Sydenham Dixon.

From Gladiateur to Persimmon : turf memories of thirty years online

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was not tried until nearly the end of May, and
then failed by a neck to give 21 lb. to Maiden
Belle over five furlongs. Still, this was a severe
task, for Lord Hastings' filly, who was also a
two-year-old, could gallop a bit, and was good
enough to win an All- Aged Plate at the Epsom
Summer Meeting. Doubtless, on the strength of
this, when Ayrshire made his debut in the rich
Whitsuntide Plate at Manchester he was backed
down to 5 to 2 in a field of nineteen, and, though
he did not quite realise expectations, finishing
third to Briar-root and Caerlaverock, only a neck
and a head divided the three, and Mr. Douolas
Baird's filly subsequently proved equal to winning
the One Thousand Guineas. Less than a week
later Ayrshire was only a bad third to Friar's
Balsam and Seabreeze in the New Stakes at
Ascot, but then the winner was an altogether
exceptional animal, who would probably never
have known defeat had he kept well, and Sea-
breeze, at her best, was always a bit in front of
the Duke of Portland's colt. For the remainder
of the season Ayrshire's tasks were of an easier
nature, and he scored five times off the reel.
Probably his best performance as a two-year-old
was accomplished in the Champagne Stakes,
which he won easily by a couple of lengths,
completely turning the tables upon Caerlaverock,
and beating smart performers like Crowberry
and Van Diemen's Land very easily indeed.
Unfortunately he hit his leg in this race, and was
compelled to miss the Middle Park Plate and his
other engagements of that season.

A nice rest made him quite sound again, and,
though he started coughing early in the spring, it
was only a slight attack and soon passed off, leav-

178



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

ing no ill effects. The Iliddlesworth Stakes at
the Craven JNIeeting was a virtual walk over for
him, and the style in which he came home by
himself merely showed him to be fresh and well.
It was, of course, impossible to fancy him for the
Two Thousand in the face of the unbeaten Friar's
Balsam, and the very healthy odds of 8 to 1 were
obtainable about him at the tall of the flag, backers
of the favourite having to lay 3 to 1 on. How-
ever, an abscess in the mouth, the presence of
which appears to have been unsuspected until
after the race, prevented Friar's Balsam from
making even a respectable show, and Ayrshire
won very comfortably indeed, whilst, to make
assurance doubly sure, the despised Johnny
Morgan carried the Duke of Portland's colours
into second place. There were only nine runners
for the Derby, and the slight odds that were laid
upon Ayrshire were never in doubt, but, a day
or two after his return from Epsom, he pulled
up very lame after a good gallop, and it was found
that he had thrown out a splint under one of his
knees. This naturally interfered seriously with
his work, and, although he went to Ascot, the
ground was so hard that it was considered judicious
to send him home again without allowing him to
fulfil an engagement there. Indeed he was not out
again until the St. Leger, when the fact of his
starting favourite at 2 to 1 shows that he must
have been thought to be all right again, but he
cut up very indiflPerently, failing to get a place to
Seabreeze. The fact was that he could not com-
fortably compass a mile and three-quarters in this
sort of company ; he could stay fairly well, but a
mile was really his best distance. This was pretty
well demonstrated by his running in the Lancashire
Plate at Manchester, which took place only ten

179



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

days after the St. Leger, so that there was not
much time for an alteration of form. This was the
most valuable race ever contested in this country,
and met with a remarkable amount of support for
a few seasons, but was soon dropped. The distance
was seven furlongs, and although Seabreeze again
won, Ayrshire ran her to three-parts of a length,
making a very different show from the one he had
given at Doncaster. There were no fewer than
twenty -four runners, and amongst those that
finished behind the Oaks and Derby winners
may be mentioned Le Sancy, Enterprise, Friar's
Balsam, and Melanion. Ayrshire brought his
work for the season to a satisfactory conclusion
by securing the Great Foal Stakes at the New-
market First October, in which, however, he had
very little to beat.

He commenced his short career as a four-year-
old in the Kempton Park Royal Stakes of 10,000
sov., another of the mammoth prizes which did not
'' come to stay." The betting upon it was of a
very curious character. His defeat of Minting in
the Champion Stakes of the preceding autumn had
quite rehabilitated Friar's Balsam in the good graces
of the public, and he was made a red-hot favourite
at 5 to 4 on. Then the three-year-old Melanion,
also the property of the Duke of Portland, was
freely supported at 100 to 30, whilst 6 to 1 could
be had about Ayrshire. As Melanion's best public
performance up to that time consisted in defeating
a very moderate trio in the Column Produce
Stakes at the Craven Meeting, he must have done
something big at home, and it is a well-known
fact that one of the connections of the stable, who
had accepted either 6000 to 1000 or 3000 to 500
about Ayrshire from Mr. R. H. Fry, was told
enough to induce him to give £50 to have the odds

180



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

laid him to the same money against Melanion,
instead of his original wager. His feelings after
the race was over must have been too deep for
words. Seabreeze was also making her first
appearance as a four-year-old in this event, and it
seems very strange that 10 to 1 should have been
obtainable about her. Doubtless the result of the
Newmarket Oaks, in which, with 200 to 7 laid on
her, she only scraped home by a head, had given
warning that her form was going, and she had
presumably wintered badly. Still, she and Ayrshire
had the finish entirely to themselves, but the
result of the Lancashire Plate was reversed, the
verdict of three - quarters of a length being in
favour of the colt. These determined opponents
met for the fifth time in the Eclipse Stakes at
Sandown Park, but the filly was deteriorating very
rapidly, and gave no trouble to Ayrshire, who won
by a couple of lengths from El Dorado, and thus
landed £20,665 in stakes in two successive races.
This was destined to be his last triumph, for he
broke down in the Champion Stakes in the autumn
of that year, and never ran again. In spite of his
high courage, he was a remarkably lazy colt, and
on one occasion in his two-year-old days, when he
had been sent to Windsor to run for the Royal
Plate, which he won, George Dawson went into
his box in the course of the inorning and found
that he had raked out all the straw from the
corner where it had been piled up, and was quietly
stretched out upon it. His numerous successes at
the stud have iDcen too recently gained to need
recapitulation, and he should do good service for
several years yet to come.

Successful as Ayrshire proved himself so far as
the winning of valuable stakes was concerned, I
question if he is entitled to rank very high in the

181



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

list of Derby winners, and was certainly not in the
same class with his stable companion, Donovan,
who was foaled a year later. He is a bay by
Donovan out of JNIowerina, a mare who may be
said to have done for the Duke of Portland's stud
what Mendicant did for that of Sir Joseph Hawley.
The winter of 1887-88 was a very severe one, indeed
Donovan was only off the straw bed about the
beginning of March. It was not surprising, there-
fore, that his trial with Maiden Belle — the same
filly who had " asked a question " of Ayrshire
in the preceding season — shortly before the
Brocklesby Stakes, was by no means satisfactory,
as she gave him 14 lb. and beat him three lengths.
Indeed he was sent to Lincoln more with the view
of sharpening him up than with any serious idea
of winning the first important two-year-old race
of the season. As he scored pretty easily by a
couple of lengths in the Brocklesby Stakes, it
seems certain that he must have been coming on
pretty fast, added to which, none of the half score
that finished behind him did much good in the
future. He came back from Lincoln with an
attack of shin soreness, but fortunately this passed
off very soon, and he was able to go to Leicester
in the first week in April, and easily beat a field of
twenty-four for the Portland Stakes of 6000 sov.,
Chittabob being amongst the unplaced lot. It
may be thought that the Duke of Portland was
exceptionally fortunate in owning his best horses
just at a time when so many rich stakes were to be
Avon, but if the Lancashire Plate, Kempton Park
Royal Stakes, and one or two big prizes for two-
year-olds have since died out, it must be remem-
bered that the Princess of Wales's and Jockey Club
Stakes were not instituted until some years later,
so that things were pretty equal in this respect,

182



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

as compared with the chances of owners at the
present day.

After the decision of the Portland Stakes both
Donovan and Chittabob had a rest, and neither
was out again until the Whitsuntide Plate at
Manchester. At Leicester they had met at even
weights, but at Manchester Donovan was at-
tempting to concede 13 lb., and it is not surpris-
ing that such a task proved to be quite beyond
his powers, for, on the rare occasions upon which
the best son of Robert the Devil could be got
thoroughly fit, he was a very good horse indeed.
Nevertheless the Duke of Portland's crack beat all
the others, and it was no mean task to give 16 lb.
to Mr. Manton's Antibes, a pretty smart daughter
of Isonomy and St. INIarguerite. The field for the
New Stakes at Ascot was not a very strong one
that season, and Donovan was backed at even
money in spite of his 7 lb. penalty, and got home
all right, though only by a neck from Gulliver.
This was followed up by four more successes off
the reel, the most important of them being the
Hurstbourne Stakes and the July Stakes, in the
second of which Gold was his only opponent.
Prince Soltykoff's colt ran him to half a length,
and was an infinitely better horse than was
generally imagined. Few people indeed will be
inclined to credit that, later in his career, his
stable companion, Sheen, was only half a length
his superior over the severe Ditch In course, but
it is nevertheless a fact. Donovan's experience at
Goodwood that season was by no means a happy
one. There had been an altogether abnormal
amount of rain, and the course was very heavy
even on the opening day. However, he })ulled
through the Ham Stakes all right, and was
brought out again for the Prince of Wales's Stakes

183



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

on the Thursday. The rain had continued ahnost
without intermission, so that by this time the
ground was in such a state as I have never seen it
at this meeting before or since. As George Daw-
son observed to me when talking over the race, he
had "never taught Donovan to swim," and El
Dorado won by six lengths, Gold also turning
the tables upon the favourite. Of course it is
perfectly true that the conditions were the same
for all, but some horses are helpless in very deep
ground, whilst it is well known that an unnatural
state of the "going" is constantly productive of
entirely false running. It is possible also that
Donovan was feeling the effect of his constant
work since the first week of the season, and was a
little stale, as he did not run again until the New-
market First October, where a couple of nice
little stakes were mere exercise canters for him.
There were thirteen behind him in the Middle
Park Plate, including Clover, Gulliver, Enthusiast,
Minthe, and Miguel, and the fact that Gold was
" down the course " furnished pretty good proof of
the falsity of the Goodwood form. He wound up
his first season by securing the Dewhurst Plate, in
which it is noteworthy that he gave 10 lb. and a
half-length beating to Enthusiast, the colt who
was destined to deprive him of the " triple crown."
Few two-year-olds of late years have gone through
such a heavy season's work, and he went into
winter quarters with the fine score of eleven wins
out of thirteen races.

Under ordinary circumstances Donovan would
not have made his first appearance in the ensuing
year until the Two Thousand Guineas, but the
temptation of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at
Leicester on April 6 was too great to be resisted.
This was a race of the total value of 12,000 sov.,

184



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

confined entirely to three-year-olds, and, as there
were no penalties or allowances, it was surprising
that there should have been seventeen runners.
Odds of 13 to 8 were laid on the Duke of Port-
land's champion, and " won very easily by two
lengths " was the official verdict. Pioneer, Minthe,
and Enthusiast finished next, in the order in which
I have placed them, the last-named being more
than six lengths from the winner, but as there
were substantial sums for second and third, and
JNIinthe only kept Enthusiast out of third place by
a neck, there is no doubt that both were ridden
right out. I have emphasised the form of
Enthusiast, because, to my mind, there is no
doubt that the running in the Two Thousand, in
which he upset the odds of 85 to 20 on Donovan
by a head, was all wrong. In the first place it was
a slow muddling race, and, in the second, Tom
Cannon accomplished one of the most brilliant
feats of all his memorable career in the saddle, and
completely outrode F. Barrett. Corroborative
evidence is given of the correctness of this view
by the fact that Pioneer, whom Donovan had
beaten by a couple of lengths in a canter less than
a month previously, now ran him to three-parts of
a length, though the Duke's colt was ridden clean
out. George Dawson was perfectly convinced
that the Two Thousand was a falsely-run race,
so when the first and second met again, three
weeks later, in the Newmarket Stakes, The Tur-
cophone, ridden by John Watts, was started to
ensure a strong pace. The betting at the start
was 11 to 8 against Donovan and 100 to 30
against Enthusiast, and so well did The Turco-
phone fulfil his mission that, not only did Donovan
win by two lengths, but the pacemaker secured
the 1000 sov. for second. Enthusiast failed to get

185



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

into the first three, though it must not be over-
looked that the extra quarter of a mile, as com-
pared with the distance of the Guineas, was
doubtless all against him, as he never won at more
than a mile, and, like his very speedy own brother,
Energy, could not really stay.

The rest of Donovan's career is one unbroken
record of success. In the Derby he was ridden
by T. Loates, as F. Barrett was claimed by Mr.
Leopold de Rothschild for Morglay, and it seems
surprising that backers were not asked to lay more
than 11 to 8 on him, especially as 33 to 1 was on
offer against Enthusiast. The full penalty made
no difference to him in the Prince of Wales's
Stakes at Ascot, and then he enjoyed a rest until
the St. Leger. There would have been no interest
in this race but for the presence of Chittabob, who
was meeting Donovan for the first time since the
latter had naturally failed to give him 13 lb. in the
Whitsuntide Plate at INIanchester in their two-
year-old days. The distance at Doncaster was far
too long for JNIr. Perkins's good colt, who could
never stand enough work to get him really fit, and,
though again beaten, he made a far better show
against Donovan in the Lancashire Plate about ten
days later. The latter scored his seventh win in
eight races that season in the Royal Stakes at the
Second October INIeeting, in which he made very
light of the task of giving 10 lb. to Minthe, and
this concluded his labours for the year. There
was no wish on the part of the Duke of Portland
to withdraw Donovan from the Turf as a three-
year-old ; indeed, he appeared to be progressing
nicely in his preparation for the Ascot Cup of the
following season, when one morning, after a long
gallop on the Lime Kilns, he pulled up decidedly
lame. At first it was thought that he was merely

186



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

leg-weary, but it did not pass off, and all hope of
his standing another preparation had to be re-
luctantly abandoned. Here is a list of his win-
nings in stakes in two seasons, a record which has
never been approached, for it took Isinglass four
seasons to accumulate his wonderful total : —



£1034 15

6000

1169

475

1250

1120

700

900

537

2105

1197



1888

Brocklesby Stakes (Lincoln)
Portland Stakes (Leicester)
New Stakes (Ascot) .
Bibury Club Foal Stakes (Stockbridge)
Hurstbourne Stakes (Stockbridge)
iJuly Stakes (Newmarket) .
Ham Stakes (Goodwood)
Buckenham Stakes (Newmarket)
Hopeful Stakes (Newmarket)
Middle Park Plate (Newmarket)
Dewhui-st Plate (Newmarket)



1889

Prince of Wales's Stakes (Leicester)
Newmarket Stakes (Newmarket)
The Derby (Epsom) .
Prince of Wales's Stakes (Ascot)
St. Leger (Doncaster) .
Lancashire Plate (Manchester)
Royal Stakes (Newmarket) .



This amounts to a grand total of £55,154 : 10s.,
which was earned by eighteen wins out of the
twenty -one races in which the colt took part.
Whilst in training he could never be described as
good-looking, but the improvement he made after
letting down and furnishing was really extra-



£16,487 15





ter) . £11,000





6000





4050





2225





4800





. 10,131 15





460





£HS,666 15






ordinary, and when I saw him at Welbeck in 1895
I thought that he had grown into one of the

187



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

handsomest stallions in England. Like nearly all
the Galopins he was rather excitable when in
training, but was an exceptionally good doer, and
possessed a fine constitution. So far his stud
career has been uniformly successful, without
being exceptionally so, but there is yet plenty of
time for him to head the list of winning sires with
two or three more of the class of Velasquez, who
is his best representative up to the present.



188



XII

THE DUKE OF PORTLAND {Concluded)

Up to this time the Duke of Portland iiad been
ahnost entirely indebted to two colts for the
unprecedented position he had gained in the list
of winning owners, but now it was the turn of a
couple of fillies to take up the running. These
were Memoir and Semolina. The former is a
brown filly by St. Simon out of Quiver — an elder
own sister to the even more famous La Fleche — and
was bred at the royal paddocks at Hampton Court,
the Duke purchasing her at the annual sale of
yearlings for 1500 guineas. Being a big and
somewhat backward two-year-old, her debut was
delayed until the Chesterfield Stakes, in which she
was unplaced to Heaume, and she fared no better
in the Lavant Stakes at Goodwood, although she
was backed against the field. Then the beauti-
ful Signorina, who was absolutely invincible that
season, gave her 16 lb. and a length beating in
the Harrington Stakes at Derby, so it began to
look as though the Duke, who almost invariably
relies upon home-bred horses, had done badly by
breaking his customary rule and buying a yearling.
Fortunately it occurred to George Dawson to try
the experiment of running her in blinkers, the
good effects of which were at once noticeable, as

189



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

she won the only other three engagements that she
fulfilled that season, though it must be admitted
that she had not much to beat in any one of them.
About the beginning of the following April
Memoir and Semolina were tried together with
a view to the One Thousand Guineas, and the
latter, who was more forward in condition than
her stable companion, won fairly easily. Doubt-
less this result was very gratifying to the Duke,
for not only is there a natural feeling in favour
of an animal one has bred, as against one that has
been bought, but Semolina is out of his prime
favourite, Mowerina. Accordingly he declared
to win with her, and it was very fortunate that
the precaution was taken to make this declaration,
for an extra month's work had done wonders for
the bigger filly, and George Barrett had to pull
her very hard to allow Watts to beat him by three-
parts of a length, on Semolina. Had there been
any doubt after this as to the respective merits of
the pair, the result of the Newmarket Stakes would
have removed it, as Memoir beat Blue-green by a
short head, the two coming right away from Le
Nord, whose second to Surefoot in the Two
Thousand made him a red-hot favourite, and a
field of nine others. Thus, though no declaration
was made in the Oaks, and both Memoir and
Semolina were backed at very nearly the same
price, there is no doubt that the expectations of
the stable were centred in the former. Not that
these expectations could have run very high, as
the unbeaten Signorina had to be encountered.
She was backed against the field, although it was
pretty generally known that she had not been
doing too well in the early part of the year, and
the strong pace set by Semolina found out her
weak spot, and assisted Memoir to beat her by

190



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

three-quarters of a length. Semolina just failed
to gain a place, but daughters of St. Simon were
first, second, and fourth. Surefoot was too speedy
for Memoir in the rich Prince of Wales's Stakes
at Leicester, though she again finished many
lengths in front of Le Nord, and an easy task in
the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood scarcely interfered
with her preparation for the St. Leger. This,
however, was not destined to be uninterrupted,
and she w as somewhat lucky to get to Doncaster
at all. She was always a very excitable filly, and
had a queer habit of running round and round her
box. It was supposed that in doing this about
three weeks before the Leger she slipped up and
fell ; at any rate, from some cause or another, her
near fore-leg filled, and she had to be confined to
walking exercise for several days. There were
fifteen runners that season for the great race
of the North, and Heaume, a Hermit colt, the
property of Baron de Rothschild, and winner of
the French Two Thousand and Derby, was first
favourite, with Sainfoin second in demand. The
mishap to Memoir naturally drove her back in the
betting, indeed 10 to 1 could be had about her at
the start. So little real confidence was felt about
her by the stable that Watts was told he could
either ride her or St. Serf. He had won races on
each, but finally decided to stick to the filly, who
had placed an Oaks to his credit, and T. Loates
had the mount on St. Serf. It is by no means
certain that the latter could not have won had he
secured a clear course, for he was going remarkably
well at the bend for home, where he got into a
bit of a scrimmage which put him out of it, and
eventually JNIemoir defeated her old opponent.
Blue -green, by a couple of lengths, Gonsalvo
being third, and Sainfoin fourth. I fancy that

191



THE DUKE OF PORTLAND

Heaume broke down in the race, for he never
ran again, and amongst the unplaced lot were
Surefoot, for whom the distance was much too
far, Alloway, Queen's Birthday, Martagon, and
Rightaway. Two or three of these have since
proved more than ordinarily successful at the stud,
and, altogether, a somewhat distinguished party
finished behind Memoir. Her next appearance
was in the Lancashire Plate, but it was a terrible
task to tackle the four-year-old Amphion at 7 lb.
especially as seven furlongs was just about his best
course, and it is not surprising that she proved
unequal to it. She had another unsuccessful cut
at him in the Champion Stakes, in which the
increased distance and the additional amount of
weight she received did not get her any nearer to
General Byrne's great horse, whilst there was no
merit in defeating a couple of hopeless wretches
in the Newmarket Oaks on the following day.
It would have been as well if Memoir's Turf
career had ended with this race, for she did little
good as a four-year-old, only winning once in half
a dozen attempts. This was in the July Cup, in
which she gave 9 lb. to Noble Chieftain and beat
him by a short head. This was a very smart per-
formance, and seemed to show that she had retained
all her old speed, but her stamina had apparently
vanished, and, in spite of the hollow defeats she
sustained in the Eclipse Stakes and Goodwood
Cup, the handicappers weighted her up to her
very best form in the Cambridgeshire and other
autumn races. She was a filly of very fine con-
stitution, but was always a little queer in her


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Online LibrarySydenham DixonFrom Gladiateur to Persimmon : turf memories of thirty years → online text (page 14 of 23)