Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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betting two to one on Dexter, I took the liberty of advising him
to be cautious, for I thought the team would win the race, and
that its backers knew what they were doing. Before the hour
arrived I secured a seat on the ladies' stand, from which every
foot of the course, and the countless multitudes of people, could
be taken in at a glance. The vehicles in numbers were simply
incalculable, and the multitudes were estimated at forty thousand
people. Upon the arrival of the hour, the judges ascended the
stand and rang up the horses, when the backers of the team
came forward, explained the mishap that had befallen the run-
ner, that they had Brown George's mate on the ground, but, as
he and Ethan had never been hitched together, they were un-
willing to risk so large a sum, and closed the race by paying one
thousand two hundred and fifty forfeit. When this announce-
ment was made there was a general murmur that spread, step by
step, through all that vast multitude. The betting fraternity


were just where they started and every spectator realized a feel-
ing of disgust at the whole management. As soon as this had
time to exert its intended effect upon the crowd, the backers of
the team came forward again and expressed their unwillingness
to have the people go away dissatisfied, and proposed a little
match of two hundred and fifty a side, which was promptly
accepted by the Dexter party; and when it was known there
would be a race after all the shout of the multitudes was like the
voice of many waters.

"This being a new race, the betting men had to commence de
novo. The surroundings of the pool stands were packed with an
eager and excited crowd, anxious to get on their money at two,
and rather than miss, at three to one on Dexter. The work of
the auctioneers was short, sharp and decisive, and the tickets
were away up in the hundreds and oftentimes thousands. But
the pool-stands did not seem to accommodate more than a small
fraction of those anxious to invest, and in all directions in the
surging crowd, hands were in the air, filled with rolls of green-
backs, and shouting "two to one on Dexter." I was curious to
note what became of these noisy offers, and I soon observed that
a quiet-looking man came along, took all the party had to invest
and then went quietly to another of the shouters, and then anothei'
and so on, till I think that every one who had money to invest,
at that rate, was accommodated. The amount of money bet was
enormous, no doubt aggregating a quarter of a million, in a few

"When the horses appeared on the track to warm up for the
race. Dexter, driven by the accomplished reinsman Budd Doble,
was greeted with a shout of applause. Soon the team appeared,
and behind it sat the great master of trotting tactics, Dan Mace.
His face, which has so often been a puzzle to thousands, had no
mask over it on this occasion. It spoke only that intense ear-
nestness that indicates the near approach of a supreme moment.
The team was hitched to a light skeleton wagon; Ethan wore
breeching, and beside him was a great strong race horse, fit to
run for a man's life. His traces were long enough to allow him
to fully extend himself, but they were so much shorter than
Ethan's that he had to take the weight. Dexter drew the inside,
and on the first trial they got the send off without either one having
six inches the advantage. When they got the word, the flight of
speed was absolutely terrific, so far beyond anything I had ever


witnessed in a trotting horse, that I felt the hair rising on my
head. The running horse was next to me, and notwithstanding
my elevation, Ethan was stretched out so near the ground that
I could see nothing of him but his ears. I fully believed that,
for several rods at this point, they were going at a two-minute

'"It was impossible that this terrible pace could be maintained
long, and just before reaching the first turn Dexter's head began
to swim and the team passed him and took the track, reaching
the first quarter-pole in thirty-two seconds, with Dexter three or
four lengths behind. The same lightning speed was kept np
tlirough the second quarter, reaching the half-mile 2:>olo in 1:04,
with Dexter still farther in the rear. Mace then took a pull on
bis team, and came home a winner by six or eight lengths, in
"2:15. When this time was put on the blackboard, the response
of the multitude was like the roar of the ocean. Although
some distance away, through the second quarter of this heat I
had a fair, unobstructed side view of the stallion and of his action,
when going at the lightning rate of 2:08 to the mile. I could
not observe that he received the slightest degree of propulsion
from the running horse; and my conviction was then, and is now,
that any such propulsion would have interfered with his own un-
approachable action, and Avould have retarded rather than helped
him. The most noticeable feature in his style of movement was
the remarkable lowness to which he dropped his body and the
straight, gliding line it maintained at that elevation.

"The team now had the inside, and in the first attempt they
were started for the second heat, but they did not appear to me
to be going so fast as in the first heat. Before they had gone
many rods Ethan lost his stride and Dexter took the track at the
very spot where he had lost it in the first heat. The team soon
got to work, and near the beginning of the second quarter col-
lared Dexter, but the stallion broke soon after and fell back, not
yards, nor lengths, but rods before he caught. Incredible as it
may seem, when he again got his feet, he put on such a burst of
speed as to overhaul Dexter in the third quarter, when he broke
again and Mace had to pull him nearly to a standstill before he
recovered. Dexter was now a full distance ahead and the heat
appeared to be his beyond all peradventure. I was watching the
team in its troubles very closely and my idea of the distance lost
was the result of a deliberate and careful estimate at the moment;


and the query in my mind then was whether the team could save-
its distance. At last the old horse struck his gait, and it was
like a dart out of a catapult, or a ball from a rifle. The team
not only saved its distance, but beat Dexter home five or six
lengths in 2:16.

''In the third heat Mace had it all his own way throughout,
coming home the winner of the race in 2:19. The backers of
Dexter, up to the very last, placed great reliance on his well-
known staying qualities; but the last heat showed that the terri-
ble struggle told upon him more distressingly than upon the
team. It is said by those who timed Dexter privately that he
trotted the three heats in 2:17, 2:18, and 2:21. As an opinion,
I will say that if ever there was an honest race trotted this was-
one, but there was such an exhibition of sharp diplomacy, of the
"diamond cut diamond" order, as is seldom witnessed, even
among the sharp practices of the turf. It is not probable that
Ethan's running mate fell amiss at all, the evening before, as
represented; and if she did, it was not possible to send to Con-
necticut for another horse and have him there early in the morn-
ing as was pretended. This was a mere ruse put out to get the
advantage of the long odds. The managers of the team knew
just how the horses would work and knew they had speed enough
to beat any horse on earth. When the race was called and they
came forward and paid forfeit, it was merely to give the 'two to
one on Dexter' money encouragement to come out. It did
come out most vociferously and was all quietly taken. It was
said John Morrissey was the manager in chief, and that his share
of the winnings amounted to about forty thousand dollars."

I have here given my personal impressions of this race, not be-
cause the performance was of any special value, as a test of
speed, but because the time was then phenomenal, even with this
kind of hitch, and as an illustration of what certain horses can
do when relieved of all weight. This was among the first of the
contests of this kind, and although some effort was made to in-
troduce this plan by which a poor horse could beat a good one, it
never has received much encouragement. With all his perfec-
tion of gait and wide popularity, extending from early life to old
age, Ethan Allen was not a success as a progenitor of speed. He
placed but six in the 2:30 list, and the best — Billy Barr — with a
record of 2:23f. He left but one son equal to himself as a sire,,
and several daughters that became the producers of single per-


formers. He was kept several seasons in Kansas and died there
September, 1870.

Daniel Lambert, 102, was a chestnut horse, foaled 1858; got
by Etlian Allen, 43; dam Fanny Cook, by Abdallah; grandam by
Stockholm's American Star, etc. His color was a light chestnut,
and his mane and tail were of the yellow, flaxen shade. He was
about fifteen hands high and long and light in the body, with no
indications of Morgan blood about him unless it was in the
kinkiness of his mane and tail. But why should he not resemble
almost anything else than the little nondescript Morgan, when
he had only one-sixteenth of his blood in his veins? He had
more Messenger than Morgan blood, and according to the rules of
arithmetic it is a misnomer to call him a Morgan. More than
this, his dam was a daughter of the great Abdallah, far and away
the greatest trotting sire of his generation. When we consider
that he had four times as much of the blood of Abdallah as he
had of the original Morgan, we can see the absurdity of sticking
to the right male line after that line has been wiped out by other
lines far more potential. Lambert was bred by Mr. John Porter
of Ticonderoga, New York, and as a colt he showed great promise
on the ice, and was thought to be the fastest and best of the get
of Ethan Allen. He was known far and wide as the "Porter
Colt," and he was the popular heir to very great expectations.
To have created so much enthusiasm he must have shown great
speed for a youngster, and he is credited with a record of 2:42 as
a three-year-old. As a sire of trotters he stood very high at one
time and was even with Blue Bull in his number of representa-
tives in the 2:30 list, but in the end the little '^plebeian" pacer
outstripped him a long way. Lambert put thirty-seven trotters
into the 2:30 list, but when we come to study this list we are not
very favorably impressed, for about one-third of the animals have
but a single heat inside of the mark, with only five or six reputa-
ble campaigners and a single one — Comee — that ranked among the
real good ones. Comee had seventy-one heats to his credit and a
record of 2:21^. Thirty-three of Daniel Lambert's sons have put
one hundred and thirty-six in the list, and forty-four of his
daughters have produced seventy-four performers.



Orloffs the only foreign trotters of merit — Count Alexis Orloff, founder of the
breed — Origin of the Orloff — Count Orloff began breeding in 1770 — Suie-
tanka, Polkan, and Poliian'sson, Barss, really the first Orloff trotting sire —
The Russian i)acers — Theirgreat speed — Imported Bellfounder — His history
and characteristics — Got little speed — His descendants — The English
Hackney — Not a breed, but a mere type — The old Norfolk trotters — Hack-
ney experiments in America — Superiority of the trotting-bred horse
demonstrated in show-ring contests.

It may be a little outside of the field of our discussion to in-
clude the Orlolf Trotter, but as a few of them have been brought,
to this country, and as that is the only organized and recognized
breed of trotters in all the world beside our own, it seems to be
necessary to give a brief synopsis of the origin and history of
that breed, so far as we may be able. An additional and proba-
bly a more cogent reason for making this foreign detour is the
fact that tbere are now many American trotters on the turf in
Europe, and practically their only competitors, whether on the
turf or in the breeding studs, are the Orloffs of Russia.

"Wallace's American Trotting Register," the first volume of
which was issued in 1871, was an individual enterprise. Two-
years afterward the director-in-chief of the Russian Imperial
Studs submitted a series of questions to different scientific gentle-
men, whose studies were in the right direction, soliciting their views-
on the practicability and advisability of establishing a govern-
mental standard by which the Orloif trotters should be classed and
officially registered. The report was favorable and the Russian
trotting register was established under governmental direction.
This was the second movement toward establishing a hreed; not
merely by writing a lot of names in a book, but by writing those
names on the turf of two continents. A delegation from France
once visited me to consult about establishing a Register in that-
country, and to learn how to commence such an enterprise.
When I asked them what strains of blood they had that couldl


trot, they did not seem to know of any particular strains, or any
one strain better than another, to serve as a foundation, but they
were sure they had plenty of trotters. This was the first I ever
had heard of French-bred trotters, and it was the last I ever
heard of the French trotting register.

The stalwart Alexis Orloif took a very active part in making
Catherine 11. Empress of Russia — for which he was loaded with
honors as well as lucrative offices. In the war with the Turks in
1772 he was given command of the Russian fleet, and with the
assistance of the English fleet under Admiral Elphinstone, he
achieved a great victory and captured the pasha in command of
the Turkish fleet. Owing to some unusual kindness Count Orloff
Avas able to extend to the captured Turkish commander, or his
family, he presented the count with a pure white stallion, said
to be a Barb, which he took home with him and placed in his
stud of horses, that he had established but a short time before.
Another story is that the count bought this white horse, which
he called Smetanka, while he was in Greece and paid a large
j)rice for him. I am not able to say which representation is the
more probable, and it is not material to our history, as there is
no dispute about the identity of Smetanka as the nominal head
of the Orloff breed of horses, and neither story gives any infor-
mation about his blood. No doubt he was a Turk. Count Alexis
commenced his breeding stud in 1770, and there appears to have
been a good deal of system about it or else a large amount of
very free guessing. When first established, the horse breeders
say, it consisted of stallions and mares as follows: Arabs, 12 stal-
lions, 10 mares; Turkish, 1 stallion, 2 mares; English, 20 stal-
lions, 32 mares; Dutch, 1 stallion, 8 mares; Persian, 3 stallions,
2 mares; Danish, 1 stallion, 3 mares; Mecklenburg, 1 stallion,
5 mares. From this it will be seen that he had more English run-
ning blood than all the other varieties put together, and yet no
trotters came from that source. From this great variety of com-
posite material the count had free rein in his grand experiment
cf producing the type of horse that best pleased his fancy. As a
matter of course the indiscriminate commingling of these differ-
ent strains and types would produce a mongrel lot, from which a
few superior animals might be selected, and doubtless were
selected, for breeding purposes.

The different writers who have discussed the result of this
experiment seem to agree, substantially, that t^vo distinct types


Avere the result — the galloper for the saddle and the trotter for
harness — but they assume what appears to me to be a very un-
reasonable conclusion that both these types were indebted to the
super-excellence of Smetanka, The count was one of the most
prominent sporting men of his day, an inveterate horse-racer and
cock-fighter, and under this kind of management it is hardly
credible that the twenty English thorouglibred stallions should
have been put aside for the little white horse of positively un-
known origin. But whatever may have been the predominating
blood in the saddle department, it is certain that the trotter is
lineally descended from Smetanka. He was bred on a Danish
mare and produced Polkan (Volcan), without anything new or
striking in his characteristics. Polkan was bred on a Dutch mare
and produced Barss, and this was the first to manifest a disj)Osi-
tion to extend himself to his utmost at the trot and to stick to it.
Barss became a great favorite with his master; for, although stum-
bled upon, he was a new creation and is the real progenitor of all
the horses that bear the name Orloff. His component elements
are easily expressed. He had twenty-five per cent, of the blood
of Smetanka; twenty-five per cent, of the blood of the Danish
mare, and fifty per cent, of the blood of the Dutch mare. It
seems to be reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the trotting
instinct must be found in the unknown elements of the Dutch

Some years ago Prof. (the name I cannot now recall),

from the Imperial Agricultural College, near Moscow, Russia,
paid me several visits for the purj)ose of gathering up what infor-
mation he could obtain about the origin and history of the Amer-
ican Trotter. He was very intelligent and thorough in his
methods of obtaining information, and each succeeding day he
came back to me with a new series of questions hinging upon
previous interviews, and all carefully prepared. These questions
Avere so admirably shaped to reach the vital points of the subject
that I became greatly interested in the man. When it came my
turn to ask questions, my first one was. What was the origin and
lineage of the Dutch mare that produced Barss? He replied, "Ah,
the scientific men of Russia would give a great deal to be able to
answer that question." We both agreed, perfectly, that the liv-
ing instinct of the trotter came from that mare, but he was not
able to tell me anything of her history or habits of action. He
told me there were many pacers in Russia and that the best ones


came from the province of Viatka and from the region of the
V^olga River.

As the true source from which the Russian trotters have
drawn their ability to trot fast has not been developed nor deter-
mined by history, we must consider the problem in the light o''
the surrounding conditions, and possibly our American experi-
ences may lead to its solution. In 1873 Prof. Von Mittendorf,
at the request of the director-in-chief of the imj^erial stud, pre-
pared a very able paper on the scientific questions involved in
the establishment of a Government Register for the Orloff trot-
ters. In this paper he discusses the pace and the trot as both
original and natural gaits and insists that there are no outward
indications in form or shape by which the animal, when at rest,
can be decided to be a pacer or a trotter. In his own words he

" In answer to the question whether, from the form of a horse at rest, it
can be ascertained what gait would be easiest assumed by it, viz., trotting or
pacing, I must confess that I have never seen, read or heard of such marks,
and, indeed, there never are any symptoms or signs of inclination for pacing
in the proportions of any horse with the single negative exception, viz., that
great speed in one-sided motion does not agree with a large frame, which is
more adapted to leaping, and hence fast pacers are never found among large

This is the view as taken by a Russian scientist of the distinc-
tion, or rather lack of distinction, between the trotter and the
pacer. I have not quoted this paragraph from Prof. Mittendorf
because it contained anything new in the economy of breeding,
but to prove that there were pacers in Russia and that their re-
lation to the trotter was considered in the formation of the rules
of admission to the Orloflf trotting register. A very intelligent
Avriter, evidently a Russian and one who knew what he was talk-
ing about, contributed an interesting article to the New York
Sun of July 9, 1877, from which we get a clear and strong light
on the practical side of the Russian pacer, and I will here again

" Up to the middle of the last century horses in Kussia were not scientifi-
cally bred ; they ran wild in n)any parts of the country. Those caught on
the steppes of the river Don, and in the wilderness of the district of Viatka.
obtained early celebrity, which they still maintain. The Don horses are those
famous Cossack steeds about which so much has been written of late. The
Viatka horses, or Bitugues, as they are called, are the genuine trotters of
Russia. They are all pacers, equally remarkable for their speed and their en-


durance. But since tbe Orloff breed has been introduced, tlie Bitugues liave
been excluded from all matches, on the ground that their pacing is not

" It is with these Bitugues that the peculiar troika team, of which a speci-
men was shown in Fleetwood Park, on Saturday, originated. A fast, sturdy
Bitugue is put in shafts, and a light running horse from the steppes harnessed
on each side of him. A good Bitugue trots so fast that the wild steppe run-
ners have to be whipped all the time to force them to keep up with him. The
idea of putting an Orloff trotter in the place of a Bitugue is very queer, as no
square trotter can equal the speed of those famous pacers of Viatka, and keep
abreast with side runners."

From these three several sources we learn a number of facts
that may have a more or less important bearing upon the true
origin of the Orloff trotter. (1) That there are now, and have
been for generations past, plenty of pacers in Eussia. (2) That
these pacers have a common habitat, north and east of the Doii.

(3) That they are a very old race, running back in the centuries
away beyond the knowledge of man or the records of history.

(4) That they are a very fast and very enduring race, and that
they have been trained for generations as the shaft horses of the
troika and their speed so well developed as to require good run-
ning horses to keep abreast with. them. (5) That they are of
smaller size than the average and lack symmetry, and thus, not-
withstanding their great speed and bottom, they and their blood
are excluded from registration with the Orloff s. (G) That they
are also excluded from competing for any prizes that may be
offered, and no other reason is suggested than that they would be
sure to win.

Russia and America both have pacers and they are both carry-
ing forward the breeding and development of the trotter with
great intelligence and success. No other nation has been able
to make even a beginning in this field of animal economy except
by the introduction of the foundation stock from one or other of
these two countries. It may be taken as historically true, and
as applying to every nation on the face of the earth, that where
there are no pacers there are no trotters. Hundreds of unmis-
takable experiences in this country go to show that the pacer is
a great source of trotting speed. At one time a pacing stallion
of obscure pacing origin stood at the head of the list of all stal-
lions as the sire of the greatest number of trotters with fast
records. A great multitude of our fastest trotters at maturity
were foaled pacers from trotting parents. It is no longer a mat-


ter of wonder or surprise that with two animals from the same
parents one of them should be a fast trotter and the ©ther
a fast pacer. Neither is it any longer remarkable that a fast
trotter with a very fast record should turn around and make just
as fast a record at the pace. The American people are just be-
ginning to realize, in its full force, the declaration of more than
twenty years ago, that the trot and the pace are simply two forms
of the same gait, in the economy of motion. The only differ-
ence that has been observed as between two brothers, the one a
pacer and the other a trotter, is that with the same skill in han-
dling the pacer will come to his speed much quicker than the
trotter, which is of itself a strong suggestion at least that the
pace is the more natural and easier form of the one gait.

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 41 of 61)