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BETTING AS A BUSINESS PREJUDICIAL TO THE TURF. 7
looking at it; and, if they do, it is merely to see how it is run, won and lost, so as to enable them to judge how to lay or take the odds on any of the horses in it when engaged in another Stake. Such poachers are not worthy the name of racing men, though unfortunately they get among them. These are the harpies who plunder the legitimate supporters of the Turf, and bring one of our finest old English sports into disrepute. These are the men who are, by themselves and their agents, at the bottom of all the villanies that are so constantly practised, the frequent occurrence of which has disgusted and driven so many men of family, rank, and wealth from the Turf, from finding they must either be pigeoned, or, like the rest,
fight at the leg” themselves. If they would, in the literal sense of the word, "fight at the leg,” that is, the Black-leg, spoil his trade, and so drive him off the Turf, they would confer a benefit on society. Then, and not till then, shall we again see Noblemen and Gentlemen keeping their stud of race-horses, as they do their pack of fox-hounds, as an appendage to their rank in life, as an amusement to themselves, and as a gratification and advantage to the country at large. This can never be the case while betting, instead of racing, is left to be the primum mobile of the machinery of turf affairs.
The mere betting men may and will say that betting keeps alive the spirit of racing. No such thing: it may keep up an artificial effervescence; but if that was stopped, while we are Englishmen the true spirit will always remain among us. Supposing, however, it did diminish the number of race-horses kept, or the number of races run, if the race-course is to be only a Hell in the open air, instead of in St. James's or King Street, why, the sooner it is
8 EFFECT PRODUCED BY THE BETTING FRATERNITY.
checked or stopped the better. If a race-course, instead of being a healthful and exhilarating spot, where we expect to see an assemblage of the first sporting men in the world, their families, their friends, and their tenants, come to enjoy a truly English and noble sport, is to be converted into an extended
rouge et noir table, and black and red to win, not because either is on the best horse, but because it suits the books of a set of miscreants, it is quite time to stop the thing at once, and begin it de novo.
We have, however, still a few (and God knows a very few) men on the Turf whose character and position in life place them beyond suspicion ; but among the Nobility of the United Kingdom — which amounts, I should say, to about seven hundred, independently of Lords by courtesy — we find now scarcely more than twenty patronising the Turf by keeping race-horses — a pretty sure criterion of its respectability under the present system! Formerly, when racing was carried on as racing should be, if a man won, he walked up to his horse, received the congratulations of his friends, and felt a very justifiable pride in his horse's triumph; he knew he had won fairly, and had no fear of being suspected of having ever done otherwise. But now, nothing appears to be done openly: the owner of a horse retires among the crowd, and appears, and really is, afraid of being pointed out as connected with the Turf. indeed, must rank very high in public estimation to keep his character unscathed. I have mentioned how few of our Nobility now keep race-horses : what a host of those, and men of family and fortune, could I name who have given it up! What does this prove ? Not that such men are not as well disposed to
RACING AS A SPORT.
patronise the Turf as formerly, but that they neither choose to rob or be robbed; and one or the other they must be, so long as betting men, and not the owners of horses, are permitted to sway the Racing World.
It is pretty generally allowed by all persons who know any thing about the matter, that no man under ordinary circumstances can make money by keeping race-horses, if he merely runs to win. If a man of large fortune keeps them, he ought to calculate that they will cost him so much a-year according to their number, and put them down to his expenses as he does his other horses, or carriages, or his hounds. If he does not think them worth this expense, he had better not go upon the Turf; for if he means to retain the character of a gentleman and man of honour, he ought to calculate to lose so much. He
however, be fortunate in his horses, possess good judgment himself, or find a trainer who has, and who will be honest enough to place his horses well for him, and do all in his power to win — he may, therefore, under such circumstances, keep them at very little expense, but an expense he must reckon on their being more or less; for make money by them honestly he will not in one case in a hundred.
Let me, however, endeavour to rescue racing and race-horses from the sweeping charge that is brought against them of being the ruin of thousands. The fact really is, that simply racing and the keeping race-horses will bring no man to ruin unless he is a ready-made fool. If a man of 5001. a-year is idiot enough to set up his four-in-hand, of course he must be ruined; but we are not to say from this that foursin-hand are the ruin of those who keep them. They will, of course, be the ruin of those who do so with
RACE-HORSES NOT RUINOUS;
out the means: so will race-horses. If a man ruins himself by either keeping the one or the other, it is his own fault: he does it gradually, with his eyes open, and is, therefore, that sort of simple young gentleman, who, if he did not do it by these means, would be sure to do it by some other. We might as well say a bottle of wine a-day is sure ruin, because it would be so to a merchant's clerk at 701. a-year salary. We might as well suppose a man was certain to be ruined should we see a pack of cards or a backgammon box and dice in his house, because many have ruined themselves by an improper use of either, or both.
Even here I will allow a man to play with either every day, and play for high stakes if he pleases. Provided he always plays for about the same stakes, plays with Gentlemen, not Legs, and NEVER BETS, he will find at the year's end that (supposing, of course, he has played with common judgment) he has neither won nor lost enough to materially affect his finances. So it is with race-horses. Let a man keep two or half-a-dozen, according to his income: let him buy his horses with judgment, place them in proper hands, and also enter them properly according to their qualifications in proper Stakes, and never bet on them or on any other person's, and he will never be ruined by race-horses. Let him, however, bear in mind, that I warn him he must lay by 500l. or 10001. a-year of his income, according to the number he keeps, for their expenses and his amusement. The whole of this may not be called for: it is within the bounds of possibility they may pay their expenses one with another, and one year with another; but he must not calculate on this. If, therefore, he cannot afford to pay so much a-year, he has no business to keep race-horses : if he
BUT BETTING IS.
can, they will never ruin him more than keeping his hunters, if he can afford to keep them : if he cannot, they will, of course, eventually equally ruin him. It is not, therefore, that hunters or race-horses are in themselves to be considered as ruinous; but the ruin arises from keeping any thing a man cannot afford to keep.
We will now, however, look at another and very distinct feature in racing affairs (pity it is not more distinct); namely, the betting part of the business. Though “the tug of war” may come when “Greek meets Greek,” when the man of honour meets the Greek there is no tug of war at all: the forlorn hope alone advances, advances at the pas de charge; the forlorn hope is the man of honour, and of course is “blown up." Therefore, although give a man, we will say 20001. a-year, and he chooses to keep four orses in training, I should never fear his merely keeping and running them being his ruin : let me once see him back his horse in any thing like a heavy bet, from that moment (and particularly should he be so unfortunate as to win) I will back him at 50 to 1 to be ruined in a very short time: indeed a few meetings will sew him
up He has then only one thing left if he means to keep on the Turf; and that is, to throw aside all feelings of honour, turn Leg, and rob other people. This man certainly has no right to say racing or racehorses have been his ruin. True, if he had never kept race-horses, he might not have been led into betting; nor would he if he had never been born : so if he chooses to carry the thing back to its first cause, he may with tolerably fair logic affirm that betting has been his ruin— that keeping race-horses brought on betting—and that being born brought on keeping