Steeplechasing And Hurdle Racing
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
STEEPLECHASING AND HURDLE RACING—The Development of Steeplechasing—In writing of "steeplechasing," the first thing which strikes one is the absurdity of the name that has been accepted as descriptive of the sport. One cannot chase " a thing that does not run away, and steeples are not itinerant. But the origin of the word is sufficiently clear. "Steeplechases" were first of all spins across country, and some prominent landmark had to be named as a goal. A steeple stood highest ; and so, when men who desired to test the capacity of their hunters combined with their own skill came together to fight it out, their attention was directed to a steeple in the distant landscape, and they were told that in a certain field close to it posts had been placed, the first man who passed between which was to be ac-counted the winner. These were genuine hunting contests, especially when they were not set to be decided over an unmerciful distance. The hunters that ran were good jumpers, possessed of what their owners considered a turn of speed and sufficient stamina ; riders had to pick their places at the fences, and one great requisite of the good man to hounds, an eye for a country, was a primary essential. There was an element of true sport about the early "steeple-chases," and though it would be absurd to say that the modern 'chase contains nothing of the kind, the whole nature of the thing has completely altered. A good idea of the old-fashioned business maybe gained from the description of the match between Mr. Flintoff and Jean Rougier in Ask Mama, by the author of Handley Cross, the creator of Jorrocks. Spectators there were told that they would be able to see everything from the road, and so would do well to save their own necks and the farmers' crops, by following the jockeys field by field, sticking to the highway. Here is the point which has so greatly tended to alter the character of the steeplechase. Spectators have increased in numbers immeasurably ; they naturally desire to see as much as they can of the race, the whole contest, in fact; and so courses have had to be made so that the stands command a more or less complete view. The cry for natural fences is reasonable enough. The idea of the steeple-chase course is that it should be a reproduction of a fairly difficult hunting country ; but made-up fences are unavoidable, because as a very general rule some of the best riders will inevitably go the shortest way round; they will therefore jump the obstacles time after time in the same places ; a proportion of the horses will " chance " the fences, take liberties, " tear them up by the roots" in the florid phraseology one sometimes hears from the riders. The jumps consequently have to be mended, re-made in fact, and so the courses necessarily become artificial.
As the courses have altered, so have the animals that cross them. Hunters are still sometimes found competing, but one hears their owners excusing hopeless defeats by the remark, " I had no sort of chance, you know ; mine was only a ` fox-catcher.' " This term as applied to the steeplechase horse is one of depreciation : the "fox-catcher" has not the speed requisite for the winning of 'chases, nor does he jump in the style of the well-schooled steeplechaser. A hunter dwells at his fences ; he has to be steadied, his leap is a special effort, and he pauses when he lands. The 'chaser must fly his fences and "get away from them " without dwelling. The two animals do their work in different ways ; the chaser, indeed, is quite a modern product. A little schooling in the hunting-field may be good for the steeplechase horse ; if he has on his back a rider who is at once bold and judicious, he may possibly learn to be clever. But this is only one branch of his education ; he must undergo another and a special course of preparation if he is to win credit "between the flags." The 'chaser when he has become too slow for this particular business may make an excellent hunter ; but he is apt as a rule to rush his fences, to jump them in his old style, and is a comfortable mount only for a bold rider. At least one Grand National winner carried his master admirably to hounds in the season of 1897-8—Ilex, who won the greatest of cross-country events in 1890.
It is not in the hunting field that recruits are sought, for the reason above given. Hunters have not the speed to live with the rivals they are certain to meet in important races. A very few years back, indeed, when the entries for the Grand National were published, it was the custom to class them into "hunters" and " handicap steeplechasers," but in truth the distinction was purely technical and really meant nothing. Steeplechase horses are usually drawn from the flat, and, as a rule, they graduate through a course of hurdle racing, though it is by no means every hurdle racer that can, even if he tries, earn distinction "over a country," and there are good 'chasers who have not the speed to win over hurdles. The oddest fact about steeplechasing, however, is that very often horses which have not been able to stay for five furlongs on the flat can win races of four miles and more over a country. A really satisfactory explanation of this has still to be found, though that their fine speed enables them to hold their own with less speedy animals without exertion may tend to elucidate themystery ; but what makes the circumstance still more remarkable is that the chief steeple-chases are run in time which stands out well when compared with that of flat races. The Derby has occupied as much as 3 min. 4 secs.—Ellington took this time—that is, at the rate of a mile in a shade under 2 min. 3 secs. Cloister only took 9 min. 42 2/5 secs. to win the Grand National, and to win it in a canter by forty lengths ; and there are these points to be borne in mind when the two things are compared : the Grand National course is thrice the length of the Derby course ; there are thirty jumps, most of them of really formidable size ; Cloister carried 12 st. 7 lb., nearly half as much weight again as is carried at Epsom. Nevertheless he took only between 6 and 7 secs. more per mile than had been taken by the Derby winner of 1856.
It is doubtful when the first steeplechase was run, but there is a record of a match in Ireland in 1752, over four miles and a half of country, between a Mr. O'Callaghan and Mr. Edmund Blake, the course being "from the Church of Buttevant to the spire of St. Leger Church." "The Druid," most charming of Turf historians, speaks of a 'chase in Lancashire in 1792, eight miles from Barkby Holt to the Coplow and back; Mr. Charles Meynell, son of the M.F.H., was first, Lord Forester second, Sir Gilbert Heathcote third. Over the same course there was a match in 1824, for 2,000 a side, between Captain Horatio Ross on a horse of his own, and Captain Douglas on a horse belonging to Lord Kennedy. The former won. These early contests seem to have been for only two or three starters, and I can find no reference to a regular field before March 1831, when the St. Albans steeplechase was run and won by Moonraker, "who had been bought, for £18, with his sinews quite calloused from hard work, out of a water-cart; but he could jump undeniably and cleared the Holloway Lane in the course of an exercise canter." There is mention of a steeplechase in France, in 1834, starting "down the Rabbit Mount, a short but steep declivity full of holes," over a river and down swampy meadows. The first Liverpool Steeple-chase was run on Monday, February 29th, 1836, at Aintree. It was " a sweepstakes of 10 sovs. each, with 80 sovs. added, for horses of all denominations; 12 stones each; gentlemen riders. The winner to be sold for z00 sovs. if demanded." Captain Becher, who gave his name to "Becher's Brook," won on a horse called The Duke. "A strong recommendation to it was that nearly the whole of the performance could be seen from the Grand Stand" is noted by a writer who describes it. The distance was twice round a two mile course. The Grand National was started in 1839. This was at first a sweep-stake of 20 sovs. each, 100 added; 12 stones each; gentlemen riders ; four miles across country.
That the course was not marked out as it is now seems to be implied by the conditions : " No rider to open a gate, or ride through a gate-way, or more than too yards along any road, foot-path or drift-way." The famous Jem Mason won on Lottery, a perfect jumper. Two Irish horses, Rust and Naxon, were better favourites until just before the start, when Lottery passed them in the betting as he did presently in the race.
In 1860 was first run a steeplechase which seemed likely to become extremely popular, but has not fulfilled its promise. This was the National Hunt Steeplechase, to be contested -over four miles at such different places as the Stewards of the National Hunt might annually select ; the - horses to be maidens and the jockeys gentlemen or qualified riders, that is to say, not (admittedly) professional. Owners of good horses were at first exceedingly keen about this race and put by animals expressly for it, but with the exception of Why Not it has rarely fallen to a notable 'chaser, and it is hampered by the clause which confines it to maidens. A four-year-old has rarely sufficient stamina to win—though Nord-Ouest, a French importation of that age, won at Newmarket in 1897—and men who own horses of capacity are as a general rule unwilling to forego the prospect of success elsewhere, and to keep them on purpose for this race. It nevertheless continues something of an attraction, and managers of steeplechase meetings bid for its inclusion in their programmes. They usually pay the National Hunt Committee something between £500 and £t,000. A National Hunt Juvenile Steeplechase for four-year-olds, about two and a half miles, is run on the day after the more important event. The two are worth about £800 and £300 respectively, It should be added that the National Hunt Committee came into existence in 1866, and not before it was very badly wanted. Cross-country meetings had previously been, it is said, the " recognised refuge of all outcasts, human or equine, from the legitimate Turf." There were Stewards, of course, but they had no power or authority ; the most -they could do was to suspend a rider for the rest of the meeting—if his offence were committed in the last race they could do nothing. The Jockey Club gave no countenance to " illegitimate " sport, for the whole business had become a scandal when the Grand National Hunt Committee was formed, to make rules—previously Clerks of Courses had done what they pleased —and to supervise proceedings. Lord Suffolk and Mr. W. G. Craven had much to do with inducing the Jockey Club to recognise the Grand National Hunt Committee, as it was at first called. The Duke of Beaufort and Lord Coven-try soon gave their support, after a time the late George Payne and other influential members of the Jockey Club, who had at first opposed the delegation of authority to a new body, werewon over ; and the two institutions now work hand in hand, as is natural, seeing that not a few gentlemen are members of both.
Steeplechase and Hurdle Race Horses—Experience shows that some sires get jumpers and that others do not, that many which might be expected to succeed are failures, and that the reverse is equally the case. To some small extent breeding may thus be a guide ; but one can never tell, and the broad rule is this, that if a man wants a jumper and has or knows of a horse which "looks like jumping," it will be judicious to have him schooled and note the results. That many horses which "look like jumping" will prove the deceptiveness of appearances is inevitable, and to a slighter ex-tent the opposite is true. One searches specially for good shoulders, as without them a horse is likely to pitch on landing; he must have propelling power also, and depth through the heart is most desirable ; but at the same time, it is astonishing how on occasions weedy little animals win big steeplechases, though they will generally be found on examination to possess good points which are likely to escape the casual observer. This was the case with Lord Coventry's famous mares Emblem and Emblematic.
Horses are usually put to jumping because for some reason or another their career on the flat has ceased to look promising, it having been so continually proved that failures under Jockey Club Rules were brilliant successes under the Rules of the National Hunt. There may be less money to be won over hurdles or fences, but there seems more chance of winning it. Sometimes a horse who retains his capacity to gallop, but becomes a rogue and refuses to try, is put to hurdle racing because an idea exists—an idea which appears well authenticated —that animals thus gain the confidence or courage which they lack. It was for this reason that Duke of Richmond—at one time, as set forth in a previous section of this work, regarded as a worthy rival of the great St. Simon—was schooled over hurdles. Another horse that may be instanced is Regret. As a three-year-old he won over £3,000 in stakes, and actually started favourite for the Princess of Wales's Stakes in a field which included St. Frusquin and Persimmon, the betting being 7 to 4 Regret, 5 to 2 St. Frusquin, 4 to I Persimmon, and he was third, beaten only a length from St. Frusquin, who won ; though it should be noted that Regret had 7 lbs. advantage in the weights. His wilfulness was not at first cured by a course of hurdles, though he has been persuaded to win a couple of races, a fact which says much for his owner, Mr. Reginald Ward, who has ridden him. Red Heart, a very speedy animal, bought at auction for 5,100 guineas in 1897, was found a few months later running, and running badly, over hurdles--the almost inevitable preliminary to running over fences. As no hurdle race is ever contested over a shorter distance than two miles it might seem, when the question of selection arises, that horses must be able to stay ; but strangely enough, as has been already noted, this is by no means the case.
Of recent winners over hurdles, to come to details, Priestholme's best distance was six furlongs, and his last race on the flat before he won over hurdles was over that course. Bayreuth ran a long series of five furlong races, as did the smart but desperately troublesome Mena ; there was never any suggestion that Montauk stayed ; Pardalo always ran over five furlongs when he did not attempt six ; Sicily Queen and Athcliath were five furlong horses. Hawkwood ran over a mile and six furlongs, and though he certainly did manage to win a couple of mile races, they were on the easy courses at Epsom and Derby. Fossicker ran over a mile when the distance was not six furlongs ; Amphidamas also usually ran over these distances, and on the two or three occasions when he attempted a little more it was without success ; Jack the Dandy as a four year old ran ten times, eight of his races having been over five furlong courses. All these animals have no sort of difficulty about staying two miles over hurdles, and it will very likely be seen in course of time that they will stay a longer distance over steeplechase courses. Many more instances occur, but those which are given will probably prove sufficient ; their speed carries them on. There are a few cases of stayers who win over hurdles, Soliman being a notable one, as he won the Great Metropolitan at Epsom, and ran prominently in the Cesarewitch ; but he is one of those rare horses that are speedy and can also stay. Cornbury, a Metropolitan winner, has been running in hurdle races without success, for though he stayed on the flat, he has not sufficient speed to win jumping races. Golden Ring also stayed well in Ireland, but one does not know what were the value of her victories in that country. Going a little farther back the same thing is to be observed. Regal, who won the Grand National, was a short-distance runner on the flat, and only won two little races worth L100 whilst performing under Jockey Club Rules ; but besides the Grand National he won numbers of other steeplechases. The point is a curious one, but the instances given, which might be added to indefinitely, will probably be enough amply to prove that speed is the first essential. Another thing to be observed in the selection of the 'chaser is that though he may not take kindly to his work at first, patience may effect a wonderful change. Congress, who was one of the most brilliant steeplechase horses ever known, framed so badly and showed such nervousness and hesitation that his owner, being convinced that he could jump if he would, adopted the violent expedient of having himpulled over his early jumps with cart ropes. This, however, leads one to the subject of.
Schooling—Almost everything depends upon the ability of the rider who is put on the horse when first he begins his lessons. He must have "hands," which are exceedingly rare, and he must furthermore possess just that combination of patience and firmness which is so seldom found. Patience is usually emphasised as the first requisite, and perhaps it is so, but at the sanie time it is essential that the horse should be made to perceive that he has his master on his back. A few animals seem to take to jumping as if they delighted in it, but these are the exceptions ; a few others resolutely refuse to do anything of the kind, and cannot be either forced or persuaded to cross even a hurdle. Two notable hunters of a former day—quasi hunters, that is to say, who ran in what were then called Hunters' Races—Quits and The Owl, could never be induced to jump. Quits would not look at a hurdle, and The Owl was almost as bad. As regards the teacher, he must carefully avoid frightening his horse, though the early experiences of Congress must surely have had a somewhat alarming effect. The thing to be done is to begin gradually, and to get on by degrees. A few faggots or a very low hurdle will be quite enough to start with, and it is a good thing to have a steady, trustworthy old horse to lead the young one in his early lessons. A leaping bar is not to be recommended, as it gives way when struck, and the horse will be apt to get an idea that he may take liberties, a notion which later on is apt to be forcibly dispelled. On some courses, indeed, horses can brush through their fences, and even when they are strongly made up, one not seldom sees huge pieces of them knocked out as some clumsy jumper plunges through, but at ether times, if the fence is really stiff, a bad fall is the result, and the horse should be taught that he must clear what he is put to. Further reference is made to this in the section on " Steeplechase Courses." Very often, in his early lessons, the horse's fault will be that he will jump too high, and this is very detrimental, for he will, as the phrase goes, be apt to "beat himself jumping." Crossing hurdles is a business by itself, and differs from jumping fences. It may be added that hurdle racing is indefensible as a sport, being neither one thing nor the other—steeple-chasing nor flat-racing—though it is certainly picturesque and a pretty sight to watch a master of the business. The ideal hurdle jumper is a horse who clears the obstacles as if they were not there, taking them in his stride, and it is wonderful how the very best (there are extremely few of them) will contrive to do this. The jockey who rode Chandos in most of his races, describes how, some strides from a flight, the horse would begin to measure his distance so that he ould take it in his stride without having to "put in a little one" when quite near. Any-thing like dwelling at a hurdle is fatal to success, but the worst of this business is that very often in a big field horses close in as they approach the jump, and an animal that is a little way behind cannot see what he has to do. It is a dangerous game for this reason, and a fall over a swinging hurdle is likely to be a very ugly one. At big fences a horse must be slightly steadied, but not at all in the fashion in which a man out hunting pulls his horse together before it jumps. Naturally the great object of steeplechasing is to lose no time, and therefore a horse must get away from his fences without dwelling—that indeed is one of the great secrets of success. Some riders adopt the practice of going at the last two jumps "as if they were not there," but awkward results often follow from chancing anything. The mar-gin between success and failure is so small that pulling a horse together before the last jump may lose a length that can never be regained : on the other hand, it is very certain that by chancing the last fence many horses fall, and something that has seemed to be hopelessly beaten and is toiling on lengths behind may thus gain a victory which had seemed absolutely hopeless. At the same time, if a beaten horse is pulled out of his stride, he is apt to fall, and such a fall is usually a bad one.
The size of obstacles when a horse is being schooled will of course be gradually increased until they attain the dimensions of the course over which he will have to run in public, but it is a bad thing to jump a horse too much, so that he grows tired and disgusted : here as elsewhere there is a happy medium, and the most successful trainer is the man who hits it off. A few turns round a " jumping school " occasionally are no doubt desirable. This school should be made round four sides of a field, enclosed by stout timber partitions, so that the horses cannot run out when they have been put into it, and the bars through which they have gained admission replaced. In these schools there are fences of as varied a nature as can be devised, and the animals are introduced rider-less, men being at hand to drive them over the jumps if they require it. A little practice in this has the effect of making a horse clever. A few years ago the water-jump used to be considered one of the chief features of a steeple-chase, but this as now constructed is by no means a formidable obstacle, though for reasons presently explained it is an awkward jump. Some animals at first show a special dislike to water jumping, and it is necessary therefore to accustom them to it. Any little brook, a stream even four or five feet wide, will be quite enough to begin with. It is wonderful how readily some horses take to the business, they being, no doubt, natural jumpers,and though it is advisable never to let a steeple-chase horse get out of practice, as the muscles chiefly employed in leaping are likely to relax, it is a curious fact about the Grand National victory of Anatis in 1860, that before he won at Liverpool he had not jumped a single fence from the time that he ran there the year before. A bad rider will soon spoil an animal that has learnt to jump really well. If he pulls his horse about, or jerks his mouth on landing, the animal will soon get clumsy and lose time at his fences. Bitting is an important detail; not a few horses that pull hard against a severe bit will go kindly enough in something that suits them, and to which they do not object. A very astute gentleman rider some time since found that the only way in which he could hold one particularly hard puller was by putting a net over its nose, as is sometimes done with carriage horses ; but after a time the horse that was thus treated got accustomed to the device and then it had no effect. Patience is essential in not going too fast until a horse has made some progress as a jumper; and then by degrees he can be taught to race over his fences in the style which is necessary to win.
Famous Chasers—As was remarked in discussing past and present horses on the flat, opinions vary altogether about the relative merits of the animals of to-day and of former periods, though there are probably more eulogists of the chasers of thirty or forty years ago than there are of the flat race horses of the same epoch. There is, however, of course no means of proving the accuracy of the opinions that are held. It is absolutely impossible to say what would have happened, for instance, if Emblem, The Lamb, The Colonel, Disturbance and Cloister had gone to the post for the Grand National, supposing they had been contemporaries. The truth is that most people who are interested in the subject have their own private ideas as to the capacity of horses and are greatly governed by prejudices for and against.
It is certain that until 1893 a very general opinion was held by persons who had given a good deal of attention to the matter that any-thing over 12 stone was a prohibitive weight for the Grand National course. Cloister proved the fallacy of this. He carried 12 st. 7 lbs.; he made nearly the whole of the running, and he won in the easiest of canters by forty lengths—had it been worth while, his jockey could have absolutely walked him past the post, and this seems most emphatically to stamp him as a really good horse, as before his success the 11 st. 13 lbs. carried by Cortolvin in 1867 had been the record for this race, with Disturbance 11 st. 11 lbs. in 1873 second. Of course those who wish to depreciate Cloister ask what he beat, and make out that he beat nothing, but a good deal could be said in opposition to this view. It must not be forgotten that he had twice been second, and the late " Roddy " Owen always maintained that had he not been hustled at the last fence in 1891 he would undoubtedly have beaten Come Away, who, there can be no doubt, was at that time a really good horse. It is worth note that there were no fewer than five Grand National winners behind the pair on this occasion ; moreover, Cloister has another creditable second in his record. He may not have been an attractive horse to look at, but his exceptional merit is surely undeniable, and one of the excellent points about him was his temper. The writer of this article was taken to see him in his box two or three hours after his victory. His owner leaned against his back while Cloister placidly munched his oats ; in-deed, a more amiable horse never carried a saddle. It has already been remarked that horses which have run well on one occasion in the Grand National have frequently done the same after-wards ; a very considerable proportion of the winners had been in the first three more than once, and Frigate, who won in 1889, occupied the unenviable position of second in three Nationals. Every one who has read anything about the great race has been acquainted with the fact that the sisters Emblem and Emblematic, who won in 1863 and 1864, were the reverse of handsome animals to look at. Emblem, probably the better of the pair, has been described as "all shoulders and quarters with no ribs," but both won cleverly in the hands of George Stevens, who carried off five Nationals altogether and was an admirable horseman, though it seems to have been the fashion in his day to blame him for laying out of his ground. The Colonel, who won in 1869 and 1870, was in appearance in very marked contrast to the famous sisters, having been a singularly handsome horse. Like so many other good 'chasers he was a failure on the flat.
In the Grand National one very excellent rule is to avoid the crowd, even if the rider has to go a little further round, for there is usually a good deal of hustling, especially at the first few fences, and the good horses that have been knocked over through no fault of their own would make a long list. Of course, in such a race as the Grand National luck has a vast deal to do with the result, and The Colonel would not have won the second time but that Surney, who evidently had the race in hand, as those that were left in jumped into the racecourse, twisted a plate at the last hurdle and injured himself. It has been remarked in a previous section that Moonraker was bought out of a water-cart for £18. Good steeple-chasers are sometimes discovered in odd places, and Salamander, who beat a field of thirty in 1866, was found in a hovel in Ireland, and bought by Mr. Studd with a couple of others because he thought the horse was worth the very small sum asked for him, and might,with luck, make a decent hunter. Mention of the Grand National without The Lamb is of course impossible, as that good little horse was one of the four that have won the great race twice. If the question were asked which was the best horse that ever won the Liverpool, it is probable that a good many votes would be given to Disturbance, on whom Mr. J. M. Richardson gained the first of his two victories, the second being on Reugny, an inferior animal whose staying had been considered doubtful. Disturbance was an animal out of the common, and. his giving 8 lbs. to so good a 'chaser as Ryshworth says much for him, seeing that the next day Ryshworth won the Sefton Steeplechase with the greatest ease, giving weight to animals of reputation. As a general rule it may be said that the history of the Grand National is the history of the best steeplechase horses. There are a few famous ones, however, that have not distinguished themselves at Aintree. Disturbance notwithstanding, Mr. Richardson —and his ability and judgment can only be described as unsurpassable—believes that actually the best horse he ever rode was Schiedam, and he relates that he won a four mile 'chase from a notably good field at Warwick so easily, and was so fresh at the finish, that after jumping the last hurdle he playfully shied at a bit of white paper that was lying on the course near the post. It was only by a very narrow margin that The Doctor was not enrolled in the list of Grand National winners, as The Colonel, on the occasion of his first victory, only just managed to beat him. Brick, Pearl Diver, Chimney Sweep and, other good horses have also failed at Aintree. The Irish have always been to the fore, and in the seventies, eighties, and early nineties the great question which always arose when the entries appeared was which seemed likely to prove the best of the Irish horses. The selected of the Brothers Beasley was certain, with fair luck, to go close. Liberator won in, 1874, Empress, one of the four 5-year-olds that have carried off the race, in 1880, Woodbrook in 1881, and Cyrus was only just beaten in 1 882 by Seaman, who cannot quite be reckoned as an " Irish horse " in the usual sense of representing, Irish interests, as he finished his preparation in England, but he was Irish as regards breed and schooling. The next year, 1883, the field was one of the worst that ever competed, as well as absolutely the smallest, there having been only ten starters, and Zoedone won in the hands of her Hungarian owner, Count Kinsky.
One of the beliefs in regard to the race used to. be that it was well-nigh impossible for a horse to win on his first essay over the Liverpool country ; but this was disproved in 1884 by the success of Voluptuary. Roquefort, the winner in 1885, was one of the horses that was frequently what is called " there or thereabouts," and it is worthy of note that chance only led to his appearance at Liverpool, for Colonel Fisher, now commanding the 10th Hussars, had at one time made up his mind to turn him out of training, as he had a confirmed habit of trying to bolt if run on a right-handed course. When he appeared at Sandown a detachment of boys from the Bishop's Sutton stable was accustomed to stand at the top of the hill and endeavour to induce Roquefort to keep in the track, his rooted disposition being to swing round to the left and bolt. Liverpool, how-ever, is left-handed, and he ran third there in 1884, after which, however, Colonel Fisher had the bad luck to sell him for 1,250 guineas, so that he was in other ownership when he won the next year. Persons who are not experienced in turf affairs are usually convinced that trainers are well-nigh infallible guides as to the chances possessed by the horses in their stables, and an example of the fact that this is not so was furnished in 1880. Tom Cannon of Danebury had two horses in the race this year, Aladdin, belonging to Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, and Playfair, the property of Captain E. W. Baird. Which was the better of the two was purely a matter of opinion before the race ; but Mr. C. W. Waller, who rode Aladdin, was so convinced he would beat the other, from what he had seen while riding gallops at Danebury, that a long time before the event he took a thousand to thirty about his mount, refusing to back Playfair at all ; Playfair, however, won, and Aladdin could get no nearer than fifth. This was one of the years when Frigate was second as she had been to Roquefort and to Voluptuary, but she managed to get home in 1889. Why Not (Irish) was another horse that came near to success on several occasions before he ultimately attained it, which he did in 1894 with the respectable weight of 11 st. 13 lbs. on his back ; but the 12 st. 7 lbs. which Cloister (Irish) had won with the year before made this tie with Cortolvin of less note than it otherwise would have been. It is remarkable how long some of these old steeple-chase horses last. Come Away (Irish), who was an aged horse in 1891, and has long been forgotten, was found entered again in 1898. The success of The Soarer in 1896 was no doubt due to the number of accidents which took place during the struggle, Mr. D. G. M. Campbell, who rode, having laid to heart the advice as to keeping clear of the crowd and picking his own place at the fences, even if he did not go the shortest way. Manifesto (Irish again) was one of the victims of this occasion, and the ease with which he won the following year (1897) suggested that he must have been extremely dangerous had he not fallen or been knocked over. The proportion of accidents in the Grand National is, however, always very large ; 16 horses, for instance, started in 1890 and only five of them stood up the whole way round, though Why Not, after giving his owner, Mr. C. J. Cunningham, a bad fall, was remounted and finished fifth. Three other winners were among the fallers, Frigate, Gamecock and Voluptuary. One never knows what may happen in a steeple-chase. One of the starters that year was an extremely bad animal and a very uncertain jumper, named Pan, but on this occasion he managed, for a wonder, to stand up when so many of his superiors came to grief, and to the general astonishment finished second. Pan's price in the betting was t00 to r offered; he had been sold a few weeks before the race for 120 guineas, and if Ilex, who won this year, had followed the general example, Pan would actually have won, for M.P., who followed him, was a very long way behind, a bad third. Few persons besides his immediate friends ever believed that Father O'Flynn would win a Grand National, as he was a particularly uncertain and self-willed animal, but his name must not be omitted from this retrospect, mainly because he was persuaded to do his best by that successful horseman the late Major "Roddy" Owen, who, having gained the great object of his ambition by winning the chief of cross country races, finally abandoned the sport to which he had been so devoted, and entered with equal ardour upon the business of his profession in pursuance of which he came to his deeply lamented end.
Riders—Riding over a country is one of the very few sports at which a few of the best amateurs are not inferior to the best professionals. This, however, is perhaps natural, because these few amateurs who are really in the first flight—the number, of course, is exceedingly small—have as much practice at home and abroad as their professional opponents, and they need not ride unless they are really fond of the game. It is a melancholy thing for a steeplechase jockey if his nerve once goes; he has to make his living, and it is a most unpleasant business to ride over a country when nerve has gone and one has no other means of livelihood. A gentleman, when this misfortune happens to him—as in most cases it does sooner or later—can cease to wear silk, or at any rate need not ride over hurdles or fences. One not seldom finds men who have held their own over a country giving it up and appearing only in races on the flat; but there is not this refuge for the professional when, in vulgar phraseology, he begins to "funk."
It is a rapid age, and riders of the last gene-ration are very soon forgotten ; comparatively few men now who " go racing" remember Mr, Ede, who earned a well-deserved reputation as Mr. "Edwards." He was one of twins, and learnt under the auspices of Ben Land, becoming extraordinarily accomplished at the business. It was only jockeyship that enabled Mr. Ede to win on The Lamb against Pearl Diver, who was ridden by a professional jockey. Mr. J. M. Richardson has already been mentioned, as indeed he must have been in any article that deals with steeplechasing. Mr. Arthur Yates was one of the busiest and most successful of riders in the seventies, though increasing weight long ago obliged him to give up the game he so dearly loved, and devote himself to training for his friends, which he has since done and is happily still doing with excellent results. Captain Coventry, the elder brother of Mr. Arthur Coventry, the present starter, was one of the best of his day ; and as regards the younger of the brothers, though possibly he may have been a trifle better on the flat than over a country, it may be doubted whether, all things considered, a better amateur was ever seen. The late Fred Archer, against whom Mr. Arthur Coventry had not seldom ridden with success, humorously protested against having to give any allowance of weight to a gentleman rider such as he ; for Mr. Coventry did the amplest justice to the instructions of his friend and teacher, Tom Cannon. Mr. Coventry carried off the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase of 1879 on Bell Ringer, on a course at Derby which was so severe that some of the other competitors pro-tested against it as altogether unfair. He, however, declared it to be in his opinion admirable, and the result justified his estimate so far as he was concerned. Captain Arthur Smith and Mr. Brockton were great men at this time, and Mr. W. Hope Johnstone is notable as having held his own without loss of skill or nerve for a good thirty years. He is still seen in the saddle, though he was riding against men who have long been forgotten. Mr. E. P. Wilson, a " qualified rider," which is not quite the same as an amateur pure and simple, won innumerable races, including the Grand National on Roquefort; and a name which occurs in the seventies, not seldom with a "r " after it, is that of Lord Marcus Beresford, who is still prominent in Turf matters and held the post of starter before Mr. Coventry, the present occupant. Mr. Garrett Moore, who won the National on Liberator, and his brother, Mr. W. H. Moore, also bear notable names ; and among the best riders of that period was Mr. W. B. Morris, unhappily killed out hunting a few years ago. The three brothers Beasley came constantly from Ireland and seldom returned without taking spoil with them. Captain Middleton, known so well as " Bay Middle-ton," was another very well-known rider of this day, if not quite in the first flight, and it will be remembered how he came to a melancholy end in a steeplechase a few years since. Lord Melgund, who rode as " Mr. Roily," was a keen rider in the seventies, and devoted much of his time and energy to schooling Ledburn, with whom the late Baron Rothschild had set his heart on winning the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase of 1870; but Mr. Richardson and Schiedam were too much for them, though Schiedam at that time was by no means a perfect jumper. Thus early, too, the name of the Hon. George Lambton frequently occurs. He was the possessor of beautiful hands, which he retained till failing health obliged him to give up riding and devote himself to training—with what fortunate results the records of recent years decisively show. The stable over which he presides came out fourth in order of value of races won in 1896. Mr. Hugh Owen, the elder brother of "Roddy" Owen, was one of the most active horsemen of this day ; and among soldiers, both in England and Ireland Mr. Lee Barber, the boldest, not to say most reckless, of riders did well. Among professional horsemen of this time, Robert I'Anson, the present Clerk of the Course at Sandown, was prominent, and he was certainly one of the most accomplished horse-men ever seen over a country. A number of Newmarket trainers now in the busy exercise of their calling were constantly found in the saddle at this period, including R. Marsh, James Jewitt, Joseph Cannon, who won the Grand National on Regal (the second string of the stable, Chandos, the better of the pair, having fallen just after Jewitt had shouted to his friend that he was going on to win) ; Tom Jennings, junior. Others who now have stables of horses under their charge away from headquarters, include Jem Adams, F. Lynham, &c. An amusing and interesting record of "Roddy" Owen's Turf career is fully given in the memoir of him published by his sister, Mrs. Bovill, in 1897.
Coming to more recent times one meets the name of Mr. Percy Bewicke, and it may be doubted whether a better all-round rider ever put his horse at a fence. An indifferent per-former to begin with, he attained to absolutely the first rank by practice and experience ; he was always in the right place, never lay out of his ground or made too much use of his horse ; he could ride a well timed finish, and it was a delight to watch his perfect style over fences. The Grand National never fell to him, but that is to a great extent a matter of luck, as there can be no sort of question that it has more than once or twice been won by completely inferior riders. Another gentleman who has taken the highest honours is Mr. Saunders Davies, who has ridden for a number of years with no loss of nerve, with constantly increasing skill, and ranks with the very best of his contemporaries. Mr. Atkinson must by no means be omitted as one who holds his own against all comers. Mr. H. Ripley should not be forgotten, nor Mr. Charles Beatty, son of Captain David Beatty, an ex-Hussar who has a training stable near Rugby; and from Mr. Arthur Yates's establishment at Bishops Sutton sound horsemen constantly appear, and prove in public the good effects of their constant practice over his course there. Colonel Fisher was one of the busiest of these until his military duties called him from the racecourse, and another was Mr. J. C. Dormer, who headed the list of gentlemen riders one year, and was frequently close up until an accident at Sandown, which led to the loss of an eye, obliged him to retire; the Hon. Reginald Ward is at present a successful exponent of Sutton training, as is Mr. Algernon Lawson. It is impossible to give anything like an exhaustive list of the best gentlemen riders of the day. If Mr. Lushington is not specially included, it is because his efforts are confined to the flat. Among the best professional riders now in practice Arthur Nightingall is prominent, one of three brothers, sons of a jockey father, who have won innumerable races on horses trained at Epsom. Robert is frequently found in op-position to his elder brother, though William has given up riding and turned his attention exclusively to training. Danebury steeplechase horses were for a long time specially dangerous, and this was in no small measure owing to the skill with which they were schooled and ridden by George Mawson, who won the Grand National on Playfair. Mawson was by no means an ideal horseman in appearance, being short and stumpy, but he was an excellent rider notwithstanding, and appearances in this respect are no doubt frequently deceptive—Jem Adams being another example of this fact. At Lewes, Escott trains with fine judgment, and rides with a full proportion of success. For many years Sensier did most notable service for Mr. Arthur Yates's stables ; there was rarely a better judge and scarcely a better exponent of the art of cross-country riding. Dollery, his old companion, is still in the plenitude of his honours, and a bolder horseman never rode at a fence. Williamson is another of the leading jockeys of the day.
Qualification — A few years since, as already mentioned, an absurd distinction was drawn between "hunters" and "handicap steeple-chase horses," and it may be interesting to trace the changes that have been made. Formerly there were steeplechases and hurdle races expressly for " hunters"; only hunters could run in flat races under National Hunt—or, as they were then called, Grand National Hunt—rules, and, if hunters ran out of their own class, they lost their certificates. Not seldom owners sacrificed whatever advantages were supposed to attach to the possession of these certificates, and the ridiculous nature of the distinction was rendered evident when they did so by running their horses in the Grand National. Old Joe was a hunter when he won that race, and he after-wards ran in the Cesarewitch. The idea was to keep apart the real hunter, the veritable "fox-catcher," and the racehorse that had been put to jumping ; but as a very general rule the only actual difference between the two animals was that one had a certificate representing him to be what he was not. To be able to run in Hunters' Flat Races was the great desire of many owners, for then the speed of the thorough-bred would inevitably tell. A hunter was qualified by a certificate from a Master of Hounds saying that the horse had been hunted; and it was the custom to send racehorses to meets in order to qualify. Some Masters appreciated the responsibility ; others, and the majority, were more lax. A fractious, excitable racehorse, totally unused to the surroundings of the hunting field, was apt to be a most unpleasant neighbour. If the boy rode him near the hounds—and not seldom the boy on the would-be hunter perfectly understood his mission—danger to them was imminent. The Master's great object usually was to get rid of the creature as soon as he possibly could. Sometimes a mere appearance at the meet was enough ; sometimes the horse would be cantered across a few fields, through gates, along roads, and so would turn up at a check, where his rider would take care that he was seen. Then application for the certificate would be made, and the racehorse that had never jumped a fence became a " qualified hunter." How remote a chance legitimate bearers of the title had against these racecourse hunters need not be said. The best of the qualified animals had the business to themselves, to the exclusion of those for whom the stakes were supposed to be instituted ; and, when an ex-racehorse appeared at a country hunt meeting where there had been hopes of genuine sport among local horses and their riders, the thing became a farce, for the quasi-hunter would almost inevitably be in the hands of a competent " sharp." If the animal had been schooled and could jump, hunters' steeplechases were equally destroyed, and still more so hunters' hurdle races —absurdities in themselves, for it is the business of a hunter to jump a country, not to fly hurdles —where speed was the first essential.
The first endeavour to amend this state of things was the introduction of a rule stating that no horse, though it had a hunting certificate, should be qualified to run for hunters' races if during the twelve months prior to the day of starting it had run for a handicap, whether over a country or not, at home or abroad. In the early 'eighties this was supplemented by a further requisition that the hunter must not have run under the recognised Rules of Racing since the age of two, and must have jumped all the fences at a meeting under Grand National Hunt Rules to the satisfaction of two of the stewards. At present (1898), horses, to be qualified to run in the few National Hunt Flat Races still contested, must have been placed by the judge first, second, or third in a steeplechase in Great Britain or Ireland ; and the Rule continues to declare that they must have jumped all the fences and completed the whole distance of the course. They must be ridden in these Flat Races also by qualified riders—that is to say, not by professional jockeys ; and one of the matters which, at the time of writing, seems to demand the attention of the Stewards of the National Hunt, is whether the "qualified rider" might not most judiciously be abolished, as the "hunter" he usually bestrode has been, so much to the benefit of the sport. Those who may ride under National Hunt Rules, other than jockeys licensed by the Committee, are given under rules 92 and 93, p. 240.
Now, as a matter of fact, it is shrewdly suspected that, with very few exceptions, qualified riders are jockeys in disguise, who do not admittedly ride for hire, but do so indirectly ; and it is the trickery of these men that lead to a great proportion of the scandals that come to light, or that often would come to light if suspicious circumstances were duly and successfully investigated. It will be seen how wide is the qualification for the gentleman-rider, and, considering that to have any chance of success a man must devote a great deal of time to the sport and ride frequently, there would be little hardship if it were demanded that riders must be qualified as gentlemen or farmers, or else obliged to obtain licenses as professional jockeys. Under the most favourable conditions it, of course, takes a long time for a young man to obtain election to some of the political or social clubs, membership of which is a qualification ; but the right sort of man, the rider whose co-operation would be to the advantage of the sport, should surely have very little difficulty in gaining admission to the Bibury, Croxton Park, Ludlow, or Southdown Club, or to the Rooms at Newmarket. If he be a person who cannot find sponsors for and secure election to any of these, or if he is not a farmer or a farmer's son, in the vast majority of cases he ought to be forced to appear what he is—a man who makes a livelihood by riding. Some men who were practically jockeys used to take a hundred acres of land and pose as farmers, and the practice is not quite extinct in spite of amendments to the Rule that have been made, and are quoted in section (b) of rule 92.