Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

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The Widgeon had earned 13 st. 31b., and could not quite manage it
a second time of asking.

Horses up North have apparently to carry weights which seem
excessive to the less robust denizens of the South. One race of
which I find record in the books is as follows : —

St. lb.
Mr. C. J. Cunningham's Morebattle, 5 yrs. ..120 (owner).

Mr. W. F. Lee's Loch Leven, 6 yrs 12 13 (owner).

Mr. C. Perkins's Hawkeye, 6 yrs 16 (owner).

Betting 5 to 2 on Morebattle. Won half-length.
As Mr. Lee's operations became a little more extensive he gave
up home training, having been to a great extent indeed forced to do
so, for Mr. Hope Barton, owner of some of the land on which his
gallops were laid out, caused a cricket ground to be constructed on
a spot which upset the whole arrangement ; so Mr. Lee sent his
horses to Lund at first, and afterwards to Steel, riding himself, of
course, whenever possible, for it was in a great measure the fun of
this that tempted him to race.

There never was a gentleman rider in constant practice whose
actions were not misjudged by the crowd. The average racecou^s^
frequenting blackguard knows what rascalities he would perpetrate
if only he had the opportunity, he chuckles over the cleverness of
their inception and performance if (according to his idea of the case)

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MR. W. F. LEE 477

they win his shillings for him, whilst if he suspects that a horse
whom he has backed has not been allowed to do its best, hanging
is too good for the unspeakable villain who was not ** having a go.'*
It happened once at Catterick that Mr. Lee was on an old horse
called Helmet, Mr. C. C. Dormer on Petit Due. There was a third
starter, but he was of no account ; and such a good thing did the
race appear for Mr. Lee's horse that 3 to i was laid on him. So
strongly did Mr. Lee entertain the view that he had a monkey on
Helmet, and Mr. Dormer, convinced that Petit Due had no chance,
also backed the favourite. It came to a finish — each jockey rode
his hardest, and Helmet was beaten, Mr. Dormer losing his bet by
winning a length on Petit Due. It proved an expensive win for


Mr. Lee — ^^500, but he had made a mistake and had to pay for it
heavily. It was rather hard, however, to see a rough nudge his
friend in the side — and. hear him say, as the rather despondent
jockeys went off in search of a little lunch, ** Just look at them two,
Bill ! They've cut up the bloomin' race between 'em, and now
they're goin' to 'ave a bottle on the strength of it ! " If it could have
been driven into that rough's head how much the *' cut-up race"
had cost both riders he would have been amazed ; but of course
he would never have believed such a thing possible.

That every race rider is a model of immaculate virtue is not
suggested, and once Mr. Lee profited unwittingly by an artful little

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trick, played of course without his knowledge, for his benefit. He
had a mare called Assyria who had been beaten on one of the
northern courses chiefly because she was badly drawn ; for the inside
horse, No. i, had a tremendous advantage, and the animals on her
whip hand were correspondingly handicapped. She was at first
ordered home, but being engaged in a race later in the afternoon
her owner decided to keep her to take her chance. As it happened
her jockey found an opportunity of assisting at the draw for places,
a ceremony which was perhaps less carefully managed there than
it is at some other courses, and to the vast satisfaction of Mr. Lee
Assyria obtained the coveted position. She got well away and won
comfortably. ** You were lucky in the draw," the owner remarked
to his jockey, as he met him after the race. " Yes, I was like to be.
I kept that number in my pocket ! " he quietly replied. Certainly
he was very " like to be " in the circumstances.

That Mr. Lee was a good horseman was agreed, and it is to be
noted that the only races ever won by a horse called Roseal was
with him in the saddle. The successes were not many, four or five
in all, but nobody else could ever persuade Roseal to win anything.
On the whole as a rider luck was on his side in the matter of
accidents, or rather escape from accidents, for he never broke a
bone, though he had his share of ugly-looking falls. One of the
worst was on Burton, whom he bought because he had beaten a
useful animal called Glenquoich, whom many readers will remember.
Burton had a very awkward trick of bolting into the paddock, and
as the field approached the dangerous corner Mr. C. J. Cunningham,
aware of the horse's peculiarity, very kindly called out, ** You'd
better come inside me, Fred ! '* for had Mr. Lee done so his horse
would have been kept straight and prevented from practising bis
accustomed device. He was going on nicely, however, just behind
something ridden by Mr. George Lambton — Mr. Lee neglected to
avail himself of his friend's thoughtful suggestion — and suddenly
whipping round Burton dashed into the paddock, giving his rider
a very nasty spill which knocked him out for a long time.

Everett, the foundation of a big scandal and waming-off in
days before he came into Mr. Lee's possession, was one of the best-
known horses he has owned, and old Bringari, who ran till he was
nineteen, was another; but best known of all was Royal Flush.
Mr. Lee noticed him running exceptionally well — for some distance,
at any rate — in a selling race at Manchester, and claimed biro
accordingly, with most satisfactory results, for he won a number of
good races and proved a highly remunerative investment, though his
chief successes — the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot and the Stewards'
Cup at Goodwood — were gained after the owner of the white jacket,

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MR. W. F. LEE 479

blue belt, had sold him, and he had passed into the hands of the
Americans. The horse, by the way, was supposed to have a desperate
temper ; and the gentry from whom Mr. Lee claimed him, angry at
his loss, took away head-stall and everything, leaving him loose in
his box. Robson, however, went in, put his handkerchief round the
horse's neck, and so quietly led him away, no sort of resistance
being attempted.

Good judge as he is, Mr. Lee made a mistake when in search of
a jumper that he thought would prove a bit out of the common.
He took a great fancy to an animal named Bonspiel, sufficiently
moderate on the flat, but having all the cut of a good-class steeple-
chaser, and with dreams which almost extended to Liverpool he


sent Bonspiel to be schooled. Nothing would persuade the brute to
jump anything, and patience being exhausted, the attempt was at
length abandoned.

In 1900 the Stewards of the Jockey Club were looking for a
handicapper, and Mr. Lee heard of this from his friend Mr. Richard
Ord. ** Lots of impossible people have applied," Mr. Ord observed.
*' I'll be another impossible, then," was the answer; and Lord Dur-
ham, at the time senior Steward, afforded the aspirant a trial from
which he emerged most successfully. He had been accustomed to
make handicaps of races in which he had entered his own horses,
and having been playing the game for several years, had a thorough
comprehension of its rules. The work was the more congenial to

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him because of his association with two special friends in Messrs.
T. Dawkins and A. Keyser ; and the trio work together on the most
cordial terms and with results which are in the highest degree satis-
factory, as need hardly be said. A few years since severe censures
on the handicappers were found in the papers almost daily; now it
is a comparatively rare thing to come across a reasonable criticism.
Certain owners are naturally discontented, because they have so
** manipulated " their horses — it is difficult to find quite the right
word to describe the operation — that they appear on the book to
have earned a clement weight ; but there may be quite excellent
reasons why the handicappers have not accepted the running, and
in this respect the Stewards of the Jockey Club specially allow
them to act on opinions which in the case of the present Committee
they are convinced will be well founded.

It may interest readers to know how the handicappers work.
To begin with, they pick the (probable) top weight, and then write
down the names of the entries in something like the order in
which it seems likely they will be ultimately found. This is to a
great extent guesswork, and very often when details come to be
examined and the form carefully looked out, with assistance from
mental or written notes that have been made at various times when
watching races, the rough draft of the order is considerably upset-
on occasions, indeed, it is found that something should be higher
than the original top weight.

There are many exasperating incidents in the handicapper's
path. Form is often just as contradictory as it well can be, and he
has to puzzle out why. Perhaps, for instance, he may laboriously
frame a handicap on Saturday which includes animals who are
running during the day or at the beginning of the next week. He
studies the returns in the evening papers or on the tape at his club,
with anxiety which merges into satisfaction as he notes how exactly
the performances agree with his estimate. Nothing could be more
satisfactory until, being in the country on Thursday morning, and a
long way from a telegraph office or a station, he reads the report of
Wednesday's racing, and finds that in several important particulars
it turns his handicap — sent to Messrs. Weatherby last night and
now in the press, with barely time for alteration — completely
upside down. Hopeless has beaten Saladbowl four lengths at even
weights, and he has got them as nearly as possible 14 lb. wrong.
It is easy enough to alter this, always supposing of course that
there is sufficient time to do so ; but the mischief is that such
an alteration would put half the others in demonstrably wrong
places. It is as easy to pull a handicap to pieces as it is hard to
make one.

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MR. W. F. LEE 481

Winners who are coming into form have, of course, to be raised,
and it is extraordinary how two-year-olds in particular improve
as they lay on muscle and advance in condition. It is hardly less
extraordinary with what rapidity they deteriorate when they begin
to lose muscle and go off, and it is instructive sometimes to compare
the running in a Nursery and in a handicap next year. The alter-
ation of form is frequently almost incredible.

The present system with the committee is for each of the three
to make his own separate handicap and to compare the result.
** What is your top weight ? ** is asked, and if there be a difference
of opinion the point is argued out. An idea prevails that a good

{Photogiaph by Oswald Holmes, *' Advertiser'' Office, Ponte/ract)

way, and one probably adopted, is averaging variations, but this is
never done for what are regarded as excellent reasons. As for
owners, Mr. Lee pronounces them wonderfully kind and considerate,
for they must occasionally, if not frequently, see things in the
Calendar which can hardly fail to disappoint them. ** They know
we do our best,'* is Mr. Lee's explanation of their amiability, and as
to the taking of all possible trouble and the exercise of patience and
care there cannot be the least doubt. Mr. Lee is far too good a
sportsman not to be anxious to give every one a fair chance and
** may the best horse win."

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The last fox of the season has been killed in all save the rugged
moorland districts, and the thoughts of the men who have been
enjoying sport with hounds during an exceptionally open winter are
turned to polo and other pastimes of the summer months. For
weeks past some of the provincial polo clubs have opened their gates
to members, and everything is in readiness for the start of the London
season. That polo has grown largely in popularity during the past
decade is generally agreed, but the best possible evidence of the
expansion of the game is furnished by the fact that 350 matches
are played during an average season at Hurlingham, Ranelagh, and
Roehampton. Polo managers have plenty to do under modern
conditions. Improvements of various kinds have to be put in hand
as soon as one season ends, and by the beginning of the new year
preliminary programmes for the ensuing season have to be issued.
This year the fixture lists of the three foremost London clubs fit in
together very satisfactorily. Clashings are to be noted here and
there. For example, Aldershot Day at Ranelagh falls on a date also
set aside for the semi-final ties of the Inter- Regimental Tournament
at Hurhngham. But with the two clubs working on individual lines
these little disadvantages are practically unavoidable, and viewing
the programmes on the whole there is not much to complain of.

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What are the prospects of the London season ? That question
is answered most hopefully by the managements of the clubs con-
cerned ; but they, of course, are largely at the mercy of the weather,
for a wet summer means abandoned matches, postponed tourna-
ments, and comparative failure all round. Play was stopped on
about twenty days in London last season, which made a formidable
hole in the three short months over which the game extends.

One thing can be remarked with some amount of confidence:
Tournament polo will be of exceptional interest. It is satisfactory
to observe that the tendency nowadays is for players to form them-
selves into recognised teams, and to get as many games together as
can be arranged. The Rugby team, following the famous Sussex


combination, have shown us how much can be accomplished when
the methods of each member of a side are well known to the others,
the whole team being thus enabled to work like one man. Indi-
vidual brilHance still counts for a very great deal in polo, but a want
of understanding between a No. 1 and the man behind him, or
between the back and his No. 3, must prove a tremendous handicap
in a well-fought game, no matter how ably the players may do indi-
vidually. Other things being equal, it is always odds upon a
regularly-constituted team beating four players of similar strength
who have never acted together before. Over and above all this
there is something particularly sporting about a team which sticks
together, and, winning or losing, goes through various tournaments
in practically unbroken order. Again, how much more interesting

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for the lookers-on to watch a tussle between teams they know well,
than to witness a disjointed game between the Blue Rovers and the
Etceteras, or teams with other absurdly-concocted titles 1 Of course
one is well aware that it is not always practicable, owing to business
and other reasons, for four players to be regularly together during
the season, with a fifth man ready to fill an occasional gap; but
when it can be done it adds unfailingly to the delights of polo.

Of team play pure and simple Rugby are perhaps the best
exponents in modern polo, and with such admirable tacticians and
sure hitters on the side as the brothers Miller, as also a stud of
ponies that cannot be surpassed, this well-balanced team is certain
to fill a leading part in the principal tournaments so long as its
present constitution is preserved. Mr. George Miller was not quite
so successful last season as before his very bad accident in India,
yet the surprise is not that he was a trifle less dashing than pre-
viously, but that he played as well as he did after a long absence.
Probably we shall see him as good as ever again, and in that case
Roehampton will find themselves seriously challenged for the
championship they hold. Polo players will understand that the
rivalry between the Roehampton and Rugby teams is of the most
friendly nature, inasmuch as they are both really representative
of the Roehampton Club, whose great playing strength is made
apparent by this fact alone. Nevertheless, no polo enthusiast would
care to miss a tournament match in which Roehampton and Ru^by
were drawn together, each side having a full team out. And I am
sure that, providing the ground was in good order, no match would
be better calculated to bring out all the finer qualities of polo. Roe-
hampton and Rugby did come together on one occasion last season,
in the final tie of the Open Cup at Ranelagh ; but Rugby, without the
services of Mr. George Miller, were overmatched by the brilliant
combination opposed to them. For Roehampton at No. i was
Captain Herbert Wilson, a good man all round, and certainly one of
the best we have for a position whose importance is often vastly
underestimated ; at No. 2 Mr. Morres Nickalls, who played some
delightful games last season, and to my mind showed greater im-
provement than any other first-class man ; at No. 3 Mr. Patteson
Nickalls, always consistent and often brilliant; and at back Captain
H. Lloyd, who varies a great deal, but on his best day has no
superior in defence. These were the winners, for the second year in
succession, of the chief tournament of the Ranelagh season, and a
few days previously they had won the Champion Cup at Hurling-
ham, though here Mr. Morres Nickalls was displaced by his brother
Cecil, whose tremendous energy and strength in riding-off is very
harassing to the opposing back. Roehampton won their first Cham-

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pion Cup easily enough, but their final tie with the Old Cantabs
was perhaps the most disappointing match of the whole season.
Mr. Freake \vas partially incapacitated by his fall in the first ten,
and this unlucky mishap put all the Cambridge men off their game,
so that it would be absurd to recall this match as a real trial of
strength between Roehampton and the Old Cantabs. Earlier in
the tournament the Cantabs had shown their true form against
Rugby's best team, and it would be a rare treat for all lovers of a
keen game to sec the Old Cantabs at full strength endeavour to
reverse the result with Roehampton during the coming season.

Unfortunately this cannot be, for the simple reason that the
Old Cantabs will be unable to muster full strength. Indeed, their


captain, Mr. Walter Buckmaster, informs me definitely that ** there
will be no Old Cantab team this year." Everyone interested in the
game will receive this news with regret. Since Mr. Buckmaster left
Cambridge, the Light Blue team has been one of the most popular in
London polo, and has twice won the Champion Cup and the Ranelagh
Open Cup. The Cantabs will be greatly missed. The reason for
their disappearance — only a temporary disappearance, it is to be
hoped — is that Captain Godfrey Heseltine is in India with his
regiment and Mr. Freake ha3 given up polo and sold his ponies. It is
possible that Mr. Freake's decision to retire from the game may not be
definitive, and it would not surprise me to see him in the thick of the
fight at Hurlingham or Ranelagh before the season expires. But

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this is merely blind prophecy, as in a letter which lies before me
Mr. Freake says, " I shall not be pla)dng polo this season in town,
and very probably not in the country." Happily there is Mr. Buck-
master left of this fine side, and it would be pleasant to see him and
Mr. Rawlinson again in a team of Freebooters such as won the
Champion Cup of 1902. But the probability is that Mr. Buckmaster
will play in the tournaments for a Moreton Morrell team, which will
include Mr. C. T. Garland and possibly Mr. Cecil Nickalls. Lord
Wodehouse, who may also play for Moreton Morrell, is rapidly
qualifying for a place with the Old Cantabs. His game improved
steadily all the time he was at Cambridge, and some first-class
London polo will tend still further to his advancement. On his
Cambridge form he is worthy of a place in the House of Commons
team which Mr. Winston Churchill will doubtless lead on to the
field this year, whilst other members may be Lord Castlereagh and
Mr. Ivor Guest.

According to present arrangements, Roehampton will enjoy the
services of their old team this year in the Champion and Open Cups,
and providing they are as well served for ponies as they were last
season they must take a very great deal of beating. The same team
which won the Champion Cup in 1901 and 1903 will represent
Rugby in the chief tournaments, viz : Messrs. Walter Jones, G. A.,
C. D., and E. D. Miller, while in the County Cup and the Roe-
hampton Junior Championship the Rugby Club will be represented
by Messrs. J. Pearce, J. Drage, W. Balding, and O. Hastings, who
had a stiff struggle with Cirencester in the semi-final of the County
Cup last year, but, having managed just to win this match, they
vanquished Kingsbury very decisively in the final. Cirencester were
not altogether satisfied that the best men won on the occasion of
their tie with Rugby, and, if it so happens that the two teams
should be drawn together again this year, we may expect a ver}'
keen and spirited encounter, in which both sides will go "all out."

In such tournaments as the Roehampton Cup, in which not
more than two players in the Recent Form List are eligible,
Roehampton may have to call upon a new No. i and No. 2, as the
brothers Grenfell, who helped to win the club's chief trophy in 1903
and 1904, have arranged to play for the Magpies. In this team
Mr. Ulric Thynne has been able to preserve an admirable ^/^n<^^
corps, and I should much like to see them win a good tournament.
The Magpies were originally started as, and intended only for, soldiers
past and present. But few old soldiers are available, and present
soldiers find it so difficult to get away from their official duties now-
adays that it has been necessary, in order to get up a good team, to
admit Yeomanry Officers past and present. It is under this heading

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that the Grenfells are playing for the Magpies. The team will be
selected from the Duke of Roxburghe (who now finds himself in the
Recent Form List, a position earned by his powerful play last
season), Mr. Ulric Thynne, Mr. Cecil Grenfell, Mr. R. Grenfell, the
Duke of Westminster (a rapidly improving player), Capt. S. F.
Gosling, and any soldiers who may be available. The four first-
named players will probably represent the Magpies in the Champion
and Open Cups, and it is hoped also to run a Magpie team in the
Ranelagh Novices' Cup and the Roehampton Junior Championship,
which are to be brought off in the same weeks as the more important

When are the Americans going to make another attempt to win
back that handsome trophy which for twenty years has been securely


held by the Hurlingham Club ? Our transatlantic cousins have
resisted all our endeavours to recover the America Yachting Cup,
and are not a Httle proud of the fact, so that we in a smaller way may
be pardoned for a feeling of satisfaction that we are still on top so
far as polo is concerned. It must be remembered, of course, that
Hurlingham won the Cup at Newport at a time when the develop-
ment of polo was considerably more advanced in England than in
the United States, and ever since the Americans have been under
the disadvantage of having to bring their ponies to England and play
under the Hurlingham rules, which differ very materially from the
American rules on the points of off-side and stick-crooking. Still,
it was a very gallant display which the officially-recognised team of
igo2 made against England on the Hurlingham ground, and though

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they were soundly defeated in the end, our visitors had the satisfac-
tion of winning the first of the three matches.

Considering the new code under which they were playing and a
slight inferiority as to ponies, especially in regard to weight, the
Americans did remarkably well in 1902, Mr. Larry Waterbury in
particular proving himself worthy of comparison with our best

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 36 of 52)