but most of the ic j "res racing in the south would finally drift down ,-n to New Orleans late in autumn and there would be lie a a spi it ,,. the did ,j ... when "j, cif . on on t, than s.,j f0 for .a r,u ov even w. war. ..fl yi w Wl r f0 0 A., nc not th i W ai w Bj I I i ta y j iu I tl ov m 0f of in in !H and in D m C i put 0 of I ot or j, tj , s: lot of racing down there uutil the following spring. "There was heavy betting in those days, but while was assumed that every gentleman engaged In sport was able to meet his obligations and he none of them was purse-proud, and nobody wanted to advertise himself as a plunger, so that gentlemen bet heavily iu Hie clubhouse enclosure the outside world never was advised of il. . "When Mr. Ten Rroeck was in England I bad it unquestionable authority that he won not less 00,000 on the victory of Prioress in the Ce-sarewitch. but the fact never was heralded abroad, In those days such publicity would have been regarded as bad form. Taking into account that the purchasing power of a dollar was then much greater than it is now, that was a rather nice sum to win, on a big stake race." Referring to his connection with the turf after the Mr. Riley said: "Although I made rather good progress after going to New Orleans, having a stable of my own in 1S54-5 after having landed there only about two years earlier, my more important engagements were as a trainer, first for Mr. Lorillard and afterward for Mr. Withers. I was In Mr. Lorillards eniplov for only alwut two years, and that was before he achieved his greatest successes 011 the turf, beginning with old Parole. "While I was training for him. he raced James a brother to Parole and a good horse, though at all the equal to the slender brown gelding that came into my hands as a yearling. Pierre Ixirillard was buying most of his yearlings from Mr. Welch, of Chestnut Hill, in those days. The same aiitumu that he bought Parole I quit his employ and went with Mr. Withers, who had just founded his Brookdale breeding farm. "Mr. Withers had only six or eight mares when took charge, but he afterward made a splendid establishment of it. His importations of such valuable horses as King Ernest, Maccaroon and Stone-lienge did much for the horse breeding interest of this countrv, but it was as manager and controlling owner of Monmouth Parks, old and new, that he was most prominently and favorably known as a turfman the old school and the best type. He always kept mind that racing must be regarded as a sport, not as a means of making money, and with this view a regulation was introduced into the Monmouth Park organization by which all profits in excess of six per-cent. for the stockholders must be back into the sport, either through the increase purses and added moneys for the following years in the form of permanent track Improvements. "This was in line with the custom of ante-bellum turfmen, and also in line with the action of the gentlemen who. at no small financial risk, have undertaken, in 101.1. to restore racing in New York and Saratoga. New York Telegraph.

Persistent Link:
Local Identifier: drf1913112601_3_1
Library of Congress Record: