« PreviousContinue »
s tremble while I scribble--'pon my soul!”...... Meanwhile the narrative halts. It is the second week of jocund June—"anon to fresh fields."..
Our theme is Royal Ascot. Is it treason against good taste to refer to antecedents? May not this princely festival be contrasted with concurrent modern instances. The bard into whose melodious mouth Lord Byron put " The isles of Greece," compassed his popularity mainly, as we are assured, because
“He praised the present, and abused the past.” Shall there, then, be no balm in Parnassus for your laudator temporis acti? To such, this our regal tryst was a green spot of the multitudinous turf--an Olympian oasis--as it appeared in the volume of the “ Book Calendar” devoted to the races to come in 1852. Therein was duly propounded the carte of a meeting-flavoured, indeed, with a relish of the handicap, but not on fire with that pernicious stimulant. Full fair to contemplate, and sweet with the rare courtesy of courtly grace, was the promise of a golden vase, contributed by the Queen of this our heart-united Kingdom and, emblematic of the good-will among men, the gorgeous trophy presented by “the Emperor of all the Russias." Were not these offerings worthy the occasion and the purpose? Were they not pregnant with the principle upon which a great national sport was promoted, and which distinguished its institution? The turf was a pastime-it is now a pursuit. Were our grandpapas all wrong, and are we of the third generation all right? Let us not begrudge this problem a passing analysis. Without offence to young Westminster, may it not be suggested that a good style of architecture prevailed in old Nineveh? Is it any disparagement to the choir of Apollo singing at these presents, to claim some poetical merit for the “ Diad?” Is it a justification for Mr. Power's “Greek Slave" losing her temper, that we cannot avoid thinking there is still something to admire in the productions of Phidias and Praxiteles? Mr. Tattersall used to have, in his collection at Hyde Park Corner, and doubtless has still, a delicious picture of Newmarket in the olden time, all phaetons as high as the Monument, cocked hats, pigtails, powder, point-rufiles, and nobles in rapiers, canvassing the condition of their cattle. Little did the chivalry of that bright age anticipate the day when that subtle essence “the odds,” that spirit of their own peculiar Helicon, would be part and parcel of the plebeian compound retailed at the tapster's bar! That Punch, aggravated till his bile boiled over, would take occasion to embellish his page with the bay window of a beershop, filled with bottles and betting-lists, the former labelled “gin," the latter “bitters!” That such things should be making the sylvan road “ bit” from Windsor--through its classic park, to its characteristic course-like a Queen Anne's farthing, valuable in the ratio of its rarity.
The present season, if not in all its social relations, certainly in the instance within our particular province, has evinced the reaction which was foretold for the successor of Fifty-one. There was not one of the Newmarket Spring Meetings within fifty per cent. of their ordinary average ; and the famous Cockney carnival on the Surrey Downs furnished a beggarly aceount of empty books. Spring, it is true, dal
lied too long with “old Hyems,” and May was no month of roses. But there were other untoward agents at work besides the “skiey influences.” The abomination of betting for the million beset us, turn which way we might : at the corners of the streets it lay in wait, like a basilisk that bides its time ; on the race-course it went its rounds, rampant as a roaring lion ; and those who cultivated the craft set to their office with Gordon-Cumming stomachs. Nothing was too mighty or too monstrous for their digestion. Man, when he hungers with auri sacra fames, is your moral ostrich. People shook their heads, and asked where it would all end? They had already followed it to the police offices, and thence to Newgate. There we will leave it—"sweets to the sweet and with merry memories of that “ lang syne in which Salt-hill smiles with perennial summer, and eke with vernal glimpses of honoured alma mater in perspective, we will go on our way rejoicing ; for is not this anniversary to be marked with a white stone ?
Assuming “town "to be your starting-post, and Ascot Heath the finish, should you happen to be sojourning at Long's or Limmer's—and, as a bachelor, you may go farther and speed worse in the great metropolis— if you have decided to travel by the South-Western, the first thing, probably, that will occur to you as you rattle over the pavement is that you are driving away from the quarter towards which you are bound. Are there not " sermons in stones”? and may not the moral apropos of the occasion hint that the premier pas of the turf is generally in the wrong direction ? As soon as the “compartments all stuffed, and time is ripe, off you go. Observe how everybody incontinently begins to read. Is it low, and only beseeming “vulgar” company,” to look abroad upon nature, the fields, the trees, and the rivers ? What a droll place for study! and how your eyes dart and dive at the lines as they dance and reel to the oscillations of the carriage! Your pardon--this is a desultory style ; but make allowance for circumstances. Do you suppose Plato would have limited his muse strictly to philosophy on his way to the Olympic games? For the first time in your lifeif you were born in the present century—you reach the ground undefiled by dust. How fresh and fragrant is the landscape ! how full of odour is the air! how melodious are the birds! No wonder such a scene made “Merry Wives ” of Mesdames Page and Ford. This alternate cloud and sunshine foreshadows showery weather. Here, again, there is a lesson that may be read with profit-" telle est la vie !” The rain shares with the sunshine the golden glory of the harvest—the liberal libation of the grape--the radiant incense of the rose...... We shall never get on without a bill of the play.
Minus the al frescoes of “cloudless realms and sunny skies,” the opening of the royal meeting on Tuesday, the 8th ult., was a rural féte champêtre of charming influences. The air was balm, and there was no dust! The courtly cavalcade, in all its bravery, inaugurated the scene : the attendance was good, in the quality sense of the term, and the sport befitted the occasion. There were mal apropos showers, of course-June wept as April was wont in the olden time. The state of the ground followed suit. In lieu of being as hard as bricks, it was as soft as dough. This necessarily affected the issues materially; as some horses won't run a length kindly through dirt, while others prefer puddles to sound turf. Nevertheless, we are not to award the prophets the impunity of wrong to which they lay claim under cover of this casualty. If their “ fine frenzy ” makes no account of rain in these latitudes, its premises are most undeniably bad, to say nothing of the principle. About midsummer racing assumes a character of peculiar interest. The three-year-old stock has by that time become, for the most part, known for its merits or demerits, and then the keen encounter of wit among the talents begins, or ought to begin, if the turf be not utterly surrendered to the evil spirit. The two-year-old stock is making its debut, in earnest form, after the Newmarket Spring series. And the old ones are full of lusty life, or “ fit as fiddles” in the vernacular of the stable, though I am unable to say how the contrast sympathises......
And here I crave a few lines' space, to request those gentlemen who anonymously communicate with the publishers on the subject of these papers, to furnish their names and addresses to the editor of the Sporting Review, and they shall be answered-personally.
The list mustered nine events, whereof seven produced contests. The first of these was the Trial Stakes. Half a score ran—the first in the betting, at 7 to 2 against either, being Officious and Hothorpe, and they were first also in the fray, in the order of their quotation—the mare, however, winning in a canter ; but as related to Olympian pretensions it was a sorry sight. The second year of the Third Triennial, with its 47 nominations, gave us a quartet at the post—the winner of the Oaks causing the company to be especially select. The Duke of Richmond ran a brace, Harbinger and Red Hind, the fourth being Filius. Songstress, with even betting on her, made the running, and won very cleverly by a length. The third year of the Second Triennial, for four-year-olds, 46 subscribers, and half-a-dozen competitors. Little Midas, with 5 to 2 against him, won in a fine race by a head-having cut out the work—of course. The Ascot Derby had 10 subscribers, and a trio to go. They laid 6 to 4 on Red Hind, a jade with the temper of Petrucio's Catherine. The winner was Convulsion—the last the favourite-in consequence of a tumble over a dog, by which, fortunately, her jockey, Flatman, was not injured, though he had a very ugly fall
. This sensation was succeeded by the preparations for the chief issue of the day-The Golden Vase, given by Her Majesty. The muster amounted to eight—the latest betting being 5 to 2 against Frantic, 11 to 4 Barbarian, 6 to 1 against the colt by Phlegon, out of Marinella, and 10 to 1 Ambrose. Thus, when it is stated that Nancy numbered among the throng, it will be observed that she was friendless. Very soon after the flag fell, there ensued a wild goose chase, with Baron Rothschild's champion for leader, and Nancy for “ boots ;" this, too, with the pace an ordinary average donkey's gallop. As they drew near they were on better terms, and setting to work at their best up the straight (“incline ") run home. The Marinella colt had enough left in him to win, beating Little Harry, second, by a length cleverly. The Ascot Stakes, with its 86 subscriptions, arranged eleven at the post. They took 5 to 2 against Buckthorn, and among the others in the market was Lucio, about worst, at 8 to 1. The handicap of the running was on sufferance, for as soon as Lucio went at it in earnest, which he did at the distance, he beat the half score by three lengths, without an effort.
Of course, " the ground did it "--what's the odds, so long as there's a scapegoat ?
A Sweepstakes of 50 sovs. each, for two-year-olds, with four nominations, was run a match between Stella, with a turn of the odds--and Flatman-on her, and Elspeth-which the former won by four lengths -a canter. Father Thames walked over for the Welcome Stakes ; then did the same for a Sweepstakes of 50 sovs. each, b. ft., 6 subscribers--and so the first act of the royal performance terminated......
During the night it rained a torrent, and Wednesday dawned with a little deluge. From the dawn till the next morning, thus it continued, with such fortune as might be anticipated : the attendance was exclasively professional. During the day, the following question iu Olympic Equity was submitted for the discussion of the Stewards. Officious was proposed for entry for the Royal Hunt Cup. It was thereupon contended that, having won the Trial Stakes on the preceding day, she had incurred a penalty of 7lbs., the value of the stake being more than one hundred pounds. In proof, the conditions were tendered in evidence-viz., "The Royal Hunt Cup, a piece of plate value 200 sovs., by subscription of 10 sovs. each, with 100 added, for all ages (two years old excepted). New Mile. Weights to be declared on the Tuesday after Epsom. The winner of any handicap plate or stake, value 100 sovs., including the winner's stake, after the weights are declared, to carry 7lbs. extra." The Ascot Trial Stakes is a weight-forage race.
The authorities decided that Officious, under the terms of the conditions, should carry the penalty. Those gentlemen, no doubt, came to that conclusion honourably and conscientiously. My impression is that their reading was not the correct one. The principle of the stipulation, all through, has reference to handicapping. So far from any provision being contemplated having a relative application to weight-for-age racing, two-year-olds are excluded by the conditions from the Royal Hunt Cup—the only age at which race-horses are not within the operation of the system of weight for performance. It would be satisfactory to the collectors of turf Notes and Queries, if this instance should fall under the notice of the framers of the rules for the Royal Hunt Cup, did they make public what their intentions upon the point actually were.
The Coronation Stakes brought out a trio to represent the dozen named. They betted 6 to 4 on Caloric. Lord Orford's filly by Ion, out of Exotic, won, beating Hirsuta by a head, who beat the favourite by a like distance--a pretty finish, considering the premises. The Albany Stakes Hobbie Noble walked over for, Mr. Greville being permitted to save his stake with Frantic. The Royal Hunt Cup, a handicap, with half-a-hundred nominations, had three-and-twenty of them at the post, with 7 to 2 against Ephesus—the winner! Perhaps it may be suggested that this champion “fought with beasts :” no doubt the array against him was not a brilliant host. But it should be had in mind that this our Ephesian was considered good enough to be sent for both the Derby and St. Leger, and, at three years old, to win £366 in a stake, with 8st. 7lbs. on him. Whereas here, with a year in hand, he had three-and-twenty pounds less to carry, and Tommy Lye for a pilot: our antique friend waited like an almighty Stoic. The course is a contrivance whereby, under occasional conditions, your man of enterprise may enlist in his behalf an old head upon young shoulders--halfa-century's experience of the pigskin mounted upon the effigy of a thriving baby, in or about weaning-time. The first year of the fourth
Aseot Triennial Stakes, for two-year-olds, with 43 subscribers, was confined to a company of half-a-dozen. They laid 6 to 4 against The Reiver, 10 to 6 ditto Cheddar, 5 to 1 Auld Acquaintance, ditto the filly by Touchstone, ont of Cuckoo, and 10 to 1 War-whoop. The favourite won, under disadvantages, having taken the brook--that is to say, what is the road in seasonable weather, and torn off a plate-probably in his leap. Barcelona walked over for the Queen's Guineas ; and then came the Fern Hill Stakes, nine nominations, and four at the post. They laid 5 to 2 on Vaultress, and she won in a canter by a dozen lengths. She is in next year's Derby, Oaks, and Leger, and has thus offered a pretty preface for a book. They say that a dog was slipped at her as she passed the stand : in due time, tigers will be "shaken" in the weighing-rooms. Maria having won a Fifty-pounds Handicap Plate, beating four, with 6 to 4 against her, the water-works ended for the day!
Who that assisted at the Ascot Cup anniversary of 1852 will ever forget it? Mirth was out of the question : what amount of spirit may retain its flavour under an exhibition of ten thousand per cent. of the element-cold-without anything else? Except the mud! Ah! woe is me! What angelic boots! what seraphie slippers, perished amid the merciless mire! The very policemen, stern statues done up in oilskin impenetrable as the hide of the rhinoceros, “cut it ;" and "fair women" waded to their carriages--so they did-up to their ancles. I say they had no alternative : “ slap into the slough, or lodge where you are for the night, Mrs. Ferguson."...People said the Queen wouldn't come : they argued that there were sleighs in the royal mews at Windsor, but no boats. Nevertheless, her Majesty was on the ground to the minute ; and when it is borne in mind that amphibious creatures are for the most part mute, it is wonderful what acclamations hailed her advent. There are two lines of rail from London to Windsor, one broad gauge and one narrow-just as the good-natured man had two holes in the door of his barn: a big hole to let in his big cat, and a little hole to let in his kitten. In the Times newspaper of to-day--the longest day of the year—there are quotations of twenty-three railway companies whereof the £100 shares are all paid up. Of these, two are above par: one at £107, and the other £125 the share: and twenty-one are at a discount, whereof the minimum rules at £17. All hail to the locomotive philosophy of the nineteenth century ....... The opening event was a Sweepstakes of 50 sovereigns each, h. ft., for three-year-olds ; 17 subscribers; the Swinley Course. They laid 6 to 5 against Harbinger and 2 to 1 against Ben Nevis-the latter the winner by a head : four ran. The Visitor's Plate brought out five : Harpsichord, at 5 to 4 against him, was the favourite ; then Barcelona 2 to 1, Ianthe 4 to 1, and Ilex 5 to 1. The finish was a very punishing struggle between the first and second in the betting-won by the favourite by a neck. The Windsor Forest Stakes was run a match between Flirt, with 6 to 4 on her, and Sally—a wretched burlesque on a race--won by the favourite. This brought us and we were thankful to the great issue, the Emperor's Plate. A couple of dozen were named for it, and nine showed the majority with their tails “ clubbed," as the metropolitan undertakers' teams are wont to be during the winter season on black jobs. A less picturesque style of coiffeur was never affected by chivalry. Imagine Hobbie Noble winning the Derby in a queue such as that sported