Memoirs of the British Turf, Daily Racing Form, 1922-08-03


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Memoirs of the British Turf BY THE HON. GEORGE LAMBTON. Fifth Article. To return to his chief patron, the Duke of Westminster, he bred and raced Bend Or, Ormonde, Flying Fox and Shotover, all winners of the Derby ; Orme and innumerable other good horses, and his success continued up to the day of his death. At the sale of his horses in 1000 that brilliant marc Sceptre was sold as a yearling for 0,000. Great as her performances were, I think if she had remained under the skillful management and care of John Porter she would probably never have been beaten. As I have shown, the Duke owned four winners of the Derby, and it was generally supposed that ho should have owned a fifth in Orme, which was said to have been poisoned a fortnight before the race. I have often seen this stated a3 a fact, but I have great doubts myself as to the truth of the story, in spite of all I have read and heard on the subject. La Flcche, the property of Baron Hirsch, was also trained by John Porter, and she had not been beaten as a two-year-old. Many people thought she would beat Orme, as she, too, was to run for the Derby. When two good horses in different ownership, trained in the same stable, are in a big race it often leads to trouble and jealousy, and on this occasion there was keen partisanship in the different camps. When Orme a fortnight before the race went badly amiss and was scratched there was talk of foul play. As usual there were plenty of people who believed the story, and when La Fleche, owing to the bad riding of George Barrett, was beaten for the Derby there was undisguised satisfaction in certain auarter3. OKMES THROAT BLISTERED. As a matter of fact I believe that Orme suffered from wrong treatment by a veterinary surgeon, who blistered his throat when he was suffering from a poisonous tooth and a disease called horse-pox, which in those days was not well understood, at least that was the opinion of a celebrated horse dentist, Mr. Loeffler, who was called in to see him. Orme recovered sufficiently from the ailment, whatever it was, to win the Eclipse Stakes in July. He and La Fleche were both engaged in the St. Leger, and naturally there was keen rivalry between the supporters of these two three-year-olds. Orme was ridden by George Barrett and started favorite, but La Fleche, with that good jockey Watts In the saddle, beat him easily; Orme, like his son. Flying Fox, was not a true stayer, but a brilliant horse up to a mile and a quarter. La Fleche wa3 a really good mare and put up a great performance when she won the Cambridgeshire of that year with 122 pounds. Sho won the Ascot Cup the following year, but sho was then trained by Dick Marsh at Newmarket, for at the end of the season 1892 the Prince of Wales horses and tlioso of Baron Hirsch left Kingsclere for Newmarket. A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP. Here was the beginning of another of those fine combinations which led to success. A great owner in the Prince of Wales, a great trainer in Richard Marsh, two fine jockeys in Watts and Jones, with the valuable assistance of Lord Marcus Beresford as manager. The partnership continued to the day of King Edwards death. The Derby was won on three occasions with Persimmon, Diamond Jubilee and Minora. Without question Persimmon was far the best of these horses. I remember his coming out for the New Stakes at Ascot, which he won with ease. I was so much struck with his looks and his performance that I had 5500 on him and resolved to repeat the bet whenever he ran, which good resolution, unlike most that we make, 1 kept. Persimmon was a difficult horse to train, and if he had not been in the skillful and patient hands of a man like Dick Marsh he might never have won the great race3 he did. He was a delicate horse, and at the same time required an immense amount of work to get him thoroughly fit. He was one of tlioso horses that unless they are keyed up to their best are no good, and no trainer ever had a more anxious time, for the responsibility of training for the Prince of Wales must have added greatly to the usual cares and worries of training a good horse. POPULARITY OF SIR JOIUT ASTLEY. Among the many notable figures on the turf in the early eighties Sir John Astley was about the most popular racing man of the day with the public. He had a large string of horses, and there was no mystery about them. Ho betted lieavily, and although he won a great many races I am afraid the count was generally on the wrong side. However, in 1881 financially and physically matters were not going too well with him, but game as a fighting cock the old man would not be beaten, and having won some money on Windsor when she won the Chester Cup, he determined to buy a brilliant horse called Peter, which he had long coveted, thinking by this means to restore his fallen fortunes. Even then, so hard up was he that he had to borrow ,500 to complete the 1,500 which he gave for the horse. Now Peter was five years old, with a very queer temper and most difficult to ride. Charles Wood was Sir Johns jockey. Peter had run in the Lincoln Handicap and the City and Suburban, and Wood had not got on well with him. He was engaged in the Manchester Cup with 125 pounds. Archer went to Sir John and said, "Let me ride Peter and you will win the cup and as much money as you like. If I ride Captain Machell will not run Valour. You know Peter wont go for Wood." SIR JOHNS LOYALTY. Sir John was the most loyal of men to anyone he employed, but he was sorely tempted. I dined alone one night with him at Newmarket and he told me that he had backed the horse for a big sum, enough to get him out of all his troubles. He wanted Archer to ride, but he hated the idea of taking his own jockey off. When we went to bed I still thought there was a chance of seeing Archer on Peter, but in the morning when I met him he curtly said, "Wood rides." I remember meeting Archer that day and his saying to me, "It is a pity about this ; Sir John wants a turn badly and I am afraid he wont get it now: I shall ride Valour for the captain, and he is dangerous on that course." I went to Manchester with Sir John. Peter started second favorite for the cup at 9 to 2 and Valour at 25 to 1. After a good race, in which Archer completely outrode Wood, Valour beat Peter by a neck. What a sportsman the "old mate" was! Neither by word nor expression, as lie patted Wood on the back after the race, did he show a sign of the severe blow to his fortunes. The following week was Ascot, where Peter was engaged in the Gold Vase. By now it was common property that Wood and Peter did not hit it off. There were only three runners for the Vase, and Sir Johns friends begged him to put up Archer, who was without a mount. No, he would be damned if be would take his jockey off just when the horse had an easy job. The horse started at 3 to 1. Result: he ran out at the top turn and did not complete the course. The following day Peter was in the Hunt Cup with 12D pounds. Wood had a prior retainer and Sir John put up Archer. In the race, after going about two furlongs, the horse stopped to kick. Arclier gave him one pat on the neck and the horse took hold of his bit again and won in gallant style by three parts of a length ; a remarkable performance on the part of horse and jockey. On the Friday, Archer also won the Hard-wicke Stakes on him by eight lengths, but. alas ! these successes did not make up for the expensive defeat at Manchester. Virtue is not always rewarded. Before the days of Wood and Archer, Fordham often rode for Sir John, who considered him the finest jockey in the world. He once told me this story about him. Sir John was running a horse in the Lewes Handicap and Fordham was riding it. In the race there ran a horse belonging to a widow called Mrs. Drewett. Now, Fordham had been brought up as a boy by the Drewetts, and he was always very greateful for the kindness he had received at their hands ; and Mrs. Drewett was very hard up at that time. In the race he was beaten a head by the widows horse. Sir John had been quite satisfied with the way his jockey had ridden, but after the race Fordham came to Iiim and said, "You know, Sir John, I ought to have won that race for you." "Nonsense." said Sir John, "I could see nothing wrong." "Well, you know. Sir John, Mrs. Drewett has not been able to pay her rent, and all through that race I could not help thinking of that damned rent, and you know I ought to have won." FORDHAM STRICTLY HONEST. I should say this was the only occasion in his life on which Fordham might have been accused of "not doing his best." The Bank of England could not have bought him. Sir John was typical of the gallant, bluff Englishman; outspoken and hating humbug and cant, always ready to go out of his way to do anyone a good turn. About a year or so before his death he was being laughed at by some of his friends for having been taken in by a bagging impostor. Someone said, "Hang it all, youre old enough to know better." Sir John replied: "Thank God, I have had a happy life. I hope I shau die before I lose my faith in humanity." Very different words were these to tnose of another noted personality of that time, Captain Machell, who not long before he died told me that suspicion had been the curse of his life and made him an unhappy man. After the season of 1SS2 Sir John Astleys colors were not often seen on the turf. I really thing that Peters defeat in the Manchester Cup broke his indomitable spirit. I always had an idea that he and Machell disliked eacli other, and if that was so it made the blow doubly severe. The early life of Machell must have been full of adventure and excitement. Beginning as an impecunious subaltern in the army, he became one of the greatest powers on the turf. When I first knew him he was already a broken man in health, having, as I imagine, burnt the candle at bv ends, but as keen as ever on racing. MACHELLS MANY COUPS. He suffered terribly from gout; was a most pleasant and entertaining companion when he was well, but often attacKed bj moods of great depression and gloom. He was famous for having engineered many great handicap coups, and was reputed have won a great deal of money. He managed a large stable of horses at Newmarket, and had, at the time of which I write, a very clever young trainer in J. Jewitt. Some of his great successes on the flat and steeplechasing were before my time, but many triumphs were still to come, notably those of Isinglass, perhaps the best horse he ever had to do with. It was the fashion of the day for the young bloods to put their horses under his charge, and invariably they won big races, but at the same time the careers of these young men were short. Many people put this down to the fault of Machell, but I do not think it was so ; it was an age when young men betted furiously, and whatever the advice and whatever the successes there is only one end to that. Take, for instance, the case of Lord Rodney. In 1887 he had a wonderful year, winning many races, including the St. Leger with Kilwarlin and the Cesarewitch with Humewood, yet at the end of the racing season he was broke. However much he won on his own horses he was sure to lose it, and more besides, on other peoples. Many of the early triumphs of Machell were achieved with steeplechase horses, and I always thought he was even a better judge of jumpers than of flat race horses. One year he had over 100,000 to spend in yearlings, which in those days was an enormous sum, and he told me that out of the lot not one reached even second-class form. I do not say this proves him not to have been a good judge, for such a thing may easily happen to anyone, and there is no such lottery as buying yearlings. MACHELL NOT A RICH MAN. I have said that he was supposed to have won a great deal of money, but when I knew him he was by no means a rich man. He kept open house, was the most hospitable of men and very careless about money matters. He was often short of ready money. If he took a fancy to a horse he would buy it, even if the price was beyond its value. On occasions he was unable to find the money after he had completed a deal. I know that Fred Archer was part owner of several of his horses ; jockeys were allowed to own horses then, and there was no rule about declaring partnerships. Valour, a horse I have written about, was certainly partly owned by Archer. Without question Machell was a clever man concerning horses. He and his trainer, Jewitt, used to have tremendous rows, both being hot-tempered, high-strung men, and their opinions sometimes differed. When Isinglass was being trained for the Two Thousand the going was quite hard, and after every good gallop he was sore. Jewitt wanted to strike Mm out, and said it was impossible to have him fit enougn to win. The captain said: "If you train him as I tell you it can be done." He had the horse out twice a day and cantered him up a short bit of hill on the Bury Tan time after time. Jewitt said a horse could not win a Two Thousand on such a preparation. "Isinglass can," replied Machell, "because he Is certainly at least fourteen pounds better than any horse In the race." It came off all right, for although Isinglass, running in slovenly fashion, looked like being beaten, he eventually struggled home from Ravensbury. All through his three-year-old career Isinglass was handicapped by hard ground and the impossibility of training him properly, but he was a great enough horse just to pull through in all his classic races. He won the Two Thousand, the Derby and the St Leger, but ho was beaten for the Lancashire Plate at Manchester by the Duke of Portlands Raeburn, the race being only a mile and not far enough to bring out his great staying qualities. I can remember Isinglass as a four-year-old just scrambling home from Bullingdon in the Princo of Wales Stakes at Newmarket, again having been trained on the tan, owing to the hard ground. That night it rained and this continued more or less up to the day of the Eclipse Stakes at San-down. JEWITTS CONFIDENCE IN ISINGLASS. Jewitt said to me on the morning of that race: "You will seo what Isinglass will do with his competition today ; it is the first time I have been able to gallop and train him properly." He was right. Instead of frightening his backers to death and struggling home, after being apparently well beaten, as he had done in most of his races. Isinglass commanded his field, which included Ladas, the winner of the Derby, from start to finish and won in a canter, proving Machells words that he was fourteen pounds better than any horse in England. . To go back to Machells earlier career, Hermit was in his stable when he won the Derby for the then Henry Chaplin. Mr. Chaplin won a small fortune, and the captain was always supposed to have done the samo, but Georgo Herring, who was one of the biggest commission agents of that time and did Machells business, told me the following sufj after Machells death. Ho h:i been telling mo how he had seen Machell fight Major Hope Johnstone, a man twenty-eight pounds heavier than himself, in a small room in a hotel In London. The smallness of the room prevented Machell from making use of his superior quickness and activity, but he put up a splendid fight and, although beaten, he never gave in until nearly battered to death. MACHELLS GAME NESS. As Mr. Herring said, "The gamest exhibition I ever saw; but," ho added, "I saw him once show even greater pluck. I had backed Hermit to win him 00,000 in the Derby. "As all students of turf history know Hermit broke a blood-vessel shortly before the race. It was so bad a case that Machell thought his chance hopeless, and told mo to try and get out of the money, which I was able to do. When Hermit passed the post a gallant winner Machell had next to nothing on, but he received the congratulations of his friends, who all imagined him to have won a fortune, with a smile and without a sign of chagrin on his face though no man wanted the money more, and not a soul except myself knew the real state of affairs." I saw a lot of Machell during the last years of his life. One could not say that he was a popular man. He was more feared than liked, and in common with all very successful men he made enemies as well as friends. There wero two sides to his nature one cold, hard, calculating and suspicious; the other generous, affectionate and simple as a child. The contrast was so violent that it was almost impossible to believe him the samo man. I have mentioned that suspicion had been the curse of his life, and he once told me the following story in illustration of this. He had a great opinion of Fordhams riding, and, before the days of Archer, put him up whenever he could get him. On one occasion Fordham was going to ride a horse for him in a selling race ; Machell thought it would win, and told Fordham that he was going to back him heavily. FORDHAM LOSES ARGUMENT. Fordham did not fancy the horse, and tried tried to persuade him not to bet, without avail. The horse went badly in the betting and in the race was beaten. Fordham said when he came in, T told you so," but Machell in his disgust accused the jockey of not trying. Fordham never forgave him and never rode one of his horses again. "The damned horse," said Machell afterward, "was no good, and I lost the best jockey In the world." The Houghton meeting at Newmarket of 1886, when St. Mirin was beaten in the Cambridgeshire, had been a bad one for backers, especially for the numerous followers of Fred Archer. On the Friday morning at exercise on the Heath, Archer rode up to me, saying, "I suppose you have had a bad week." I answered that I had. "Well," he said, "you can get out on Queen Bee" a mare of Robert Pecks; "she cant be oeat, but I have only told you and the Captain, and I know you will give Peck time to get his money on ; he has had a bad week, so dont say anything to a soul." When the race came off Queen Bee was beaten the shortest of heads by Wood, on Draycot, no one knowing which had won till the number went up. Machell was standing next a friend of his, Mrs. Chaine, always an ardent supporter of Archer, and who, as the number appeared on the frame, exclaimed, "Thank God!" To Be Continued.

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