British Turf and Stage: Calebrities Of the Boards Identified with English Thoroughbred Racing, Daily Racing Form, 1919-01-09


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BRITISH TURF AND STAGE Calebrities of the Boards Identified with English Thoroughbred Racing, The fact that Miss Shirley Kellogg. Nelson Keys and others prominently associated witli the theater have this year won a number of races recalls the fact that the interest of the stage with the turf has always been a little more than skin deep. Thcmas Ilolcroft, in past days, more than touched the fringe of both turf and stage; his knowledge of the one helped him, in after life, to mount the ladder of fame in the other. Holcrofts "The Road to Ruin" had a great run all over the kingdom, but the profits its author received were but ,500 and about ,000 for the copyright. Had he produced a play today he might have drawn 50,000 or more. Of what manner of boy was Ilolcroft? A strange lad, accused by his first master of idling away his time in reading and thus "unfitting himself to be a horseman." One day he surprised his drunken schoolmaster by being able to spell a word of six sylables. He casted up figures on the stable door with a nail to mark them out, and the other boys of the establishment vowed he was running mad. His master, a Mr. Woodcock, at Newmarket, gave him an iron-gray filly to ride, but the old trainer discovered too late that the filly and he could not lie trusted together, and he turned the lad away. Then Holcroft went to a man named Johnson, who had thirteen horses, the property of the Duke of Grafton, but as the boy had yet to learn how to ride properly he was again dismissed. John Watson took him In hand. He saw the boy was honest enough to tell the reason why he had not settled with the other trainers. "I like your speaking the truth," said the old trainer. "You must learn somewhere. I will venture to give you a trial after an inquiry into your character." Ilolcroft was accepted on trial at four guineas a year, witli the usual livery and clothing, and he furnished forth into a capable horseman. One horse, The Dun; broke away with him one day. snorted, threw him out behind most violently, and used every mischevious exertion of a blood horse to unseat its rider, but the boy sat firm and as steady and upright as if such a ierformance had been quite usual to him. Cheevers, an old jockey, broke out into an exclamation, "By jove, John, its a fine lad." "Aye, aye, you will find some time or other there are few in Newmarket that will match him," was Watsons satisfied reply. But the future dramatist never rode as a jockey. He had all the makings of one, being somewhat liow-leggcd, and had Continued on second page. 1 . BRITISH TURF AND STAGE Continued from first page. then the custom of turning in his toes, while his knees were protuberant. He soon learned that the safe hold for sitting steady was to keep the knee and calf of the leg, strongly pressed against the side of the animal endeavoring to unhorse you. Holcroft once essayed the commentary that boys with straight legs, small calves and knees that projected but little seldom became excellent riders. His scholarly pursuits took him away from Newmarket for Loudon at the age of sixteen. It could be said of Holcroft that he was the only man to go properly through the mill of turf and stage life. He assisted in placing upon the boards characters whose "suggestion must have come to him in his early days; his sporting knowledge ever crops up in his Works, literary and theatrical. The late Sir Augustus Harris had a penchant for sporting drama, for he presented us with a "National," a Derby, and a Goodwood Cup in "A Run of Luck." Goodwood cropped up again in "New Babylon," run by the late Clarence Holt. The new course at Manchester figured prominently in "Rogues of the Turf." presented by J. F. Preston. J. F. Ellistons play, "In Old Kentucky," told the story of a girl saving- her -sweetheart by riding his horse to victory in one of the great races of Kentucky. The late Colonel North in his time found money to run more than one theater; the late Mr. Foster, when a partner with Jacob Baylis, had a circus at Covent Garden; and the bookmaker, "Charlie" Mead, used to carry on the Philharmonic Theater at Islington. We have seen the late Sir II. B. Tree, the late Lewis Waller and the late J. L. Toole on the race course. The irrepressible Charles Hawtrey takes his racing seriously at Kempton Park, and there we have seen half the Empire cast at some holiday meetings. Mrs. Langtry now working assiduously on her farm at Newmarket had a good run of success on the turf from 1S99 to 1S92. In 1697 she won nineteen races wortli 3,070 in stakes. The late George Edwardes won sixteen races worth 4,000 in 1901. Merman and Santui were the best horses owned by Mrs. Langtry and Mr. Edwnrdes respectively, and the years in which their names were inscribed as Oesarewitch Stakes and Jubilee Handicap winners were perhaps the best for their owners. Bailys Magazine.

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