Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…
ONE OF RACING’S more – most? – shocking episodes took place in 1852 when ghoulish racing fans flocked to Newmarket to discover whether a deadly warning by an eccentric and wealthy owner, the Earl of Glasgow might have a fatal finish – after he had first announced that he would be running horses in six races at ‘Headquarters’.
But it was the second part of his declaration that was responsible for the morbid attention being paid to the meeting.
The Earl was already known to be ruthless with horses who didn’t meet his expectations and one of his contemporary owners, George Hodgman, explained that in the Earl’s opinion, ‘a bad horse was only fit to be shot’ and that Glasgow’s ‘thinning out process’ of his string was ‘by aid of the gun.’
And now, in the October of the year Glasgow had announced ‘that he intended to run six horses the next day’ and that ‘the losers would pay the penalty of death.’
This was no jest, but a deadly threat, and news of it had ‘spread in wildfire fashion’ as crowds poured on to the course to discover how many of the half dozen, who would be literally running for their lives, would survive the day.
First of the sextet to contest a race was Senorita, a bay filly, taking on Lord Clifden’s Plunkett, Sent off marginal favourite, Senorita ran for her life and prevailed by one and a half lengths to foil the ghouls.
Next up was Knight Of The Garter, a chestnut colt, taking on Lord Exeter’s Ilex over one and three quarter miles, and after ‘a stern tussle, did the Knight earn his continued right to corn’, winning by three quarters of a length.
Now, a bay colt, Double Thong stepped up for his potential fatal appointment, against Lord Clifden’s Feramorz, who was rated the surefire winner, ‘only to bolt in the wrong direction at flag fall.’
Caracara was next to face his fate, a brown colt who was a warm order at 1/3 to avoid this being not only his last race, but also his last day on earth, let alone Newmarket.
Carcara and Sackburn raced nip and tuck over the mile distance, and the crowd had no idea who had won as they passed the post almost locked together. Eventually, there were hearty and relieved cheers as the verdict went to Carcara and the crowd ‘toasted Carcara’s heath!’
So, four runners had avoided a fatal fate – all had been ridden by one of the era’s crack jockeys, Nat Flatman, and now another top rider, Tommy Lye partnered Caracara’s sister, who had not even received the dignity of a name from her owner, who had been known to dub his runners such derisory names as ‘He Isn’t Worth A Name’ and ‘Give Him A Name’. This anonymous filly was distinctly unfancied against the Duke of Bedford’s odds-on Hesperus Across The Flat, but rider Tommy wasn’t about to Lye down and somehow cajoled his mount to come home ahead – ‘the odds were cleverly floored’ declared an onlooker.
Just one of the half dozen had yet to race – she was another filly without a name, and she was spared by the generosity of the Duke of Bedford who in a gesture of mercy declined to start his Ernestine against the threatened rival, generously instead ‘preferring to pay forfeit.’
Extraordinary though this whole story may sound today, the evidence of those present on the day strongly suggests that the Earl of Glasgow was very likely to have carried out his threat had any of his half dozen been defeated.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.