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Arabian downwards. Thus Ascot lay in the slough of despond till the reformation began, which was brought about by the authorities now in office. They set to work not only with a will, but with a way. They knew their business, and they did it. The result has been what it is ninety-nine times in a hundred when things are done as they ought to be : success followed : and now-barring ill-luck and natural mischances—Ascot is one of the best meetings in the kingdom—and what else should it be?
I am now dealing with the course as a holiday resort ; the sport of horse-racing, as it at present prevails, is quite another affair, and, for the time at least, defies all human prudence. The future historian of the turf will have a very different tale to tell of its policy to that narrated by his predecessors. About the middle of the present centuryhe will tell—there came into fashion and most potent popularity a contrivance called the Handicap, a great refinement upon the barbarous old custom of putting race horses to their utmost efforts. This system if carefully worked out-insures an animal, however wretched, its reward. The owner must go on sparing his beast (and of course spoiling his neighbour that thinks the man or the horse worthy of his confidence) patiently from meeting to meeting from season to season. At length, says some handicapper more observant than the others of the returns (he has never, as matter of consequence, seen the steed which perhaps has never run in the same country with him), at length he cries out, the brute ought to carry “ a feather for the Chester Cup, or less, if less there could be, and straightway puts four stone upon him, when in his fifth year. That there might be no possibility of his knowing anything of the nature of the animal's performances or pretensions—so far as their power extended—the Jockey Club expressly forbade any allusion beyond the mere statement of the winners' names in the racing lists pub. lished at Newmarket. He is now at 60 to 1, with four stone on his back, and a five-year-old constitution, as fresh as a foal's, for he has done nothing up to his present preparation. He wins one of the greatest races in the world, and is then turned over to some sporting man about town as a cover hack for five-and-twenty pounds.
Whatever may be the fate of this state of things, that racing is destined to see change and improvement, slow but sure, I cannot doubt. It must lose what still adheres to it of its cliquism and exclusiveness, its appropriation by a class or classes. Fashion made Heaton Park, and Gorhambury, and others of their kind—they passed away; and shall I be set down as a “monster prepense" if I foretell the fall of a still greater of their order? I do not anticipate that Goodwood will give place to any mere caprice of the hour or the man, but because the policy and economy of the turf have altogether changed, both in system and principle, within a very few years. From being a popular sport it has become a war of wit, at the least, between two parties—those who keep studs ostensibly for their pleasure, and those who keep them avowedly for their profit. The last Derby was almost, without an attempt at disguise, a conflict between these novel rivals for posterity. It was an equestrian passage between the champions of the patrician and plebeian orders. They did not cross lances, it is true, and the compromise was strictly according to the custom of the lists. It was to the letter after the laws of honour on the turf. Nevertheless, if we look carefully at this state of things, and the public bias for racing—no matter for what reason or in what relation-we must feel persuaded that a monopoly of its materiél and management cannot have a long and sound existence. It may for a time (but it will assuredly be a short one) answer the purpose of a party_in the singular or in the plural—to get together a stable of first-class horses at any price ; and by winning with one and losing with another, as may best suit a library of books compiled for that end in every town and hamlet in the kingdom, to realise, “no matter how, their money." Still, such a system is founded on a false principle, and cannot last. Moreover, race meetings have become private speculations of great magnitude, and in that character are sure to supersede the attempts of cliques or amateurs. Mr. Dorling has made Epsom the perfection of an English race-course-and what he has done in Surrey is in progress in many other parts of the island. His model will find plenty of the enterprising to adopt it—for it pays in precisely the ratio that it deserves to do. For these causes, and others such as these, it is likely that the turf will presently part with that portion of its character which heretofore threw it upon noble patronage for prestige and support. It can now help itself, and the sooner its friends cast the leaven of old prejudice and practice out of its policy, so surely shall it “live the better on the other half.” The management exhibited on many of the great public races has become a great public evil ; for, to say nothing of the questionable nature of such sheer morality, between the two stoolsthe parties alluded to above-the public always come to the ground.
We are to meet Ascot in the present season in sables, and shorn of all her goodly pageantry. The decease of Her Royal Highness the Princess Sophia of course prevented the attendance of the Court ; and for the first time within my memory the Royal Stand exhibited the outward show of death. The windows were closed, and of course its saloons were untenanted. ..... Pass we these “ mementos." Fair weather awaited the festival. The facilities of approach had greatly increased, and on Tuesday, the 6th ult., the road and rail poured their copious human streams on the aristocratic heath. There were of course not so many equipages as in the days when the road was the only means of transit ; still, there were carriages enough to give to the meeting the peculiar feature of an English rendezvous of pomp and circumstance.
These, as usual, were drawn up vis-à-vis the stands. The Grand Stand was a bumper, and its lawn much convenienced by the ring being close to the Jockey Club Stand, and out of the way of the mere pleasure people. The old adage of "great cry and little wool” was its characteristic: the betting was moderate, the noise monstrous. All the London particulars were as busy as mischief could make them—fencing, rather than actually engaging—and the Lancastrians and Tykes looking as if life and death were on the issues. The Manchester “division” come into the ring as if they mean what they are about. It is no fencing for a point of the odds or the choice of a “cockboat.” If they intend to back horses they back them outright; they look rather to the quantity of business than the quality. In a short time we shall see them in their glory. On Aintree shall they be heard, lifting up their voices soliciting custom, or jeering a more cautious operator. In Liverpool, what time evening draws the circle round the tables of Waterloo or the Adelphi, they shall be seen quaffing of the best, and laying down the laws of the
ring, and eke of the course, in the strong vernacular dialects, hight ore rotundo of the Romans. Will railways run all dialects into one, as they link all parts of the earth together? If so, how fondly will the patriots of the north recall the sonorous cantabile of “ Crutch," and the deep diapason of him who still communeth with his fellows in the idiom of Tim Bobbin !
The abolition of gambling, by means of dice and the like devices, at race-courses, has had the natural effect of turning the stream in another direction. Man is a gaming animal : it is his instinct as much as eating and drinking ; the only distinction being, that the appetite for play is the strongest. As soon as roulette and rouge et noir were put down, up started sweeps and lotteries ; contrivances that I have always regarded with jealousy-with what reasonable forethought, the experience of the courts of law and still graver tribunals is now constantly showing. The following note appeared a few days ago, in a leading sporting paper. It is of the complexion of scores that have been addressed to myself :
RACING SWEEPS. Mr. EDITOR,—Doubtless you have seen a police report last week, wherein parties were charged with getting money on sweep tickets, having stolen the same, and the principal in the affair being the clerk to the proprietor of the house wherein the sweeps were drawn. Now, sir, I will ask your candid opinion on such matters, whether it is right, so far as the public are concerned, to leave the total arrangements to irresponsible parties. In fact, the publican has the money in his pocket, and the clerk has the option to rob the public if he likes. I will put a case : Suppose I sent my money to any sweeping house, and having no friend in town to look after or be present at the draw, and I draw a good horse, what certainty have I that such horse is sent me? If a clerk is inclined to be dishonest, has he not the power to be so, and with impunity? I have laid out many pounds in sweeps, and have had many prizes, but, from the general practice, and the looseness of management in many instances, how can I suppose that I have not been cheated at some time? I wish to make no charge of robbery against the houses where such sweeps are held in, but I say the public are liable to open plunder under the circumstances I mention; and the least the proprietors ought to do is, to conduct in person the draws, despatch of tickets to country friends, and pay the chances won; and by adopting such a course, cause more confidence than now exists.-[We agree with our correspondent, that there is much laxity, and, we fear, much roguery, in these sweeps. Nothing is more common than for the landlord to refer all matters in dispute to his irresponsible secretary, and altogether absolve himself from mal-practices.-ED.
The editor's commentary may be received also as ours ; only we should most probably have put it a little stronger.
Well, the abolition of the tents of the dicers did not do as much for the promenade and pageant as might have been expected. The ladies, foiled in their food for excitement of one sort, fed fat on another. There they sat in their barouches and broughams (modesty restrains the alias), and other triumphal cars, dealing death with their lips, and bringing the victims into life again with their eyes ; for, while they speak daggers, their looks are both sword and shield for the assailed ... ... The course was not the carnival it used to be : perhaps it's becoming ungenteel to walk about at Ascot. For this reason, when the bell rang, as it did betimes, the running ground was soon as clear as à billiard table, when the players prepare to string for the lead. At half-past one the racing commenced with the Trial Stakes, eight runners, and 7 to 4 on War Eagle. He won in a sort of canter, and thus began the sorrows of the fielders. A Fifty Sovs. Sweepstakes for two year olds brought to the post three of the half dozen nominations. A colt of Mr. Herbert's, by Venison out of Odessa, won, after a rattling set-to with a colt by the same honest sire out of Folly. Turban, one of Lord Exeter's ill weeds, was a bad “boots.” The Gold Vase, nine subscribers, induced but four to show. Cymba was backed at 7 to 4-and the same might have been Ellerdale's price—the worst in the ring being Gardenia, at 6 to 1, and few friends. It was a fine finish in a moderate race ; Gardenia having the best of it by half a length. Mr. Bowes walked over for a Fifty Sovs. Produce Stakes, for three year olds, with Wiasma ; and then the Ascot Stakes, which is the business event of the meeting-as far as relates to Handicaps at least—was put on the scene. It is convenient to place these “ weight for wisdom" affairs before the reader in their habit as they appear. The Ascot STAKES of 25 sovs. each, 15 ft., and 5 only if declared; the second to
receive 100 sovs., and the third 50; the winner of any handicap after the weights are declared 71b. extra ; two miles and a half; 218 subscribers, 172 of whom pay
5 sovs. each. Duke of Richmond's b. c. Vampyre, by Mus, four years old, 6st. 5lb. Kitchener 1 Lord Chesterfield's Lady Wildair, six years old, 8st. 4lb. ........... Nat 2 Mr. Merry's Chanticleer, five years old, 8st. 71b. ..................F. Butler 3 Lord Strathmore's ch. h. Rat-Trap, five years old, 8st. ............S. Rogers 0 Mr. Drinkald's Mathematician, four years old, 7st. 9lb.
............. Ford 0 Sir R. Bulkeley's Montpensier, four years old, 7st. 6lb. .......... Whitehouse 0 Mr. F. Clarke's Joc-o'-Sot, four years old, 7st. 5lb. ......... .......A. Day 0 Mr. Stephenson's Sheraton, five years old, 7st. 21b. ..... ....S. Mann 0 Lord Eglinton's Plaudit, six years old, 7st. 9lb. (including 71b. extra)..J. Prince 0 Mr. Verity's Fergus, four years old, 6st. 131b.
...........J. Sharp 0 Lord Glasgow's f. by The Provost-Miss Whip, four years old, 6st. Illb,
G. Abdale 0 Lord Strathmore's Sultana, four years old, 6st. 10lb.
... Crouch 0 Mr. Dixon's Do-it-again, three years old, 6st. 5lb. ................ Donaldson 0 Mr. Shelley's Tarella, four years old, 6st. 5lb. ........,
..... Pearl 0 Sir G. Heathcote's Nestor, four years old, 6st. 3lb.
e's Nestor, four years old, 6st. 3lb. ...........R. Sherwood 0 Lord Stradbroke's Marpesus, four years old, 6st. ...................... Dean 0 Col. Peel's Iodine, three years old, 5st. 9lb. ...................... Dockeray 0 Mr. I. Day's Milliner, five years old, 5st. 9lb....................... Charlton Baron Maltzahn's Armin, three years old, 5st. 71b. .................. Tasker 0 Lord Exeter's Sword-player, three years old, 5st. 21b. ..............G. Sharp 0 Sir R. Bulkeley's Miss Orbell, three years old, 4st. 121b. .......... Basham 0 Mr. Hussey's Embrace, three years old, 4st. 121b. ... ......... Elmore Lord Exeter's Hecuba, three years old, 4st. ......
..... Collins 0 Betting : 4 to 1 against Vampyre, 9 to 1 against Lady Wildair, 9 to 1 against Montpensier, 10 to 1 against Tarella, 11 to 1 against Chanticleer, 12 to 1 against Miss Orbell, 15 to 1 against Miss Whip, 16 to 1 against Plaudit, 100 to 6 against Nectar, 20 to 1 against Joc o' Sot, 20 to 1 against Sword-player.
To bring the lot together better than the race did, we will suppose them in the straight ground. Here the tailers began to creep up, but the trio placed had the result evidently among them; the “young one" winning easily in the end. Mathematician and Nestor met with accidents, and were pulled up a long way from home. The Ascot Derby, a 50 sovs. sweepstakes for three-year-olds, as its title would indicate, 13 subscribers, came off a quartet ; won by Distaffina, a daughter of Don John. She was the favourite, and won in a canter. The first year of the Ascot Triennial Foal Stakes, run for of course by two-year-olds,
brought a crowd of youngsters to the post. Nineteen went, and Lord Eglinton's Elthiron, at 4 to 1 against him, was the winner by a head. It was a slashing wind up-that's the fact ; and people fed on curries of this kind, whereof nineteen-twentieths are spice, cannot be expected to relish four-mile heats, and such-like “ weak inventions." The Welcome Stakes, a nice little picking, 28 subscribers at 20 soys. each, and 15 to a 5 sovs. bonus, Springy Jack, with 5 to 1 on him, in a field of five, carried off in a canter. This closed the day's sports, and the books of the labouring class- not much to their satisfaction.
WEDNESDAY was the antithesis of a gala, but replete with interest. There was nobody present to see some of the most exciting races of the season. Pic-Nic having won a sweepstakes of 10 sovs. each, for threeyear-olds and upwards, we had the Fern Hill Stakes, which they backed Blaze to win at 7 to 2. This he didn't, for the Moor beat him in the first fifty yards all to sticks, landing a length in front. The Coronation Stakes, with their eight nominations, induced half the lot to show. Distaftina again pulled her noble owner through ; she won at her ease and caprice by a length. The Windsor Stakes pitted Springy Jack, Wiasma, and Shylock, the former with 6 to 4 on him. The race ended in that order, Shylock not having the ghost of a chance with the hero of the north. Two others started, but were “ nowhere.” The Royal Hunt Cup brought out another sporting field of nineteen. About the worst in the odds was Conyngham, his nominal price being 12 to 1. As he carried but fair racing weight, Sst. 5lb., this seemed strange ; but there is a tide, &c., &c. ; and in the ring very few attempt to stem it. The getting together was more unartistical than one is now accustomed to ; and that things in future might be more ship-shape, a pretty general mulct followed. Robinson who rode Conyngham, waited for the first moiety of the race, “ came” when he pleased, and won a brilliant finish by a head ; Dulcet second. It gave me sincere and selfish satisfaction that Sir Robert Pigott won this very elegant and appropriate trophy. As a most courteous gentleman he commands my personal respect and estcem; as a legitimate supporter of a great national sport, I recognize the service the turf derives from such a patron. . . . . . The Windsor Town Plate fell to the superiority of Willingham, a two-year-old belonging to Mr. Stephenson. Half a score of various ages went for it; and the winner, singling himself out at the distance, went to the front, and won in a canter. Thus ended the second day.
Thursday—the Cup day-and the chosen of the four as fashion's peculiar festival, came in with sunshine ; albeit there were invidious clouds about, which at one time poured down unmercifully upon acres of silks and cachemeres. However, the end crowned all-it was a glorious afternoon from three till nightfall; and, though the attendance was much under the average of an Ascot Cup day, it was good in quality. The previous afternoon, both War Eagle and Conyngham had been scratched for the great race of the day—which consequently was booked as the race of the day. The sport began with the St. James's Place Stakes, run a match (4 to 1 on Glendower against Backbiter); won “ in a concatenation accordingly.” Her Majesty's Plate, another match, Footstool won, beating Tofana in a canter; and then came THE EMPEROR'S PLATE-a right imperial tribute to excellence. The Hero