Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 1, 1844 --- A Great Turf Scandal

The Running Rein scandal, which had excited the liveliest interest in sporting circles, ends with a brief trial and a harsh lecture for the "Turf set."

Running Rein, owned by a Mr. Wood, had won the '44 Derby but paddock gossip raised suspicions about the horse. In fact, the horse and rider had been greeted with raucous catcalls and jeers in the winner's circle. Led by Lord George Bentinck, turf reformers filed suit on behalf of the owner of Orlando, the runner-up. They charge that the winning colt is not a 3-year-old, as required for the Derby, and further, is not even Running Rein, but rather a 4-year old horse named Gladiator.

The London courtroom is packed with Turf enthusiasts who must sit through hours of conflicting testimony as to the vetting of Running Rein. Lord George located a hairdresser who sold a dye to disguise tell-tale markings on the steed in question. Wood, blandly but firmly, denies all until the presiding judge, Baron Alderson, demands: "Produce your horse!" After much palavering, shame-faced lawyers for Wood admit that Running Rein has vanished and their client now concedes that "some fraud had been practiced."

Alderson, finding for the plaintiffs, declares Orlando the Derby winner.  He proclaims from the bench: "If gentlemen would associate with gentlemen and race with gentlemen, we should have no such practices. But if gentlemen will condescend to race with blackguards, they must expect to be cheated." Punch went even further: Let young men coming out in life follow Punch's counsel as well..."Avoid the turf blackguards," says the Baron. "My son," I say to you, "avoid the Turf gentlemen too." 

Admiral Roux, self-proclaimed "dictator" of the Turf set, dismissed such criticism as "humbug," adding, "Losers would always sooner make out the rest of the world to be rogues than themselves fools." Bentinck was soon elected president of a shaken Jockey Club, charged with cleaning out the stables of such unsavory characters.

Running Rein & Orlando from

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