Archive for the ‘Racing Extras and Embellishments’ Category
Posted on April 28, 2013 - by Annie Johnson
Dear Readers: Since the following post is outside the realm of antebellum racing, we are making an exception in order to honor the current Triple Crown season with coverage of the first Derby.—Editor, Antebellum Turf Times
It may have been the first Kentucky Derby, but it wasn’t the star attraction of the Louisville Jockey Club’s six-day inaugural spring meeting in 1875.
Yes, opening day on Monday, May 17, 1875, drew more than 12,000 attendees to the new track that would later become known as Churchill Downs in the early 1880’s; four races were on the day’s card, highlighted by the second contest for three-year-olds, the Kentucky Derby.
And Derby winner Aristides broke a speed record for three-year-olds, finishing the 1½ mile race in a time of 2:37¾ against 14 other starters.
Yet it was day four of the race meeting and the Louisville Cup, a “dash” at 2¼ miles, that attracted an estimated 15,000–20,000 fans to the course, known then as Driving Park. “Not only the citizens, but the entire State seems to have turned out in force,” the Daily Graphic reported. Ballankiel beat a field of seven other horses, winning the Cup easily.
The time of 4:01½ was considered so exceptional that the length of the track was questioned, but an engineer provided its measurement at seventeen inches over a mile, presenting a certificate verifying such to the judges’ stand.
When the Cup itself—valued at $1,000—was awarded to owner Mr. Jennings, the crowd cheered, “Let the horse drink out of it!”
This was accordingly done, Ballankeel [sic] putting his nose against the gold lining, wetting his lips, and then gallantly raising his head to acknowledge the applause of the multitude.—Daily Graphic
As the Kentucky Derby was modeled after England’s Epsom Derby, the Louisville Jockey Club’s Kentucky Oaks was likewise a replication of the Epsom Oaks. Contested at 1½ miles on Wednesday (day three) by six three-year-old fillies, the first Kentucky Oaks was won by Vinaigrette, who was erroneously listed as being a five-year-old in the New York Herald-Tribune’s race summary! Time, 2:39¾.
The Jockey Club designed one more race with another English stakes in mind, the St. Leger; this was the Clark Stake (today’s Clark Handicap), a two-miler for three-year-olds that was held on closing day, Saturday, with Voltigeur prevailing in a time of 3:50¼ over 11 other starters.
Racing was alive again in Louisville, for the launch of the new race course and the inaugural Louisville Jockey Club meeting were collectively a spectacular success. “The grand stand is a beautiful amphitheatre with slender iron columns and a beauty of finish that is superior even to the ladies’ stand at Saratoga. No track has such new and perfectly planned stables,” remarked the Daily Graphic.
“The entire race can be witnessed from the grand stand without rising from the seat; nevertheless yesterday (Derby Day) 3,500 people rose simultaneously with the start of the horses, and remained standing until the race was over.”
And the fans have remained standing. We are still compelled to stand today, 138 years later, to witness this sport, from its magnificent triumphs to its most devastating defeats—forgoing our seats as thousands did on opening day at this Louisville track that was once known as Driving Park.
“Racing in Kentucky. Louisville and its Race Course—A Visit to the Races—A Brilliant Scene.” New York Daily Graphic, May 22, 1875.
“Racing in the South. The Spring Meeting of the Louisville Jockey Club—Sights and Scenes of the Stretch and Grand Stand as Viewed by a Northern Woman.” Daily Graphic, May 25, 1875.
“Louisville Races.” New York Herald-Tribune, May 20 & 23, 1875.
Information pertaining to England’s three premier races found at http://www.churchilldowns.com/about/history.
Posted on February 24, 2012 - by Annie Johnson
The Times is pleased the share from the Constitution of the Adams County, Mississippi, Jockey Club (1845) the following selections on rules governing the antebellum turf.
Our racing correspondent discovered this preserved document among the possessions of Natchez turfman William J. Minor, whose papers are currently archived in the Special Collections at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; both Minor and Colonel Adam L. Bingaman were members of this club [read more about the horses of Minor (Pt. III.) and Bingaman (Parts I.–V.) in the Times’ New Orleans Jockey Club 1837 Spring Meeting series].
The excerpts included here are rules on foul riding and “poling.” While the club’s rules were stringent with respect to foul riding, it’s interesting to see some leniency with regard to “poling”—this during a time in racing that predated the railed track.
Posted on January 20, 2012 - by Annie Johnson
While the Times’ loyal correspondent was combing the archives in the search for more tales of the turf, the following untitled poem was unearthed—which recounts the Second Great Match Race between the North and South, held over the Union Course on Long Island in 1836 [please see Part IV.—the Aftermath from the Great Match Race series for more details on this historic contest].
The poem below was written by Isaac Michael Dyckman, whose antebellum family farm was located in what is now the Northern Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood. Although he was a local New Yorker, it remains a mystery if Dyckman had made the journey to Long Island to see the race firsthand. Not only has this poem been preserved but the family’s eighteenth-century home also remains today as the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum!
On the thirtieth day of May,
A race was run for money they say
Between two horses of great speed
And down in excellent time indeed
The people, they collected around
The Union Course of Jamaica town
The wind did blow, the dust did fly
And there collected in every one’s eye
‘Tis true it rained the day before
No matter for that the rain was o’er
Across the water people did glide
To see the speedy horses tried
About One O’clock of that day
The horses appeared in splendid array
Walking proudly across the turf
Both steeds of equal birth
Post-Boy was the Northern horse
Trained upon the Union Course
His large and gallant opponent indeed
Named John Bascomb the Southern steed
The two great steeds were led up and down
No doubt, saw the people standing round
Their heads well up, eyes wide open
No doubt saw the people’s motion
Horses then to show their pride
Walked down with keepers at their side
John Bascomb a sorel [sic] light
Post-Boy was a sorel bright
The keepers then threw off the dress
Well they knew the race to test
The drum was sounded by the judge
Pompously went up both the studs
The riders then mounted the word go
Away went like an arrow from a bow
They, appeared as, they went around
As if they never touched the ground
Bascomb won the first and second heat
Enough to prove Post-Boy’s defeat
Taking in the knowing Northerners
By the witty minded Southerners
Seven forty-nine the first heat won
Bascomb won the second also in fifty-one
The two greatest horses ever run
Excepting Old Eclipse and Henry Young
Posted on January 6, 2012 - by Annie Johnson
Antebellum Turf Times begins the new year with the following homage to the races; we wish we could take credit for this piece, but nonetheless we are pleased to be able to share it with our readers.
This excerpt is from The South Carolina Jockey Club, published in 1857, and written by John B. Irving, the Club’s secretary. We disagree, however, with Irving’s humble assessment that no writer can adequately capture the thrill of the races, when he himself has so eloquently done so here.
From The South Carolina Jockey Club
We cannot catch a wave, nor Daguerreotype its grace and rocket-like velocity. To do this perfectly is beyond the power of man.
So, like-wise, they who essay to convey, by description, the various features: the scenes, the moments of eager and tumultuous joy; the moving figures; the phantasmagoria of life, such as are continually presented and occurring on a Race Ground, will, also, fail in conveying aught but a cold, inanimate picture to the mind of the reader!
Posted on November 18, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
In preparation for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, the Turf Times shares the following informative article on obtaining the family dinner — selected from the archives of the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine.
But the most common method of procuring wild turkeys, is by means of pens. These are placed in parts of the woods where turkeys have been frequently observed to roost, and are constructed in the following manner.
Posted on October 14, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
This week kicks off the Times’ Turf Pedigree section — from the vault we have selected the following piece on the renowned stallion from the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine’s December 1829 issue.
Memoir of Sir Archy. — This justly celebrated horse was foaled in the spring of 1805, on James River, in Virginia, and was bred by Col. Archibald Randolph and Col. John Tayloe, as their joint property. (more…)
Posted on September 30, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
Coverage of closing day for the 1837 New Orleans Jockey Club Spring Races concludes next week! For this week’s issue, the Times shares the following resource for track building, circa 1833:
Rules for Laying Out a Race Course.
Through the middle of the intended course, lengthwise, indicate the dotted line a b, and place on it blocks, or flat stones, firmly secured; the tops level with the surface of the ground, at O O; distant from each other, centre to centre, four hundred and forty yards, (a quarter of a mile,) exactly measured (more…)
Posted on September 16, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
The ideas expressed by the following poem in its entirety may or may not reflect the opinions of the Antebellum Turf Times – ATT Editor]
Stanzas by a Sporting Bachelor – author unknown
Love is just like a race-ground – it is, by my soul,
Where losses or gains may betide us;
We men are the racers – and marriage the goal,
And Cupid the jockey to ride us!
Posted on September 16, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
Dear Readers of the Turf Times: Our correspondent’s coverage of the New Orleans Jockey Club’s 1837 Inaugural Spring Races will resume in next week’s issue!
In the meantime, here’s a brief tale of true chivalry, culled from the archives of the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine.
General Kosciuszko’s Horse
The celebrated Polish general, Kosciuszko, once wished to send some bottles of good wine to a clergyman at Solothurn [Switzerland]; and, as he hesitated to send them by his servant, lest he should smuggle a part, he gave the commission to a young man of the name of Zeltuer, and desired him to take the horse which he himself usually rode.
Posted on September 2, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
Dear Readers of the Turf Times: In honor of the upcoming holiday weekend and related celebrations, here’s a tale from the Spirit of the Times archives about the escapades of Jack Ragg, a 19th century English draught horse. Next week’s issue will continue coverage of the New Orleans Jockey Club’s inaugural 1837 spring meeting. — ATT Ed.
“Jack thought on this occasion the pleasures of eating were as nothing compared to the joys of drinking.” – The musings of Jack Ragg, upon his tumble into an ale cellar
On Saturday afternoon, a dense crowd was collected round the Duke of York public house, which forms the junction of Shepherd-street and Union-street, Oxford-street, and from the eagerness of the spectators it was evident that some unusual incident had occurred.