Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Murder Is Out - Again!

Imagine the story: a group of punters hire a private trainer and set up a racing-stable shrouded in secrecy. They win all the top handicap races that Flat Racing has to offer, make the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds through gambling and then win the Epsom Derby with a 100/1 shot. 

Does that sound implausible to you? Well it happened just over 100 years ago – and the entire episode is described, in thrilling detail, in a book called The Druid’s Lodge Confederacy. First published in 1990, the book arrived at a formative time in my racing development - whilst still a student, bunking off lectures to watch racing at Colwick Park in Nottingham. 

In those days, I worked the Summers at a Ladbrokes betting shop in Loughborough, dreaming that one day I might turn up on the other side of the counter requesting a massive pay-out following a colossal covert gamble. Some things never change. 

Every racing enthusiast should own a copy of The Druid’s Lodge Confederacy; probably all non-racing enthusiasts too. It isn’t just a great book about horseracing, it is a superbly atmospheric account of life at the turn of the previous century.

There is a lovely description of the moment when Hacklers Pride stepped out on to the turf at Newmarket, prior to winning the Cambridgshire. The horse’s true form had been well obscured from the public, who were subjected to streams of dis-information as the confederates’ money was piled on to the horse, in small amounts, through a wide number of illegal channels (there were no high-street betting shops at that time). Finally, when the fully fit Hackler's Pride came into view, the whole world could see the truth: she was a certainty. As Mathieu puts it: The murder was out

The book has just been reprinted; which is fortunate because I have long-ceased lending my own copy since my mother dropped it in the bath. The text has been updated to include contemporary valuations for the sums of money wagered and won. But the stories remain unchanged – including the fascinating circumstances of the 1913 Derby, when Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse (Anmer), while the stewards disqualified Craganour and promoted the 100/1 chance Aboyeur to the winner’s spot. 

There hasn’t been a 100/1 winner of the Derby since; in fact the biggest winning odds in the last forty years were for High Rise who won at 20/1 in 1998. If you’re looking for a repeat this year, you could do worse than back Storm The Stars each-way at 20/1. However, the most likely winner of this year’s Derby is the 6/4 favourite, Golden Horn, who won the Dante Stakes at York in a very good time.    

No comments:

Post a Comment