A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THOROUGHBRED RACING AND OF CONTROL
by: Lloyd Arthur Wharton
Before THE STEWARD and STEWARDING came the EQUINE and EQUUS CABALLUS. These preceeded the LIBYAN, which preceeded the ARAB, the BARB and the TURK, which produced the THOROUGHBRED.
And then came MAN of NOBLE and GENTLE BIRTH and his desire of sport but also his desire to compete and to win, but then, to WIN for GAIN.
And then came those whose desire to WIN was so strong that they resorted to all and any means to WIN. So then came RULES FOR ALL and the need for Observance of the rules by all. And then came the need for the enforcement of the RULES and PENALTIES for the failure to observe the RULES. AND thence came the STEWARD.
It would not be right to commence this programme without some mention of the Animal that is the foundation of the Sport:
“EQUUS CABALLUS” - predates history.
The Species is distinguished from other Equines i.e. the JACK, the ZEBRA, the ASS and the QUAGGA, but whether all these species have a common ancestor or not, is uncertain. The debate continues over the years, as new scientific methods become available and new light is shed on the history of development of the Animal. It might be sufficient however, for us here, to recognize the FOUNDATION STOCK on a simple geographical basis as arising from:
THE CELTIC PONY - of Northeast Europe.
THE ORIENTAL - of Upper Asia and. Europe, represented by Mongolion Stock.
And. lastly but most importantly THE NORTH AFRICAN or LIBYAN Stock, from which has descended. The “ARAB”, The “BARB”, and The “TURK”.
These latter were by far the most intelligent, fast, sensitive, tallest and were possibly easiest to control by man.
In his quest to produce a better horse, it was at this stage that man chose to intervene and after the Darwinian (Natural Selection) process of Evolution by providing, better environmental conditions - housing, medical care, nutrition, systems of training for fitness and lastly but ‘by no means least- a system of Breeding based on a selection by Breeding to Winners, The “Thoroughbred” as we know it today is a -creation of the United Kingdom and is a product of the mixing of imported bloodlines with local stock in the seventeenth century.
OF THE MARES IMPORTED - it is noteworthy that Charles 11 of England (1660-1685) established a stable of fifty Barbs or Royal Mares.
OF THE STALLIONS IMPORTED - The Byerley Turk was captured by Captain Byerley at Buda in 1688 and imported into England. Thomas Darley in 1704 sent home an Arab from Aleppo to Yorkshire, and The Earl of Godolphin picked up his Barb in Paris (1724)- pulling a water cart.
The Byerley produced - “HEROD” (1758).
The Darley Arabian produced - “ECLIPSE” (1764)
The Godolphin Barb produced “MATCHEM” (1748)
These are the Certain Foundation Stallions from which all Thoroughbreds can now trace their origin. The history of Thoroughbred Breeding is unique since a precise ‘and accurate register has been maintained since ‘the. Foundation of the General Stud Book of Great Britain in 1791, which was first published in 1808. This record has been kept, up to today by the family of James Weatherby
As a result of Selective Breeding and a healthier and safe environment, the “Thoroughbred”, has grown by one inch in every twenty-five (25) years. Today we have a larger, stronger, animal. However the effect on speed does not appear to have been as great. The distance records have to a large extent remained the same and sprint records have only been broken over the last fifty (50) years. Many claim this is largely due to better track conditions.
There are records of Horse Racing in Greece as far back as 2000 BC and 400 years later in Egypt. But these references in the main apply to CHARIOT RACING. The XXIII Olympiad of 640 BC records Four Horse Chariot Racing and it was not until the XXXIII Olympiad of 624 BC was there record of Horse Back Racing.
Records show that the Egyptians were riding horses in 2000 BC. Much later, in 1377 it is recorded that there was a race between Richard 11 and the Earl of Rundle, and of Racing of the Markham Arabians in 1616 by James I. Interest in Horseback racing came after Chariot Racing, and even in some cases in Europe, of Horses running rider less through the streets, with a system of spurs attached to them to make them run faster. This was a cruel sport.
ROYAL PATRONAGE & ORGANIZED HORSE RACING
James VI of Scotland was a prime supporter of Racing even before he became James I of England. There was racing at many places in Great Britain - mainly “Match Races”, but James I of England is credited with the early Establishment of the headquarters of Horse Racing at Newmarket.
His Son Charles I continued an interest in Racing and in 1634 presented the 1st Gold Cup for Racing. But it was his grandson Charles 11 who after the restoration of the Crown firmly established the Sport in an organized manner, at Newmarket.
Horse Racing in the 17th Century, was truly the “Sport of Kings” of noble and gentlemen. Large stables were kept “without consideration of cost.”
“Meets” were important social events where racing and wagering took place. Racing remained a party and an excuse for parties.
“Newmarket,” said Lady Sarah Bunbury in 1763, was charming, all the charming men were there. Between the two October meetings there was private racing on a nearby Estate: The race at Euston was the prettiest thing I ever saw; I doted upon it, for I rid on my beautiful Weazle, who was gentle enough to let me gallop backwards and forwards, so I saw the whole course.“
At first, Races were run off in ”Matches” and there would be Heats. A day might be needed to run off one race, with rests in between, and it might comprise six (6) Heats. Racing became so popular that a Law had to be passed to prohibit Racing at Easter - “Contrary to the holiness of the Season”.
Spectators watched on Horse Back, not from stands and often they would follow the runners on the course. This lead to a rule to forbid the practice. Rails were introduced at Lincoln by James I to “keep the Public off the course”.
The first oval course was established at Newmarket in 1666. The first Derby was won by “Diomed” in 1780 - owned by Sir Charles Bunbury.
RACING CONTROL - AN ANSWER TO A NEED
Real Racing Control commenced with Charles 11. He was patron and participant. He laid down Rules and he was Adjudicator and Court of Appeal. He was the 1st “Dictator of the Turf.” He appointed as Racing Manager, Tregonwell Frampton, who later served under four (4) Monarchs. He was named the “Governor of Newmarket” by Queen Anne who founded Ascot - “Royal Ascot”.
Frampton is referred to as the 2nd “Dictator of the Turf’, having followed Charles 11 as an Arbitrator of Disputes. He himself was a heavy “Plunger”, and was not beyond a trick or two himself. It was two (2) decades after his death that the Jockey Club was founded.
Because so much money was involved, racing needed rules and a court of appeal. These were provided, though hardly. outside Newmarket, by Charles 11 in his lifetime, and then by the heavy gambling misantrophic, Dorset Squire, Tregonwell Frampton.
In 1732 Cheny reviewed the state of the Turf in his Calender of the next year:
“The Diversion of Horse Racing is advanced so such an Hight as to render the Practice of it Intimate and Familiar to almost every Part of the Kingdom: not withstanding which, the Accidents incidents to these Affairs are so numerous; the Conditions of Running so various and different, the Articles or Advertisement, or both, so often capable of counter Constructions; the Methods of deciding Bets in particular Cases, known to so few, and with such Reluctancy (through byass of Interest) submitted to by many, who are well acquainted with them, than those Affairs are frequently) attended with Disputes and Contentions, too many of which, proceed to expensive Law Suits, that terminate not, but with the additional Evil, of leaving them behind them Impressions of Resentment between the Persons concerned.”
Two (2) things were needed, both a long time in coming: consistent rules, consistently applied; and an authority to whom appeal could be made and whose decision was final. There were two (2) sets of rules. One related to King’s Plates; it was not intended for other races and was inappropriate to them. There were also the Newmarket Rules, half of which related to Betting, published by Pond in Kalendar of 1751. It seems likely that Pond transcribed a document already in existence; it is possible that he was urged to do this by some elected or self-appointed authority. It is uncertain.
However, in 1751 the JOCKEY CLUB was formed by a group of noblemen and gentlemen. The Club built premises in Newmarket High Street and within a few years was issuing rules and hearing disputes. It needed records and the publication of its orders, and these were provided by various semi-official calendars, but from 1773, by Mr. Weatherby’s official RACING CALENDER followed by his GENERAL STUD BOOK. Generations of Weatherby’s became and remain the Civil Service of British Racing.
Sir Charles Bunbury (Senior Steward 1791) filled the boots as the 3rd “Dictator of the Turf”. Equally important to the growth of the JOCKEY CLUB’S authority was the honesty and courage of Sir Charles Bunbury – Owner of the first Derby Winner “Diomed”. When he was Senior Steward in 1791, the Club had prestige enough to WARN OFF THE TURF, the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, after the fraudulent running of his horse called “ESCAPE”.
He was followed by the 4th “Racing Dictator of the Turf,” Lord George Bentinck, who in the 1840s waged violent and successful war on all kinds of Villians. His own position was to say the least ambiguous for he was a gigantic plunger, and invented the Horse Van in 1836 to bring off a betting coup in the St Leger with his horse “ELIS” by secretly and swiftly transporting his horse from Goodwood to Doncaster.
None of this could be said of Admiral Rous who followed and who handicapped the famous “Voltigeur” -“Flying Dutchman” Match Race. He went on to reform Racing’s Government to such an extent that no single Dictator was thereafter either possible or necessary. His standard Weights for Age published in 1850 were a milestone in the development of Horse Racing.
He assumed control at a time when D’Urfey wrote:
Let cullies that lose at a race
Go venture at hazard to win,
Or he that is bubbl’d at dice
Recover at cocking again;
Let jades that are founder’d be bought,
Let jockeys play crimp to make sport ...
Another Makes racing a trade,
And dreams of his projects to come;
And many a crimp match is made,
By bubbling another man’s groom.
A ‘crimp’ match was fixed beforehand: ‘However, there be sharpers at this, as well as at other diversions of England; a groom’s riding on the wrong side of the post; or his riding crimp, or people’s crossing the horse’s way in this course, makes a stranger risk deep when he lays his money, except he can be let into the secret, which you can scarce believe he ever is.’
Owners and their agents were the biggest cheats, including, in OKelly’s view, the Jockey Club dukes. Matches were horses were fixed, pulled in sweepstakes, and the ringers were run less innocently than by Lord Egremont. By the nature of things these transactions are not much recorded.
The great attracted leeches. The Duke of Cumberland, according to an admirer after his death, suffered ’an incredible succession of losses to the sharks, greeks and blacklegs of that time, by whom His Royal Highness was surrounded; and of course incessantly pillaged’
In the 18th century, and for long afterwards, the tout was also vermin. His function was to anticipate setting coups. Pursuing touts as they pursued poachers, owners were simply improving the odds at which their horses ran. It is not easy to share their moral indignation.
There are a few 18th century reports of a more odious crime. Tuting and Fawconer record three episodes. In May 1772 a horse called Rosebud was fancied for a race at York. ‘Some villains broke into the stable where Rosebud stood and gave him a dose of poison.’ In September of the same year at Scarborough, ‘some malicious persons got into the stable where Tosspot stood, and gave him a dose of physick the night before he was to run.’ In 1778 Miss Nightingale died on the Sunday before the races at Boroughbridge, in her stomach about two pounds of duck-shot, made up with putty into balls.
Sam Chifney reports that the Princes of Wales’ training- groom Casborne was ‘concerned with those breaking into noblemen’s stables, the night before running, to give the horse, as was supposed, opium balls; and it, is believed Casborne had done it for many years.’ His accomplices were another groom called Bloss and. ‘a person called Old Tight’.
The races were hazardous not only for betting men. Pickpockets swarmed at them. When they were caught, they were ducked, beaten or shaved. At Ascot in 1791 a culprit suffered all three. He was caught again at Windsor later the same week, but got away. He nevertheless died of his Ascot beating. There were E.O. tables at all racecourse a primitive roulette, and usually crooked. At Doncaster in 1793 the were all sized and burned in front of the Mansion House. There were also crooked card and dice games.
In justice to the raffish 18th century, it should be added that the blackleg, welsher, nobbler, pickpocket, cardsharp, briber of jockeys and runner of ringers only came to full maturity in the pious 19th century.
The1842 Racing Calendar announced that ‘the Jockey Club, and the Stewards thereof, will henceforth take no cognizance of any disputes or claims with respect to bets.’ But the Jockey Club had to take cognizance of the methods by which bets were won, even by its own members. These concerned matches, handicaps, noms de course, and touts.
Matches at Newmarket purported to be genuine contests between the horses of gentlemen, and were bet on heavily. But they were often ‘partnership concerns’; ‘This stratagem has yet been too often practised indefensibly.’ There was another sort of unreal match: ‘The uninitiated in these matters are not perhaps aware that horses are often matched at Newmarket for large sums, though with the certainty of losing, merely for the advantage of a trial with a good horse.’
Handicapping suffered from horses being run fat or full of water, or pulled in the running. It is difficult to pin down many cases, but William Day says it was habitual; so does Rous.
Of noms de course ‘Druid’ says: ‘out of the 800 men ... who declare their colours, not more than 220 run them in their own names.’ ‘Many gross frauds,’ says Rous, ‘have been practised by running horses attached to the nomination of a fictitious Owner.’
Trials were held as a prelude to betting, and watching them was therefore a heinous offence. In spite of warning-off, ‘touters’ were a scourge in 1835; owners often used secret weights: ‘load of shot being frequently concealed in the stuffing of saddles.’ In the 1850s there were 40 or 50 regular ‘touts at Newmarket; ‘many of the principal owners employ a private tout of their own, often a young ex-jockey.’ In the 1870s: ‘The only improvement wanted [to Newmarket] is an arbitrary power to expel forever some 50 worthless fellows who prowl about for “information”, and who seek to corrupt weak foolish lads to betray the secrets of their masters.’
Besides the frauds of the great and the groundlings, there were other urgent problems. Someone had to be found to frame handicaps both honestly and competently. The rules of racing were an outdated muddle. In spite of Bentinck’s fining of jockeys, starts were still bad because owners paid the fines. Jockey Club’s prestige was low not only because of the activities of some of its members, but also because it was almost bankrupt. To cope with all this, the turf was supremely lucky to find itself being ruled by Admiral Rous.
Like Bentinck, the Hon. Henry Rous was born to the turf. -‘.’His father was Lord Rous, made 1st Earl of Stradbroke, who had a stud in Suffolk. His brother had the Newmarket race cards sent out to him when he was serving under Wellington in the Peninsula. He himself went into the navy. In 1825 he commanded the frigate Rainbow in the East India Station; he there made a contribution to Australian racing. In 1836 he performed a celebrated feat of seamanship, bringing the Pique back from Newfoundland leaking and rudderless. There was an enquiry; he was exonerated; he received a perfunctory letter from the Admiralty; he went on the retired list, and devoted his life to the turf. He was first a Steward of the Jockey Club in 1838, and he as the Duke of Bedford’s racing manager at Newmarket from 1840.
In the years when Bentinck was ‘Lord Paramount’, Rous was quietly matching horses and making a steady addition to his income. He was acquiring his handicapping skills, and becoming expert in the rules of racing. In 1850 he published his small, classic book. By this time he was beginning to be asked” to handicap the horses for other men’s matches. His mastery of this tricky art became nationally known when he was invited to handicap Voltigeur and the Flying Dutchman in 1851.
Handicapping had hardly advanced beyond the methods of the Restoration. At the Newmarket Craven meeting 1825: In the evening the Jockey Club dinner was well attended.... At the dinner, the weights of the horses for the handicap were fixed, the stake itself having been made up before dinner, to enable the trainers to put their horses on muzzle.’ Four (4) years later: ‘the uncertainty of handy capping, which I have observed, does not always give general satisfaction.’
The fault lay with owners as much as with handicappers. Rous said in 1850: ‘Every great handicap offers a premium to fraud: in vain may the Jockey Club protest and express their extreme disapprobation of horses being started for races without the intention on the part of the owners of trying to win with them; horses are started out of condition; or they run for selling stakes without the remotest intention of winning.’ And later: ‘There is nothing so fallacious as the public running of some horses.’
By 1850 a solution was being proposed: a public handicapper, appointed by the Jockey Club, who signed his handicaps. Rous would have none of this. The requirements of skill, knowledge, and honesty - were too great: ‘Such a man is not to be found.’ Even if he were found, he would hardly, accept the job: ‘On the subject of handicapping, there is nothing so easy as to find fault; it is a capacious field for the scribblers on racing topics ... the most honourable gentleman may object to be set up as a popinjay for the mark of every scribbler’
Nevertheless, in 1855 Rous took the risk. He accepted the post of honorary public handicapper, which he held until he died. He brought to it professionalism, which was quite new. He spent hours on his hack on Newmarket Heath, looking at trainers’ strings. He scrutinized every race to note horses, which were improving, horses that ran unfit, horses which were not trying. His notebook was always open. As a result of the experience he thus gained, he worked out a new weight-for-age scale. The rules of the day allowed him to bet on handicaps he had made, and - modestly - he often did so; although he made a few mistakes, he was never accused on sharp practice.
At the sametime he took on the treasure ship of the Jockey Club, and turned a loss into a profit.
His personal prestige grew gradually through the 1850s, although his career had none of the heroic drama of Bentinck’s. In 1855 Francis Villiers, younger brother of Lord Jersey, fled the country leaving ₤100,000 in racing debts; he was a Steward of the Jockey Club at the time. The era of Rous’s moral authority had not begun. In 1857 a man called Adkins, who ran a gaming-hell, was convicted of using loaded dice. Lord Derby constituted himself the conscience of the Jockey Club; he called for Adkins to be warned off. A few years later he would have left this to Rous.
When Rous emerged as ‘Dictator’ in the early 1860’s, it was seen that his attitude to racing was at once high-mined and practical. He recognized betting as an integral part of the turf, necessary both to the interest of the public and the breeding and training bills of the great men. He respected honest bookmakers like Swindell and the ‘Leviathan’. But he deplored heavy betting. This had declined in the 1850s; it came back with a rush. Sir Joseph Hawley won ₤75,000 when his Musjid won the 1859 Derby, Henry Chaplin ₤15,000 on Hermit in 1867. Both these men ran their horses with complete honesty, but Rous bitterly disapproved. The inducement to fraud was too great. Racing should be conducted to earn the trust of men ‘in the 10 pound way of business’.
His knowledge of the rules made him an arbiter in the tradition of Bernard Howard and Charles Greville he was asked to rule on disputes of every kind. The decisions which emanated from his house in Berkeley Street were no more than a personal view, but they were invested with an official, almost a divine, authority.”
Even so, much in detail was still amiss. Sir John Astley became Chairman of the Jockey’s Club Rules Committee in 1875, but there was wide disregard of the “Manifesto” that they produced. However his Rules of 1879 controlling the activities of Jockeys constituted a large and vital reform. One rule that Professional Jockeys might not have a financial interest in any Racehorse - was that which Charles Wood broke and that which broke him.
Behind all the Administrators’ Problems lay Money and Largescale Betting. Wagers were originally struck between individuals who met for this rendezvous beside the racecourse. But by the beginning of the 19th century THE BLACKLEGS AND PENCILLERS appeared. They made a BOOK by laying against numbers of horses, at various Odds with all comers.
This new development made STOPPING or NOBBLING A FAVOURITE intensely profitable and in 1811 ‘the Legs’ even caused the string of a leading Trainer to be poisoned on the Newmarket Heath by a tout called DAWSON.
BOOKMAKERS were brought under a certain degree of control. Betting with them became respectable and seemly. They were allotted specific pitches in various enclosures for which they paid a fee. The Bookmakers however remained the prime movers of most of racing fraud, since no one else habitually profited from the bad running or the non-running of a favourite. It was the continued irregularities in paying up etc that finally led to the introduction of the Australian Totalisator. The intention was to transform racing’s finance and probity, but without a statutory Tote monopoly it has turned out to be vain since the big gamblers still show a preference to bet with the Bookmaker who will give him a price.
In conclusion, after 300 years; Thoroughbred Racing has spread worldwide. International Competition is common. The sport provides enjoyment and entertainment for millions (every bit as much as described by Lady Sarah Bunbury in 1763). The difficulties and the challenges to the Administration, in its quest to maintain the Safety of the sport and Integrity of Horse Racing were no less than as described by Cheny in 1732 or D’Urfey or by Rous in 1855. The greatest constant challenge to Horse Racing worldwide, is to its INTEGRITY. This is the challenge that is accepted by the STEWARD. It is the Steward’s responsibility to meet this challenge.
I) Encyclopedia of THE HORSE by Elwyn Hartley Edwards
2) THE HORSE by D J Kays
3) DERBY 200 by Michael Seth Smith & Roger Mortimer
4) THE HISTORY OF HORSE RACING by Roger Longrigg
5) THE TURF by Roger Longrigg
Presentation made by Dr. Lloyd Arthur Wharton at the Stewards Training Program:- October 1993.