Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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Bayleaf, which he once sent to Perth to run in a Hunters' Flat
Race. Tom Spence was to have ridden, but did not turn up ; so a
local sportsman,- who was described as a " regardless rider," had the
mount, and, finishing with desperate energy, won a distance. Bob
Menzies, Mr. Sharpens trainer, a very important person who fancied
himself greatly, swaggered up to lead the mare in, not at all pleased
that she had been so thoroughly shown up. " Confound you, sir,"
he said, ** what was the good of that ? You won a hundred yards
too far ! " ** Did I ? " the affronted jockey replied, for he had not
expected anything but a compliment on his horsemanship. ** And
if Vd had a bigger whip I'd have won a hundred yards further!"

In was in 1866 that Mr. Hope-Johnstone made his first appear-
ance in the saddle, his figures for the year being ** i mount, win,"
and this was precisely repeated two years later. During the inter-
mediate year he never rode, so that he could not have improved on
the minus average. Wigton, in Cumberland, was one of the first
meetings he ever attended. A horse called Soda-water, ridden by a
horse-breaker and occasional jockey named Gambles, came down at
the brook, giving his rider a very bad fall. Hope-Johnstone was just
by the fence, as was the owner, to whom he said, " I'm afraid
your jockey is very badly hurt ? " *' Puir lad ! I doot he'll never
speak nae mair; will thee ride huss i' the Consolation ? "was the
reply. Business was business whatever might happen to the luck-
less Gambles.

Young Wentworth Johnstone's first mount, however, was in
a flat race at Hawick. He had not been prepared to ride, and
figured in the saddle in boots and breeches borrowed from an
ostler who happened to be handy and to own fairly presentable
equipments, and it was rather for the fun of riding than the hope of
winning that he accepted the mount, as the race was known to be a
practical certainty for an animal named Stiff — if only he got off, that
is to say : an important proviso, as he was an extremely difficult
horse at the post, and if there were any delay was tolerably certain
to bolt off the common where the course was laid out into the
town. While dressing, a loud altercation in the next room was over-

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heard. ** I tell thee thou knaws naething aboot it 1" a voice said.
** Ma brither is starter, and there will be a fause start, tae setaff
that auld beggar Stiif." With a clever jockey called Noble on his
back, however, Stiff got off and won by the length of a street, so
that the starter's brother and his friends, who had fancied that they
** knew something,*' were done.

Whether Hope-Johnstone's performance at this time led any-
one to believe that he would twice head the list of gentlemen
riders is not on record, but at any rate his pluck was undoubted.
His next ride was at Windsor on a wild pulling animal named
Bandoline. In the first race on the card, ridden by a jockey named
Ablett, the horse came to grief, and hurt his jockey rather badly.
Bandoline was in another race later in the day, and the owner
wanted to find a rider for him ; but the professionals knew well
what sort of beast he was, and those who were not engaged all
declared that they had to catch an early train, which would render
it quite impossible for them to accept the offer. Wentworth's uncle,
Davy Hope-Johnstone, hearing of the dilemma, and knowing how
keen his nephew was, suggested that he might do, assuring the
owner that at any rate he would not tumble off. " Wenty," as he
was, and is, called by a multitude of friends, promptly accepted,
though he had not come prepared to ride, and no friendly ostler
being at the time available, he got up in check trousers, set off by an
orthodox green jacket and black cap. After jumping the brook the
field in those days had to turn sharp to the left. Wenty was on the
inside, and had so much way on that he could not get round, con-
sequently going himself, and taking Reginald Herbert on Comberton,
over the chains and in among the carriages. The author of the
mischief escaped a fall ; his victim was not equally fortunate, though
he was up again so quickly that getting back into the course he won
the race, afterwards accepting the aggressor's humble apK)logies in
the kindest and most genial spirit, rightly attributing the mischief to
a combination of zeal and ignorance which might be forgiven in an
over-anxious and energetic young amateur.

About this time Hope-Johnstone joined the 7th Hussars, then
about the ** horse-ridingest " regiment in the service. In 1873, for
instance, out of sixteen runners for the Grand Military Gold Cup, no
fewer than five were ridden by officers of the Seventh : '* Baby,"
now General, McCalmont,JohnDaye Backer, Lord Marcus Beresford,
W. B. Morris, and Wentworth ; and it may also be noted that the
Seventh has supplied the winner of the Gold Cup on as many as
six occasions.

" Wenty" learned riding in a roughish school, not being in the
least particular what he was put on so long cis he could "have a go."

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For Teddy Woodland he frequently performed at the meetings
round about London, Kingsbury, West Drayton, Eltham, etc. At
Kingsbury one afternoon, after riding several of Woodland's horses,
he had a bad fall, being for a time quite knocked out. He recovered
consciousness on a form in the dressing-room, and while pulling
himself together, and trying to realise where he was and to remem-
ber what had happened, Woodland roused him with a shake, handed
him a big bumper of vinegar and water, merely remarking, " Look
sharp. Captain, please ! I've got another for you in the next race! "
Too dazed to argue, he was taken to the weighing-room, and put up


on an animal who he just possessed energy to observe had his head
wrapped up in a blanket in order that he might not see the race-
course surroundings, for which he entertained a rooted repugnance.
He had, of course, to be led to the post, but when the flag fell,
swung round and disappeared in the direction of Harrow. At Croy-
don, too, a great place in those days, " Wenty '* was constantly
up ; once on a horse of the late Sir John Astley*s, who was always
willing to give a young horseman a chance. *' Can he jump? "
Wenty asked, as he was about to get up. ** Jump ? Why, of course
he can! *' replied the dear old ** Mate '* ; " he jumped right over the

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rails into the ring at Chester ! " This may have been evidence of a
certain capacity, but was nevertheless not altogether encouraging.

By 1873 Captain Hope-Johnstone had come to be recognisedas
one of the leading lights among players of the game, and he easily
won the Grand Military Gold Cup on a horse called Revirescat;
repeating the success, it may here be observed, on Lady Sneerwellin
1875 and on Earl Marshal in 1876 ; whilst his brother-in-law, the
lamented Captain W. B. Morris, another of the very best of good
fellows, kept up the sequence in 1877 and 1878, so that the regiment
did decidedly well ! Revirescat was rather fancied for the National of
this year, but it would have taken a great horse to beat Disturbance,
one of the best 'chasers that ever lived, in the estimation of good
judges. Such is the fortune of war that Captain Hope-Johnstone
never chanced to win, or even to get in the first three for, a Liver-
pool, though he has won a number of races over the course— the
Valentine Steeplechase twice, for instance, on Lucy and Champion.
After coming to grief there and hurting himself rather badly on one
occasion, he declared that he would ** sooner fall at Liverpool than
win a race anywhere else,'* so fond was he of the big Aintree fences.
He indirectly had a hand, moreover, in a National victory. One day he
had a ride and won a race on Oldjoe, and meeting our friend Mr. Arthur
Johnstone-Douglas afterwards, he observed to him that he thought
Old Joe was the best horse he had ever ridden, ** though perhaps," he
modestly added, ** I've never been on a good one." His opinion,
however, was enough to induce Mr. Johnstone-Douglas to buy the
horse, with which, as the reader is doubtless aware, he carried off the
great race in 1866, after creating a desperate scare, for three da)'S
before the contest he had a wire from his trainer telling him that
the horse was dead lame and could not possibly start. He came
from Carlisle, where he was trained, with his leg in a bucket, and
happily got right in time. If I remember rightly what Mr. John-
stone-Douglas told me, the mare had got a great nail in his 1^, the
result of hitting a rail which a carpenter had clumsily knocked
together after a break.

A certain proportion of falls is the inevitable lot of every steeple-
chase rider ; and though Captain Hope-Johnstone has been fortunate
in escaping fractures, he naturally had some ugly accidents. One
of these was at Croydon, where a nasty scrimmage at a hurdle
occurred, with the result that he was knocked over in front of a big
field which came pounding along and passed over him, leaving him
flat on the ground; indeed, he did not recover his consciousness for
many hours. "I'm afraid someone jumped on him," a sympa-
thetic observer remarked as just after the race he was carried into
the gentlemen's dressing-room. " Yes, I'm afraid I did — for one," a

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friend who had ridden in the race candidly answered. Within a
week, however, he was eagerly at it again. There was a meeting at
Kingsbury, and an owner had two horses in one of the races, Charlie
and Repulse. Captain Hope-Johnstone, though determined not to
miss a ride, felt that he could not do justice to his mount. He sug-
gested, therefore, that he should ride the worse of the pair. Repulse ;
for the owner, properly estimating his own capacity in the saddle
and likewise that of his friend, had been willing to give him the
mount on the probable winner. He declared to win with Charlie,
and would perhaps have done so, but the late Major Dalbiac (** The
Treasure") on a horse called Awalton came up not far from home and


raced so hard against Charlie that the pair ran themselves out of it,
leaving Repulse to drop down at the finish and just get home. The
race was called ** The Upper Ten Steeplechase," and the mob,
quite convinced that the business had been arranged — they are
usually ready to believe that every other race is a ** ramp " — became
derisive and shouted out inquiries as to whether ** that was the way
the Upper Ten did it ? "

In 1880 his present Majesty the King ran a horse for the first time,
a big brown animal called Leonidas, and Captain Hope-Johnstone
vvas honoured with an invitation to ride. Carrying the Royal

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colours, hitherto never displayed by their present owner, the horse
won comfortably, so that the subject of this sketch has the honour
of having won the first race His Majesty ever secured.

Rather earlier than this, in 1877, in what was called the Royal
Hunt Steeplechase, at Sandown, a rather quaint scene was enacted
in which Captain Hope-Johnstone took part. There were three
starters for the race : Roundhead, ridden by Lord Marcus Beresford;
Early Dawn, Mr. Lee Barber up; and Little Fawn, on whom
Mr. C. Thirlwell started. When they had gone a short distance Little
Fawn fell, giving his jockey a baddish shattering, and at any rate
incapacitating him for the day. At the next fence the other two


refused persistently, and it occurred to Captain Hope-Johnstone that
Little Fawn might win after all if she had someone on her back;
so, running to her, for she had been secured, he jumped on. Inci-
dentally he found that there was no off-side stirrup, and that the
bridle was over the mare's ear; but these were details, and riding at
the fence where the other two were refusing he somehow or other got
safely over. At the next jump, however, she would not have it.
Fred Archer happened to be standing close by, with a beautiful gold-
headed cane which some admirer had presented to him for winning
a race, and as Little Fawn's jockey had neither whip nor spurs

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Archer kindly handed him the trophy as a substitute. It "was not
the least adapted for the purpose, and splintered to pieces a.t: the first
stroke, but it had the effect of urging the mare to an effort. She
went for the jump, landed on her head, the saddle swung round
under her, the bridle came off, and the rider's gallant attempt was
defeated. He consoled himself, however, by winning the next race,
the Priory Steeplechase, on Tom Moody, beating Mr. Garrett


Moore and Mr. Arthur Yates. For the lattter, and no doubt for the
former also for the matter of that. Captain Hope-Johnstone had a
w^arm admiration. He was always a believer in getting off and as a
rule going to the front and staying there, the idea being that if you
made a mistake you seemed to have more chance of getting right
again ; and Mr. Arthur Yates was a great exponent of this system.

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The way he would rush down a hill, dart round a corner, and race
over a drop, used to fill spectators with admiration and awe ; and
many of the gallant little band who studied and practised the art of
race-riding at Bishop's Sutton adopted the same method. I well
remember one of them, Captain Robert Sandeman, riding an old horse
called Johnny Longtail at Sandown, on a very frosty day, when it
had seemed impossible that there could be any racing, so bad was
the condition of the course. As they went up the hill past the
stands, one of the jockeys observed that it was dangerously slippery
on the descent after the turn; and Captain Sandeman, hearing
this, took Johnny Longtail by the head and dashed him down as
hard as he could go. He slipped and slithered and looked extremely
like coming to the utterest grief, but gained such a long lead whilst
the others were cautiously steadying down the descent that he won
his race comfortably. It may be casually mentioned that Captain
Sandeman had been invalided home after a bad fall in India, with
the doctors' assurance that he would never be able to get on a horse
again ; but as regards this it appears that the doctors were not quite

Jem Adams was a great performer at this time, and an undaunted
follower of Arthur Yates's method ; he had a ready tongue moreover.
The Clerk of the Scales at Warwick one day was the son of a well-
known St. James's Street saddler. Jem got into the scales before his
cap and jacket were brought. ** What are your colours ?" he was
asked. Jem didn't hear, and the official repeated the question in a
very rough and authoritative voice, which annoyed Jem. ** My
colours? " he answered, "I don't know; but you ought, for you
made 'em ! "

A curious incident happened in a steeplechase about this time.
Captain Hope-Johnstone was winning, when something dashed up,
went the wrong side of a post, and thereby gained such an advan-
tage that he was never caught. An objection was a matter of
course. ** You went the wrong side of a post, you know," Captain
Hope-Johnstone remarked to him as he was about to get into the
scales. *' Oh, no, I didn't," the other replied, took his seat in the
chair, and immediately fell forward dead.

A good deal of Captain Hope-Johnstone 's riding has been done
in Ireland, where he has won many races over many courses ; and
he retains the kindliest recollections of his visits to the island. Irish
jockeys are most good-natured and agreeable, he declares, and a
stranger riding with them gets quite as fair play there as anywhere
else. They are rather casual people, but infinitely cheery. When
he first went to Ireland, wanting to know the form, he became a
subscriber to the Irish Calendar, and noticed that his name was

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being spelt incorrectly by the person to whom he paid his subscrip-
tion. He drew the clerk's attention to the fact, who affably
replied as he closed the book, " Shure, it's no matter; I'll expect
you'll get it all the same ! " Going to look at a horse one day he
thought he would try it, and, getting on, asked the head man to
take up the off-side stirrup a hole. The delightful old fellow at once
replied, " Shure, I never knew a good man yet that didn't ride with
one leg shorter than the other ! " They use quaint expressions,
these Irish horsemen. One good horse on which Captain Hope-
Job nstone had a ride in the Downshire Plate at Punchestown was
Cyrus. He had run out the first day and seemed to have a disposi-
tion for so doing. As Dan McNally, Linde's man, was putting him
up he remarked, " If you find him hard to turn, Captain, don't pull ;


pluck at him — he's only a scholar!'* It is very curious that the
race should have been completely reproduced at Liverpool in 1882.
Cyrus beat everything except Seaman in this race at Punchestown,
and in the National Seaman, Lord Manners up, little used as he was
to race-riding, beat Cyrus, with one of the famous Beasley brothers
in the saddle, by a head. The fact seems to have been that Cyrus
had a leg, and was not quite at his best.

A horse with which Captain Hope-Johnstone's name will always
be associated is old Champion, who at the present time is leading a
placid and happy existence at his owner's place near Edenbridge.
Late in the eighties Mr. John Bell Irving asked Captain Hope-
Johnstone to buy him a horse. The price, it was understood, was
to be somewhere about 300 guineas, and going to the December
sales at Newmarket the commissioner took such a fancy to

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Champion, who had been in Darling's stable as a two-year-old, that he
bought the son of Victor and Violante for nearly thrice the sum he
had been authorised to give. His doubts as to whether he had done
right were soon set at rest, Mr. Bell Irving expressing himself as
very pleased, and suggesting that Captain Hope-Johnstone had
better take him home and train him. He ran in a hurdle race at
Hamilton, and was beaten a head ; his trainer having, indeed, been
too careful of him. " He is really not quite fit,*' Captain Hope-
Johnstone remarked to the owner. ** But the fact is, he cost so
much that I have been afraid to gallop him ! " *' Bash him along!"
was the reply; so bashed along he was, and few horses have ever had
a longer or more successful career. In due time he passed into the
possession of Mr. Naylor Leyland, whose horses Captain Hope-
Johnstone trained and rode with such extraordinary success. In all
Champion ran 99 races ; of these he won ^j, he was second 33 times,
and 8 times third. It is rather strange to see the old horse now and
to remember that he was a contemporary of Merry Hampton who
won the Derby the year after Ormonde, the year Reve d'Or won the
Oaks for the late Duke of Beaufort.

Another horse whom Captain Hope-Johnstone often rode to
victory was Gauntlet, a somewhat tricky and uncertain animal who
would by no means go for everybody, but did everything he was
asked to do for his accustomed rider. For him indeed almost all
horses went kindly, he possessin?^ the rare gift of perfect hands.
Readers whose memories go back a few years will also remember
Constance. She was originally the property of the Duke of
Hamilton, for whom Captain Hope-Johnstone rode her one day
without success. ** She is not quite up to your mark, I should
think," he observed to the Duke after the race ; ** but she's a nice
sort of mare all the same. How much will you take for her ? " ** I
will give her to you," the Duke kindly replied. The gift was
accepted, and for her new owner she did good service.

Among the many jackets that Captain Hope-Johnstone has
worn is that of General Byrne, the owner of Amphion, whom many
will recollect for his extreme kindness and courtesy. He had a use-
ful horse called Charleville, whom Captain Hope-Johnstone had
been going to ride for him at Croydon, but the animal came to grief
badly, and had to be killed a week before. ** I'm so sorry you have
lost your nice horse," Captain Hope-Johnstone remarked to the
General. **I am the more sorry," he replied, "because you are
deprived of what would have been a pleasant ride on him.''

In writing about Mr. Gwyn Saunders-Davies last month, I
expressed doubt as to whether any other rider had ever kept record
of his mounts, and whether, if he had done so, they would show

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such an excellent average. Captain Hoj>e-Johnstone, I find, has a/so
kept a record, and his total is a little superior to that of our mutual
friend. From 1866, when he began riding, to 1897, when he retired
from the saddle, he was up in 1,109 races; and of these he won no
fewer than 362. I cannot obtain the figures relating to seconds and
thirds, but he had 98 falls, and there is a note of 28 refusals. This
strikes me as particularly interesting. The majority of the races he
has ridden have been a distance of two miles, but he has been up in
Nationals and in events over all courses. There are eight fences
in a mile, and altogether I calculate that 1,109 races means some-
thing like 23,000 jumps: the 28 refusals in this total therefore tell a
wonderful tale of consistent skill and courage. Out of his last
96 rides Captain Hope-Johnstone won on 50 occasions, and he


headed the list of gentlemen riders in 1876 with 45 wins, and in
1877 with 55 out of 114. Twice he has carried off five races in an
afternoon — at Dunfermline in 1877, and at Burgh-by-Sands in 1885.
On this last occasion he would have won the whole six, but could not
get down to the weight for the last race, and would indeed have
had to carry 7 lb. over. He was afraid this would have been taxing
the horse unduly ; but the opinion was wrong, as it won with a good
14 lb. in hand. He would thus have swept the board, a feat
^vhich, if my memory serves, was once accomplished by Mr. C. J.

Captain Hope-Johnstone, settled down to a pastoral life in a
charmingly picturesque district of Kent, still takes not only a keen,
but it may be said in a sense an extremely active, part in sport

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under National Hunt Rules. He farms, and one of the illustrations
shows some of the big mules which do his work, whilst others
exhibit a few of the Shetland ponies of which he was formerly a
great breeder. Beautiful little creatures they were ; their size
may be gathered by comparison with the horse to which one of them
is acting as leader, and also by noting the height of the ecclesiastical
dignitary who stands behind the team in another photograph. The
pony whose likeness is given measures 32 inches.

The active work to which reference has just been made is, of
course, as a member, and former Steward, of the National Hunt, and
as a Steward of various meetings in the South of England, notably
Gatwick, Lingfield, and Plumpton, which owe much to the super-
vision of so experienced a sportsman. There is a general tendency
to blame the Stewards for all sorts of shortcomings of which they
are, as a rule, not guilty. Stewards vary, of course, and at some
meetings it may happen that the wrong men are occasionally chosen,
men who do not understand the ins and outs of the sport or really
know the rules which govern it. Somebody ** fancies " a horse, or
is ** told** that it will win, told by somebody else who has heard a
story emanating from no one knows where. The horse is beaten,
his backers assume that the jockey was not trying, and angrily
demand to be informed whether the Stewards are asleep ? They are
not ; they are quite wide awake, but their superior comprehension
of the business of race-riding convinces them that everything has
been above-board. At other times legitimate suspicions may arise,
and the Stewards may seem remiss ; but they perceive that there is
no possibility of bringing home a charge of malpractice ; a culprit
who is summoned to explain and gives an explanation which cannot
be contradicted rather scores, and has, as it were, a bit in hand
when next awkward questions are put to him — it is not the first time

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 27 of 52)