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arrangements of the Great Western rail, which were great improvements on those of last year. The programme of sport was prodigally golden ; horses by hundreds were assembled around the Heath, and prizes such as never before had been known to its catalogues were to be run for. These matters, however, have been fully given in the papers of the day, the allusion to which brings me to a consideration of the treatment of the members of the press at Ascot. Unless my memory is worse than I think it is, not many seasons ago the master of the Stag Hounds announced his intention of providing a Stand, in the most convenient site of the Course, for the especial use of the gentleman of the public press. So far from this having been carried out, on the late anniversary of the royal races not only was there no place assigned to them, but even allowing them to stand among the jockeys and stable-men was made contingent on their keeping in the rear of these functionaries, and just where they could see nothing of what was going on, on the Course, or anywhere else. They were treated with the extremest discourtesy—whether purposely or from oversight, equally discreditable to those entrusted with the regulation of the meeting, and offensively contrasting with the reception of the representatives of the metropolitan journals on a late occasion in the father-land of our Most Gracious Sovereign's gracious consort. Is it out of place here inquiring what may have brought this to pass ? Has the social position of the press suffered social damage at the hands of some of its own members ? Has the expression of personal spleen and small spite brought upon it popular contempt, or, at the least, lowered it in popular esteem? Why does not the journalism of London rank with the journalism of Paris ? Is not the fault with itself rather than the citizens of a state where the privileges of the press are the most jealously regarded of all the national prerogatives? Or, rather, does not the flock suffer from the taint of a few scabby sheep? Labouring under the delusion, probably, that it may make him pass for a clever fellow, or from some cogent individual pique, a critic, I am told, lets no opportunity escape of assuring the public that he has a strong aversion to my productions in general, and my venturing to treat sporting subjects in particular. I notice this because I believe the expression—the coarse expression-of literary spleen acts injuriously upon the reputation of literary men as a class : they have but to unite, to make their strength be felt as it ought. As to the matter relating to myself, I am indifferent, save that it belongs to a practice which brings ill-repute, if not contempt, upon the profession of which I am an humble member. To my anonymous reviewer I address the remonstrance of one of England's noble spirits, in a like case :
“ Alas! good friend, what profit can you see
In hating such a hateless thing as me?
Tuesday, shorn of its accustomed royal cavalcade and its accompaniments, on the strength of gorgeous weather and a fine list, drew together a fine company. The racing was very good. The Trial Stakes, with its “eccentric” weights, the Conjuror won with all ease, but non constat he could have done so with 8st. 71b. up. Akbar won the first class of the Ascot Stakes in very racing-like form, as did the Baronet's Brother to Valentissimo the Ascot Derby, which immediately succeeded. By some oversight~the publisher of the cards assured me not his--the winner of the latter did not appear among the horses left in, and the colt by Amato out of Countess was scratched for the 100 sovs. Sweepstakes, the old mile, won by Prussic Acid, though he ran third for it : these mistakes are very untoward. The Gold Vase brought out a field of eight, which Grimston defeated cleverly ; Coranna second. This was a good performance, if we are to consider the Emperor as a superior horse. Petitioner, finely ridden by Job Marson, won the second class of the Ascot Stakes, as did Arkwright the 100 sovs. Sweepstakes, the new mile, for which the ring did not fancy him. The Welcome Stakes was an easy victory for Iago ; the Galata colt next him-pretty well their Newmarket form—but Burlesque, beaten into a third place : could that have been her form ? The Two-year-old Sweepstakes Lord Exeter won with his Velveteen colt-a fine race—with which the day's list finished.
Wednesday was altogether professional in its character and admirable in its sport. The attendance was chiefly confined to the business party, and a busy time of it they had. The racing began by St. Demetri winning a 50 sovs. sweepstakes for three year olds, the Swinley course -a near shave for it—followed by the Fern Hill Stakes, won by Blackcock, in a field of half a score, very cleverly. The Royal Hunt Cup was then saddled for by twenty-one coursers of one sort or other, and a precious row they made in the ring about it, at least sixteen of the lot being backed. Leaconfield was the winner by a length : among the last was Evenus-a mile course_sic transit. The Coronation Stakes for three years old fillies, a young lady of Mr. Ford's, called Guaracha carried off easily ; and then was run for the Four-year-old Stakes, for which, out of the 13 entries, only Jericho and Mentor came to the post, the former the victor. This was a great betting race, at evens : they say it put out Jericho's chance for the Emperor's Cup ; but I doubt it. Evenus then won a little sweepstakes over the T.Y.C., his forte ; and Lord George Bentinck ran first in a populous field for the Windsor Town Plate, with one of his next year's Derby teamHis Serene Highness, one of the Bay Middleton stock. Mr. Combe's sister to the Nob, won the 50 sovs. for three year olds, the Old Mile ; and Lord Orford the Swinley with Footstool, which closed the day's excellent racing
Thursday, the Cup day, set in fearfully hot, but not the less provided with its pleasure seekers, threading the old forest, or glid. ing along the modern rail, for all that. There was no royal pa. geant, whereat some people affected surprise ; but what business would a royal husband have at a race-course " at such a time?” Neither did the servants of the royal hounds shew as they have been wont. Davis has resigned the office of starter to Mr. Hibbard, and keeping the ground is henceforth to be the sole affair of the police. Ibrahim Pacha, with a suite of three of the royal carriages, arrived vid Slough at half-past one. The cavalcade was ordered as on occasions of the sovereign's attendance, and, with somewhat of similar ceremony, the august Oriental took his place in the royal stand. The daily papers stated that the Pacha was delighted with the sport : if so, it was expressed in that dreamy way which nations of the East affect to give utterance to their emotions. He gave me the idea of a gentleman considerably bored, though his eye on occasion glanced around with almost unnatural effulgence. It was of the kind that Shakspeare assigns to Mars, and by no means the sort of optic to cheer the heart of one under the impression that he was the observed of no friendly observer. “ Nascitur a sociis ” is a wholesome maxim ; and certainly if the Pacha was “ delighted,” his suite did not partake of his extacy. There was General Wemys, for instance; if he was cultivating pleasure, he was taking it “as men take cold porridge.” Her Majesty's Plate was the opening event of the day, and after some Conjuring, it was won by the Bold Archer. Headsman having walked over for a 50 sovs. sweepstakes--Swinley Course—and Free Lance having won the St. James's Palace Stakes, to the great discomfiture of the admirers of Joinville, backed for it at odds--the Emperor's Cup was placed on the tapis, as the genteel phrase runs. For this trophy a dozen horses were announced as about to start, by the telegraph, of which half-ascore were in the odds. Of course it was what is called a good betting race, the winner, Alarm, being at 3 to 1, despite the fact of his having met with an accident the previous day. My opinion is, that, as a performance, it was anything but first-rate. Orlando—whose racing career seems to have been fated to be bizarre-broke down ; 80 did a most indifferent old plater, who was well-placed before his mishap. The prize is a handsome one, being a candelabrum of thirteen branches, splendidly chased and mounted. The Visitors' Plate was won by Count Batthyany's Gannet : I was well pleased at the issue. The Count is a most friendly gentleman, and enters into the spirit and the participation of our national sports as if “ to the matter born.” The New Stakes—a leading two-years-old race-brought out twelve youngsters, with only 7 to 4 against the winner, Slander — a filly bought by Lord George Bentinck, on very good terms: she is in the Oaks. The Dinner Stakes Mr. Combe's Harmony filly won, beating Draco by a head ; and Phillip the Stand Plate, after a very fine race with Headsman, in a field of fourteen. This closed the sport : the Pacha and his suite left soon after the race for the Emperor's Cup.
Friday, like Wednesday, was marked by the preponderance of the professionals over the amateurs. There was lots of sport, and lots of speculation ; Taurina having received in a match, and Wolfdog having beaten Miss Elis in another, for 300 sovs., two miles, giving her a stone, The Traverser beat a field of ten for the Wokingham. Alvanley then won the Borough Members' Plate, and Lightning the 300 sovs. given by the Great Western Railway Company, added to a handicap sweepstakes of 10 sovs. each : twenty-one starters. The Wokingham, second class, the Conjuror won, beating by a head Evenus-eleven others in the field. The Great Four-year-old Stakes was run a match between Leopard and Fuzbos, to the advantage of the former; and Lyons having carried off the Military Stakes, the meeting came to a brilliant close. It had its
crosses, like all things sublunary ; but should it never know a worse anniversary, its most sanguine friends will have reason to rejoice.
HAMPTON RACES. As nobody ever dreams of going to Moulsey Hurst with a view to good racing, it will suffice to allude to the meeting on that classic spot in its character of a popular pleasure-resort. In this respect it can hardly take offenee at my speaking of it without a particle of “delight" in reference to its late celebration. The weather was positively awful. How anybody escaped a coup de soleil I cannot conceive, except a special miracle was done in the case of every individual who saw the noons of the 17th and 18th ult., or either of them, on the banks of the Thames, over against the little town of Hampton. Thursday, as usual, was the gala, and the muster of ladies was considerable ; also the cavaliers were a goodly company, with some eminent exceptions. There is to be seen just now, at all the places of popular merry-making, a clique consisting chiefly of the most unmitigated snobs, perhaps, that ever flourished. Punch, I beseech thee, in the name of thy lady-love to take these miserables in hand. Do not finish the biography of snobbery without devoting a chapter to these eccentries of the species. Scout them from the face of day ; leave them Almacks and "maids that love the moon" an ye will. Rid us of these abortions of nature's journeymen, so shalt thou add another branch of laurel to thy wreath. As a place of wholesome public resort, Hampton races deserve support from the journalist, but scarce on any grounds of intrinsic excellence. They are conducted in a grasping spirit—whatever the cause, an ungrateful effect. A rival is about to spring up on that fine expanse of wild land-Wimbledon Common. The increase of similar places of resort within reach of the metropolis would be a great public benefit.
OTTER-HUNTING IN THE COOMBERIES.
“ Now on firm land they range; then in the flood
Of all rivers in the west of England give me the bright and sparkling the noble sport of otter-hunting it may challenge the world. From its Coombe. Its wild scenery, on a small scale, is enchanting ; and for first fountain to where it empties itself into the Lea it traverses a dis. tance of barely ten miles; it is, therefore, precipitous and merry as it is short-lived. Its course lies north and south, and, passing through a
deep dingle or “ coombery," as it is there called, the sun at Midsummer sees it but for a short time, and scarcely tarries long enough to kiss away the dew from the alders with which it is everywhere fringed. Every turn of the river presents a dark placid pool, over which hangs a stag-headed oak, or ancient willow, bowed down with age and infirmity; or, mayhap, a clitter of rocks frowns upon the water, looking like the stronghold of some wild beast of
Trout are abundant, and afford, if not to the angler, a fine feast for the otter. Here he revels unmolested through the livelong night, catches the finest fish, eats the daintiest part, and, when daylight appears, curls himself up to sleep under the roots of an overhanging alder, or in the depths of some rocky recess.
So narrow are the meadows through which the Coombe runs, that a horse in half-a-dozen strides could cover the widest of them. They are fertilized by irrigation, and no such thing as an underground drain is to be found on their line ; indeed, the hilly nature of the land renders such an improvement impracticable as well as unnecessary. An otter-hunter will appreciate this fact ; inasmuch as he knows from bitter experience that there is no greater drawback to his sport than an underground gutter : and where is the river, excepting the little Coombe, that is without them? Do they not abound, like commissioners, through the length and breadth of the land ? The system of drainage, however, between the two, is not altogether analogous ; the one draining the land for the purpose of “ making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before,” the other the country's coffers for the especial benefit of his own estate.
Underground drains, where they are effective, have usually a small stream of water issuing from them. The otter, in entering, consequently passes through the water, which washes away all scent or traces of him ; and when there are half-a-dozen gutters in one meadow, where the trail happens to be excellent, it is almost next to impossible to decide upon the very drain in which he has taken up
his quarters. Hounds cannot mark him ; and there is not one terrier in ten thousand that will go up these water-gutters without scent, merely to draw them ; and, if they do, the chances are they pond back the water and run a great risk of being drowned. Many and many a good terrier have I seen extricated from this perilous position ; and that, too, at their last gasp. No ; these too happy agriculturists, “ sua si bona nôrint,” if they did but know the advantage of keeping otters out of these drains, they would lose no time in affixing iron-grating at their mouths ; for if they are not aware, I must beg leave to tell them, that otters have a particular delight in choking drains, and thereby, of course, rendering them useless. The fact is, the animal, when he retires to rest, loves to lie high and dry. To attain this, he tears down the cover-stones, and gets upon the side wall of the gutter, where he sleeps in security. With the cover-stone down, the gutter in a short time will be choked, flags and rushes will spring up instead of kindly herbage. The farmer sees the effect, but does not suspect the cause, and most undoubtedly thinks of the great expense but small return of that system of draining ; but the fault, q. e. d., is not in the draining. Let him keep out the otters, and all will be well both for himself as well as the otter-hunter.
By way of digression I must be allowed to say, that the system of tile-draining was unquestionably known to the ancients ; for do we not