Reading through the history of the Turf, I am flabbergasted to see the vast amount of the sports leaders, who are held in high esteem, as protectors of honesty, when any close examination can discover nothing but chicanery at all levels, Owners, Trainers, and Jockeys, in fact it is my honest opinion that the “Game” as I refer to the Sport of Kings, is as honest as it has ever been. although there is still an element of cheating that can never be fully eradicated. whilst Handicapping exists. without better control.
I will commence my enquiry from the 18th Century and a reference to who has been described as the Father of the Turf.
Mr Tragonwell Frampton.Born in Oxfordshire in 1641 he did not arrived in Newmarket quite late on the scene, aged 34. established a reputation for shrewdness and good judgement, both of people and horses. He was noticed by King Charles II and he had some minor office in the King’s Stables but it was during the reign of William III that he became the Supervisor of the Race Horses at Newmarket, a course arbiter and a post that was to be the origin of the Stewards of the Jockey Club. In addition he took on the title of The Keeper of the King’s Running Horses and he continued to hold these positions through the reigns of Queen Anne up the arrival of George II.
Let us scrutinise, this man from historical documents.
It has always been accepted that Frampton was a favourite of the Royal Household certainly those who enjoyed Horse-racing. colourful and often eccentric characters attracted to the world of sport and gambling. It appears that many of the following Royals gave Newmarket an aura of nobility. with titled, distinguished well connected persons having residence in the town, which became a centre for sport and gambling -with horse-racing, coursing, hawking and cock-fighting. the favourites.
It was always known that in Tregonwell the Royals had found a cunning fox.
A person of colourful and eccentric behaviour can be in some cases, acceptable but not when describing A Father of the Turf. who should be a person giving confidence as leader of the sports integrity not as a man, who paid more attention to how he could gain an advantage not always for those who paid his wages,
At the time the Blood Sport of Cocking was the major activity, the amount of gambling from the very top was astronomical. Cock Pits could be found in many of the country’s mast famous race-courses.
A quote by Frampton on cocking requires close examination.
He wrote to a friend giving detailed instructions on the rearing, feeding and handling of birds, including the following advice:
“Be sure that you do not part with your best cocks to those that love the sport, for if you should they will have as good as you have, and will not desire your assistance, which must not be”
This the advice of a cheat in my humble opinion.
But let us look at his activity in Horse-racing.
When a Yorkshire stable believed that they had a unbeatable Horse and were prepared to take on the very best in the land, the challenge became known to Tregowen Frampton the so call Father of the Turf.
A match was accepted, Sir W Strickland wealthy owner had in his stable a horse of great ability called Merlin, Yorkshire based, Strickland let it be known he would take on anyone at level weight.
Frampton offered up his favourite, in what has been described as the Match of the Century,
As The Royal Stud Keeper, and the most well known man in the sport Frampton was happy to take up the gauntlet. seeing a great opportunity for his many private backers, who supported his very word.
Frampton was not only a massive gambler in his own right, he had some of the greatest players in the Game, wealthy individuals who would think nothing of following the “Father” to to the tune of £10.000.
However there was a furious challenge. afoot, those in the Northern town’s and villages had seen for themselves the ability of Merlin. and ignored the name of any Southerner. they believed that Merlin was unbeatable.
The match was on.
How long it would take to get Merlin to Newmarket, the distance alone would have been a disadvantage. Under the control of William Heseltine, Merlin’s Jockey. they arrived at Newmarket, fit and well.
Frampton’s jockey on meeting William proposed that the two horses run a private trial placing themselves at a massive advantage. over all others.
Heseltine at first refused such a proposal.
However once back in town arranged to get a message to his master Strickland.
The shewd Yorkshire man, gave the boy instructions to allow the trail to take place but to carry an extra 7 lb unbeknown to his opponent.
Frampton informed his jockey to allow the trial. but to make sure that a 7 lb was carried in his saddle.
In the trial with both horses flat out, Merlin won by a short length, approx a Neck in to-days distance.
With both connections thinking they had fooled the other, they were both, confidant that they had a massive advantage to go to war with in betting terms.
Once the Frampton connexion of massive players, were informed of the trial betting took off with odds 1.8 and 1.6 being taken every offer was accepted.
Some sort of bell should have rung in the ears of a thinking gambler. when every time a massive bet was offered Frampton’s runner held its price. moving back to evens. were it should have collapsed.
In fact gambler’s from all over the northern towns and villages, were happy to offer this price the Frampton gamblers to take there offer, happy that they had a 7 lb advantage.
In the official race, surrounded by a massive crowd, at Newmarket, for the majority of the race both horses seemed content to keep equal pace.
With a furlong to go the Frampton favourite was leading and Merlin a length behind. with a noise so loud, it was the Yorkshire fan’s that carried on there support as there Champion under the cunning riding of William Heseltine, was produced with great ability.winning the Match by a Neck yet again.
Those from the south, many of the biggest gamblers in the land, were dumbfounded more than one had gone in over there heads, much deeper than they should. there was no record of suicides, but I an sure there were some.
What had taken place was soon being discussed in Parliament, even this attempt to have the Match disqualified. many a Lord were trying every move possible to get out of there predicament.
With no Stewards, to enquire, into the way it was run the result stood.
Frampton as was usual. on a massive advantage if his horse won, but not affected financially he was too cunning to gamble his own gold. without a bolt hole.
As a result of this match a law was introduced limiting the recovery of gambling debts to the sum of £10, but in Newmarket where very high stakes were the order of the day, it seems to have been ignored.
This sort of activity under the full knowledge of the Father of the Turf, supports my opinion that from the very beginning, order and honesty, certainly didn’t exist. Chicanery ruled.
Other so called Fathers of the Turf came and went,
Henry John Rous.