Oscar Wilde.

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

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about six times as large as the average of the larger studs of tho


country. The average number of horses in training, the year
round, was about eighty, exclusive of yearlings and the kinder-
garten. In attempting to institute a comparison, therefore, with
the average breeders of the country, we might as well compare
the daily receipts of John Wanamaker's store with those of the
little green-grocer on the corner. But at the head of this estab-
lishment stood the great Electioneer with his strong breeding
and trotting speed well developed, and indeed, in many resjDCcts
the greatest horse of his generation. He was the sire of eleven
in the list, and the remainder were either by his sons or out of
his daughters.

Mr. Henry N. Smith, of New York, a prominent Wall Street
man, became greatly interested in trotting sport, and in 1868 he
organized a trotting stable of his own, which contained some re-
markable animals, as will be seen beloAV. His stable was very
successful, and this success naturally increased his attachment
to the trotting interests. He then determined to establish a
breeding farm, and about the year 1869 he purchased the famous
old Fashion Course adjoining Trenton, New Jersey, embracing
one hundred and forty-five acres of land and provided Avith an
excellent mile track and much stabling that had been constructed
years before for running horses. This property he very appro-
priately named the "Fashion Stud Farm," and on it he placed
the grandest assemblage of developed trotters, for breeding pur-
poses only, that had ever been brought together in this or any
other country. His stallions were Jay Gould, 3:20^, Tattler,
2:26, and Gen. Knox, 2:31|. This was Knox's fastest record,
but it was known he had trotted miles, in races, faster than this.
The speed of all three horses was developed, and it is evident
at a glance that there was only one first-class horse among them.
But the great strength of the establishment was in the grand
galaxy of mares, some of which I will enumerate, namely, Gold-
smith Maid, 2:14, Lady Thorn, 2:18^, Lucy, 2:18^, Lady Maud,
2:18i, Eosalind, 2:21|, Belle Strickland, 2:26, Western Girl, 2:27,
Idol, 2:27, Big Mary, 2:28^, Daisy Burns, 2:28, Music's Dam (that
had produced 2:21-| speed), besides others with slower records or
known to have had their speed developed as fast road mares,
making in all about thirty mares on the farm, and Mr. Smith
claimed that every one of them had shown more or less speed as

Mr. Smith neither knew nor cared much about pedigrees, in a


general sense, and when you came to talk to him about "nicks"
and "trotting pitch" and all that kind of tomfoolery, his mind
simply recurred to the old adage uttered generations ago: "Trot
father, trot mother, trot colt." His whole philosophy was
wrapped up in the one central truth that the horse that could go
out and trot fast, when bred on the mare that cculd go out and
trot fast, would produce a colt that would go out and trot fast.
This was sufficient for him or indeed for anybody else, for it con-
tains and expresses the whole substance of the laws of heredity.
Mr. Smith's great mares acquired in their training and develop-
ment new characters and new capacities which they never would
have possessed had it not been for the care and skill expended in
their training. Here we touch the very marrow of a question
around which the scientists of to-day are warring. Darwin
taught that such acquisitions were transmissible, of the truth of
which I have no doubt, but a post-Darwinian school has arisen
which controverts this position, and claims tliat it weakens and
destroys the whole evolution theory of creation. But it matters
not about the hypothesis of evolution concerning things we
know, for it is simply an attempt to show how all things might
have been created without a Creator. I have read a great deal
about evolution and the transraissibility of acquirecl characters,
but in all I have read I never have met with a lesson so broad and
so strong as that furnished by Henry N. Smith's great mares,
proving that acquired characters are transmitted.

In instituting a comparison between the high-class products of
the Palo Alto and the Fashion Stud Farms, it seems to be neces-
sary to place the premier stallions of the two side and side.
They were half-brothers on the side of the sire, but Electioneer
liad the greatest speed-producing dam of her generation. She
was a fast natural trotter herself, and was out of a fast and fully
developed trotter. Jay Gould was out of a good road mare by
American Star, but nobody has ever said she had any speed, and
she was out of a nondescript mare that we know nothing about.
Gould's dam never produced any other trotter with a reputable
rate of speed, so far as I have been able to learn. Electioneer
was trained and developed by Mr. Backman, but he never was in
a race, and consequently he has no official record. After he
was taken to Palo Alto he was given quite regular work, and
it is beyond all doubt that when in stud condition he could show
a, quarter in a little better than a 2:20 gait. The difference in


the rate of speed, therefore, as between the two horses was not.
very great, but whatever it was must go to the credit of Jay
Gould. But the offspring of Electioneer had a very great advan-
tage over those of Jay Gould iii the methodical and skillful de-
velopment of their speed. In his maternal inheritance as a trot-
ter, as already indicated. Electioneer had a marked superiority,
and on an equally high class of developed mares he would have
far outstripped his rival. Now, with this attempt at a clean-cut
description of the ttvo horses, we are ready to consider the ques-
tion in its arithmetical elements, and it will be found a plain
question of "simple proportion" which anybody can solve in a.
minute, as follows: "If the Fashion Stud Earm from thirty
mares produced thirteen trotters with public records of 2:15 or
better, how many of equal capacity should the Palo Alto Earm
have produced from three hundred mares?" The answer is one
hundred and thirty, but the facts, up to the close of 189(5,
furnish us with the beggarly number of eighteen.

The grand assemblage of so many great trotters at the Eashion
Stud Earm, and all for the purpose of breeding, was the subject
of much comment among breeders from one end of the land to
the (rJier, and not a few pronounced it all wrong and that it
would be succeeded by failure. Mr. Smith lacked some of the
elements that go toward making a man popular, and hence, in
many cases, there was not much sympathy between him and his
brother breeders, but he held tenaciously to the central truth
that the way to breed high-class trotters was to mate high-class
trotters. His experience has clearly demonstrated the soundness,
of this canon of breeding, and it has just as clearly demonstrated
the unsoundness of the notion that high-class trotters can be
bred from animals that never trotted and never could be made to
trot. The law, as we have taught it for years, has been vindi-
cated, and that by experiences so wide and so complete that it
can no longer be controverted. Mr. Smith has achieved a great
honor, and as a producer of high-class speed he stands at the head
of all American trotting-horse breeders.

As we have now considered a great triumph, with the causes
that led up to it and the lesson it has taught, it seems to be in
order to give an example of a great failure and the causes which
have produced it. Eor more than forty years Woodburn Earm,
in Kentucky, has been breeding trotters, and up to the close of
1896 just four Avith records of 2:15 or better have hailed from


that great establishment. During all these years, and until Palo
Alto Farm was established, Woodburn was the largest establish-
ment in this country. With thousands of broad acres of the most
productive soil, with the possession and control of money with-
out limit, and with the experiences of forty years in wliich to
select and breed only to the best, it is the natural and reasonable
expectation of everybody interested in the question of breeding
the trotter to look to Woodburn as leading all other establish-
ments in the whole world in the production of first-class trotters.
And what has AVoodburn done? AVith her experiences of forty
jears, with all her broad acres and boundless wealth, up to the
close of 1896 she has produced just four trotters with records of
2:15 or better. Instead of leading all others, she is at the wrong
«nd of the procession, and if we consider the proportional advan-
tages involved, we find that "all others," little and big, are lead-
ing her. By referring to the above list of breeders that have
produced three or more Avith records of 2:15 or better, we find
that Henry N. Smith has produced thirteen, that William Cor-
bett, from his little stud in California, has jaroduced nine, and
that the late William H. Wilson, of Cynthiana, Kentucky, from
his little band of mares, and without either broad acres or money,
has produced eight within the past twelve or fifteen years, and
all exce]3t one by the same horse. This places Mr. Wilson first
among all Kentucky breeders. In the short period of its exist-
ence Glenview Farm produced six, and the quite unpretentious
farmer, Mr. Timothy Anglin, produced five; AY. C. France and
Colonel R. G. Stoner produced four each — the same number as
AVoodburn — but they did not require forty years to accomplish
it. Thus the breeding world, with "the little fellows" on top,
has gone away ahead and left AVoodburn to mumble over her
"tin cups," and exult in the many triumphs she has won against
the watch in 2:30. The policy of AVoodburn for years past
seems to have been to hold the lead of Kentucky breeders in
the production of 2:30 trotters, and to this end the youngsters
are put in training in the early spring and kept at it till the frosts
come, when such of tiiem as are sure to win are brought out and
started against the watch, for a "tin cup," and these are the vic-
tories that AVoodburn Avins. Nobody has ever heard of AA^ood-
burn entering a youngster in a stake where he would have to win
on his merits. That would be bringing him down to an equality
with the colts of such people as AA^illiam H. AA^ilson, Colonel R.


G. Stoner, Farmer Timothy Anglin, and all the other "little
fellows." Woodburn has made a great deal of moiaey out of
these humbug tin-cup records, and as registration and the
standard are now absolutely under the control of her manager,
the 2:30-tin-cup still remains the evidence of a fast trotter,
worthy of standard rank. True, everybody nowadays laughs
at the idea that 2:30, with the "tin cup," is any evidence of even
reputable speed, but as they have given a certain kind of pre-
eminence and made money in the past, the twins will not be
separated, but will hold their places just as long as the standard
is under the present control.

From this brief examination of the symptoms I think a safe
diagnosis can be made. The trouble seems to be twofold, or it
may be said there are two troubles, either one of which is dan-
gerous, but the two together may prove fatal in the end. It is a
well-known fact in veterinary science that there are certain dis-
eases among horses that may be communicated to the men who
have them in charge. There is one disease, vulgarly called "big-
head," that comes creeping upon its victim before he is aware
of its existence or approach, and against the insidious steps of
this destroyer the manager at Woodburn should be affectionately
warned. Sham records of 2:30 for standard rank are no longer
welcomed with enthusiasm in this country. The other trouble
is not so much with the manager as with the material which he
manages, which seems to be att'ected with what may be called
"dry-rot." This view of the non-productive character of the-
AVoodburn breeding stock, when measured by tirst-class perform-
ers, seems to be borne out by the fact that the names of those
gentlemen who have depended most largely on Woodburn blood
do not appear on the foregoing list as ths producers of first-class
trotters. For about forty years the fame of Woodburn as the
greatest of all our breeding establishments has been as wide as.
the boundaries of the nation. But notwithstanding the weight
and influence which great wealth and an unblemished name may
liave secured, the records up to the close of the year 189fi have
deposed her from the first rank as a breeder of trotting horses,
and sent her away to the rear, where she now occupies her true
place in the eighth rank. It is well known to everybody that,
since the days of the first Mr. Alexander, Woodburn has never
entered a colt in a stake nor started one against other people's
colts, prize or no prize. This air of assumed superiority is;


sought to be explained on high moral grounds against the evils
of horse-racing. This is like the man who never tasted whisky
for conscience' sake, in view of the great evil it was doing in the
world, and yet he was the chief owner in a large distillery. At
the great local meetings in Kentucky practically all the breeding
establishments of that region, except Woodburn, are repre-
sented in the stakes, and while they are being contested Wood-
burn will come in with a string of youngsters, between the heats,
and win sham records in 2:30 for "tin cups." Depending on
this kind of test and this kind of development, it is not remark-
able that all the small breeders of the State have left Woodburn
in the rear. This shining example of failure teaches unmistaka-
bly the necessity of honest and full development of breeding
stock in order to produce high-class trotters.



Breeding the trotter intelligently an industry of modern development — Pleth-
ora of turf papers, and their timidity of the truth — The accepted theories,
old and new — Failure of the "thoroughbred blood in the trotter" idea —
" Thoroughbred foundations," and the Register — " Like begets like," the
great central truth — Long-continued efEf)rts to breed trotters from runners
— New York the original source of supply of trotting blood to all the
States — Kentucky's beginning in breeding trotters — R. A. Alexander, and
the founding of Woodburn — The " infallibility " of Woodburn pedigrees
— Refusal to enter fictitious crosses in the Register and the results — The
genesis and history of the standard — Its objects, effects and influence —
Establishing the breed of trotters — The Kentucky or "Pinafore" stand-
dard — Its purposes analyzed — The "Breeders' Trotting Stud Book" and
how it was compiled — Failure and collapse of the Kentucky project —
Another unsuccessful attempt to capture the Register — How honest
administration of the Register made enemies — The National Breeder's
Association and the Chicago Convention — Detailed history of the sale and
transfer of the Register, the events that led up to it, and the results —
Personal satisfaction and benefits from tbe transfer, and the years of rest
and congenial study in preparing this book — The end.

All that American breeders know about producing the trot-
ting horse they have learned in the past twenty-five years. In
that short period this interest has developed from practically
nothing into a great national industry that has placed this coun-
try in front of all the nations of the earth in the character, qual-
ity and speed of the light harness horse. It is true we had the
"raw material" out of which to build up this new breed, and this
had been in our possession we may say for generations, but we
•didn't know how to use it. There may be some apparent indeli-
cacy in making the remark, but I think every intelligent man
who is acquainted with the subject will sustain me in saying that,
had it not been for the compilation of the "Trotting Eegister"
and Wallace^ s Monthly, with the facts, statistics and reasonings
which were developed through them, we would know no more
about the trotter to-day than we did thirty years ago. The trot-


ting horse, therefore, as we contemplate him in his position of
superiority to all others of his kind, is simply the result of great
labor in collecting the facts and sound reasoning from the lessons
taught by those facts. With all the facts placed in his hand,
any breeder of intelligence, if he were honest, could not fail to
reach the truth; but, unfortunately, all breeders have never
learned to divest themselves of their prejudices, and to accej)t
the plain teachings of the facts, just as they are.

To be able to think intelligently and honestly and to reason
soundly, is the first requisite to success in breeding the trotter.
It is a seeming paradox, but it is nevertheless true, that many
men who are able to think a little are not able to think honestly.
It is easy to understand why a man may act dishonestly, for there
is the hope of gain to impel him; but why he should think dis-
honestly is not so apparent. Let us illustrate this matter of
thinking dishonestly. On an occasion a correspondent asked a
breeding journal to give a list of the thoroughbred horses that
had sired trotters. A list of horses, represented as thoroughbred
in the reply, was given, embracing someten or twelve, about half
of which were either unknown or dependent upon the most flimsy
kind of representation as to their blood. It is not with the
actual misrepresentation of the blood of most of the animals
named, but with the use that was made of the list that I will now
speak. After accepting the list as true and genuine, the corre-
spondent comes before the public with his conclusions. He
shows that these dozen performers from about as many horses
made an average record of 2:24 and a fraction, and then trium-
phantly raises the question whether any single trotting-bred sire
can show as many performers with as low an average record.
Having satisfied himself that all the running-bred sires, real and
imaginary, put together could more than equal any one trotting-
bred sire in the average high rate of speed, he reaches the pro-
found conclusion that the way to breed the trotter is to go to the
runner. This is a real and not an imaginary instance of a few
years ago. No doubt this man thought he was thinking when he
reached this conclusion, and that he had solved the problem of
breeding the trotter; but, poor man, he was simply trying to
advertise a half-and-half-bred stallion he had in his stable.

I have no old scores to pay off against the breeding and sport-
ing press, for I generally managed to pay them off as we went
along, and the triumph of the views I advanced and sustained


has become sufficiently complete to satisfy the most fastidious.
It seems to be a real misfortune that there are so many weekly
journals in this field and most of them leading a precarious exist-
ence. It may be observed in most directions that the manage-
ment of these journals is hesitating and timid, as though afraid
that somebody might be offended and a five or ten-dollar adver-
tisement lost thereby. It is ail right to make the advertising
patronage remunerative, but it is all wrong when that depart-
ment is placed in control of all the others, from the fear that
somebody may be offended if the truth be told. In the present
depressed condition of the breeding interests, and indeed of all
Interests, the horsemen of the whole country feel that they are
carrying too heavy a burden in sujoporting so many papers, and
the question of the "survival of the fittest" is already imminent.
But, whatever the present financial and intellectual condition of
the breeding and sporting publications of the country may be, a
number of them have had their part in the discussions and
wrangles that were naturally coincident with the progress of the
revolution on the question of breeding the trotter, which finally
brushed everything out of its way and fully established the truth
of the laws of inheritance. Twenty-five years ago there was a
good number of intelligent and capable writers on the horse, and
they were either engaged in editing horse papers or contributed
to them, and one and all they were handicapped with the idea,
inherited from their fathers, that whatever of excellence that was
found in the American horse came from the English race horse, and
that all the speed, at any gait, that he was able to show came from
the same source. From this absurd fallacy, it naturally followed
that speed at the trot was merely the result of accident or of the
persistent skill of the trainer. This was, substantially, the view
of the general public at that date.

When, therefore, it was announced that the horse was far more
than a mere machine, that he had a mental as well as a physical
organization, that these were both equally matters of inheritance,
that one horse ran fast because his ancestors ran fast and that
another horse trotted fast because his ancestors were able to trot
fast, and that no fast runner was ever a fast trotter, there was a
tremendous hubbub. This was a new gospel, and it threatened
to annihilate the stupid Anglo-Arabian fetish that all that was
good in horsedom must of necessity come from that source. For
generations the belief had been universal that the only way to


improve the horse for any purpose under the sun was to "breed
up" to the running horse and thus get back to the blood of the
pure Arabian. On the other hand, and as opposed to this ancient
fallacy that the way to breed the trotter was to go to the runner,
it was urged, with a thousand proofs at the back of it, that the
way to breed the the runner was to go to the horse that could
run, and the way to breed the trotter was to go to the horse that
could trot. Here was a direct issue squarely made, and it was
not to be expected that such men as Charles J. Foster, Peter C.
Kellogg, Joseph C. Simpson, etc., all writers of ability, would
quietly surrender without a battle. They had committed them-
selves to the running-blood traditions, some rich men had shaped
their breeding studs in that direction, and without deciding
whether a rich man had necessarily more sense than a poor one,
they knew instinctively that a rich man could be more liberal in
advertising, and that he could be more generous in properly
recognizing the little courtesies that might be extended in the
way of keeping his establishment before the public in an approv-
ing light. Thus, with an eye to tlie weather-gauge, the editors
were able to maintain their own consistency. As the experiences
of every succeeding year added thousands of proofs to the jjlain
proposition that the trotter inherits his speed from a trotting
ancestry, the "irreconcilables" began to shift their ground, con-
ceding that there must be trotting blood to give the action, but
that there must be "speed-sustaining" blood from the thorough-
bred to give courage and endurance. This was the second posi-
tion, and in a commercial sense it was shrewdly chosen for the
advantage of certain localities. This position furnished the
"thoroughbred foundation" argument, and for a time it had its
supporters. This theory also furnished its promised commercial
advantages to such localities as had formerly bred running horses,
and it was but a week till everybody in those localities had
"thoroughbred foundations" for their trotting pedigrees, and
those who did not have them could easily procure them. This
brought an avalanche of pedigrees, especially from Kentucky,
with "thoroughbred foundations," consisting of long strings of
dams by famous horses, but without names, dates, breeders or
histories, and many of them impossible. To checkmate this
inundation of manufactured foundations, in the office of the
Register, a rule was adopted requiring satisfactory identification
and history of each dam, and where that could not be given the


pedigree would be cut off. This rule saved the "Trotting Regis-
ter" from becoming the mere dumping place for countless frauds,
but it aroused such a feeling of antagonism on the part of the
manager of Woodburn Farm that he, at once, started an opposi-
tion Register to be compiled at the farm, under his own personal
direction. Of this, and what came of it, I will speak further on.

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 53 of 61)