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TRIALS AGAINST TIME.
veriest wretch becomes quite a respectable animal in that race; but not if handicapping ever goes, like kissing, by favour, as I have heard it insinuated it sometimes does. But there are always some ill-natured people in the world ready to malign the innocent.
I remember in one instance my innocence being put to the test in a case of handicapping. I was requested by the steward at a country meeting to fix the weights for seven horses. So soon as the weights were declared, I had not only the very popular owner of one of the horses on my back, but trainer, jockey, groom, friends of the owner, and all : “I was determined to shut the horse out," was said: “I had put a stone too much on him," was added : " he should be drawn,” &c. He was not drawn, however, and won a good length, though not in a canter as was wished. I was innocent of any intention that he should, but not innocent enough to be cajoled into any alteration of the weight.
I have heard much said for and against the idea of trying horses' “ speed against time.” I believe it is "pretty considerably" practised in America, and Jonathan knows something about racing as well as we do. I have heard some persons ridicule the practice; others support it. My private opinion is of little consequence certainly ; still I have never heard enough against it to induce me to join in the ridicule, but on the contrary I see many advantages in it. In a trial with another horse, let it be remembered we have to trust to him, as our trial horse, being fit to go, willing to go, the jockey making him go, and perhaps—I only say perhaps-on some particular occasion the trainer wishing him to go, or otherwise. Now a good stopwatch we may depend on as to going ; it is not ridden.
“ DOGS ARE HONEST CREATURES.”
This reminds me of what a nobleman, a great courser, once said when some one asked him why he was so shy of betting on a race when he betted so freely on his greyhounds ? “My dogs do not carry jockeys," said his Lordship.
Let us now look a little into the for and against practice of trying a horse against a stop-watch. I can mention one objection to trusting to it, which is this: if we measure our horse's qualifications by such a test, we must always run our race the same way, namely, making best running from end to end. Now this does not suit many horses in a race : where we depend on his powers of finishing a race, any trial as to time would be useless; for though a horse might go a mile to-day against time in nearly half the time he does it to-morrow in a match, the time of doing the mile is nothing, but the time or speed in which the last hundred yards are done is everything. Some horses have most extraordinary powers in finishing a race, and, can, when tired, make a wonderful effort for a few strides: others, though quite willing, have scarcely anything in them when called upon, and such horses are generally beat upon the post. Very speedy horses, if they are upon any terms with their opponent, when a few strides from home, are almost sure of their race. The fact is, their speed is so tremendous they are never at their very best till the hands, whip, and spurs, call it forth for half a dozen lengths ; and the rush settles the business. The slower horse is not capable of this increased speed, so cannot come, when called on, to the same extent. The objection I have pointed out in no way, however, militates against the trial by time being practised; for it is only one objection to
88 TRYING PRETENSIONS FOR THE DERBY. or failing in the system, while there are many things in its favour. • We will say we send our colt at Derby weight, Derby length, and (as nearly as we can pick out a trial-ground to resemble it) over a Derby course : the jockey, or head lad if his head is equal to it, is told to make the best possible running he can all the way without upsetting his colt : if a free goer, he had better go alone; if not, a hack may lead him off the first half mile, and a good four or five-year old join in and run home by his side, of course letting the young one find himself first at the finish. We will now look at our time: the colt has not of course been put to his very best, though pretty near it. If we find the length has been done at close upon, if not quite, the quickest Derby time, we have proved beyond doubt we have a very speedy and very stout colt-a much more certain proof than if in the trial he had beat the horse that won the Derby last year, though he would be giving him the year, for the other might have gone off, but the time is safe to tell a true tale. Having thus proved our colt a game, stout, and speedy one, -in short, a trump card — we may shortly after try his qualifications as to finishing a race. This is easily done in the usual way, by running the race in fair usual time, and letting him finish with a known horse: if we find his speed is such as to quite satisfy us as to his finish, it will remain with the trainer, the jockey, and in some cases the owner, to determine how they think the most may be made of the colt. If it is found that his speed, on being called upon, is not so superior as his running on, then, from the trial we have had, our orders, I should say, may be short enough (the jockey acting up to them as nearly as he
A USEFUL RACE-HORSE. can) — “ Jump off with the lead, and keep it.” By keeping the lead, no stable boy would suppose he was meant to fight for it with every horse that comes alongside him, but to keep going along at that pace that will either choke the best horses or they you. After the trial we took of our colt, and finding he can go the length as soon as it ever has been run, or very near it, we have a right to hope he is as good or better than anything in the race. If some lusus naturæ has come out, we can't help it: but we shall be pretty sure of not being where many will be that is, if we are fortunate enough to bring the colt out as good as he was on the day of trial.
At all events, I am quite sure, if race-horses were more carefully tried than they usually are as to the effect weight has on them relative both to pace and distance, much trouble and expense would be saved to their owners.
However impolitic (not to say impossible) it may be to try horses repeatedly enough to come at their best attributes in point of weight, distance, and pace collectively, it should not deter us from getting as near this great desideratum as circumstances and the well-doing of the animal will allow.
I have supposed having tried a horse four miles under seven, eight, and nine stone, and that, so far as time goes, we have found out at least one thing, that he can carry a moderately high weight at a telling pace and a long length. This, as I before said, has at all events proved that we have a horse we can depend upon for a particular kind of race, and that he is consequently a very useful one. The term useful inay appear an inappropriate one (to persons unacquainted with racing matters) as applied to a race
horse: it is, however, quite in character. Men of very large fortune (and I, if thus circumstanced, should be one of the first to do so) may keep racehorses solely for the pleasure they derive from the very harmless, I may say laudable, emulation of possessing and producing the best of the most beautiful animals in nature, and feel a truly English and perfectly gentlemanlike pride in seeing their horses win, quite independent of the advantage of pecuniary gain : but as not one man in a hundred keeping racehorses continues long on the turf with merely such inducement, the term useful as applied to a racehorse is as applicable as it would be to any other horse where his services were devoted to making money, or at all events to the endeavour to do so. “Useful” is therefore properly applied to that description of horse-racer or cart-horse, that in the long run appears most likely to put money in his owner's pocket; and as a race-horse, I consider the horse that can make the running is the one most likely for a continuance to do it. In the first place, these from end-to-end horses are generally such as can come out very often : their getting older is not so much against them as it is against the flyers, as the increasing weight will not stop them, as it unquestionably will slighter and more speedy horses: and further, we have it in our power to make the race such as to suit the stout horse. We may, till a horse's qualities are known, sometimes coax or humbug others into making slow running ; but so soon as it is found a race so run is the forte of any particular horse, it can be done no longer. But we can always go away with a horse unless in a very particular case, where a boy might get shut in by three or four old jocks; though even