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MORNING AT FLEMINGTON,
BÏ A VAGABOND.
I think I have before expressed my anti- pathy to early rising. It is opposed to my natural instincts and acquired habits. Still, when by a strong effort of moral courage I turned out at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, I felt rewarded by an innate consciousness ol virtue, and was also recompensed by the sight of a «lotions sunrise. After a bath and a nip of Bourbon whisky-which it ia my custom always to take as an infallible pre ventative against snake-bites, and the effi- cacy of which is proved by the fact that I have »lotbeenbitten by asnakeinVictoria-I sallied out into the cool morning air. The venorable mongrel, who imagines ho earuB his board by frantically barking when I come ia late of a night, was so much astonished at my appari- tion at such an unwonted hour that he forgot to even grow). Passing through tho Fitzroy, gardens on my way to hold my tryst at the GeneralPoBt.office, Ifound myself, as it wero, in Eden. Sparrows and minah birds hopped about my path, the dewy air waa scented with the perfume of flowers. I was alone with Nature until a pariah hound came and fraternised with me. The balmy influences sank into my soul, and I felt good enough to go to matins. It was too early for working people, and until IgotintoBourke-straetl had the city to myself, although I passed an open public-house prepared to catch the oarly and thirsty worm. Passing down Bourke-street I found the country market carts extending nearly from the White Hart to Russell-street. These were laden with the rich products of garden and farm-vegetables, fruit, cheese, butter, and eggs, whose grosser suggestion were toned down by the scent of hundred of bouquets of flowers. These materials bountifully provided by Mothor Nature in this colony for administering both to com- fort and luxury-appealed both to the apps tite and finer senses, and I felt more evangelical than ever. The market and its neighbourhood were quite lively, retail doalors, hucksters, and hotel stewards were chaffering with the country people, 'and my friend John Chinaman was
in great force. At a stall in Swanaton-streot I had a cup of coffee and read ÏVie Argui for a fee of twopence, the cheapest investment I have made in Victoria. Hore some early breakfasters began talking horse, and I found that the voxpopuli was decichdly in favour of Newminster, both for the single and double events of Derby and Cap.
You see I've got round to my point at last. Having gone into the sporting prophet line of business, I am forced to turn "tout," which accounts for the foregoing spasm of virtuous early riaing. It was my first visit to Flemington, and I enjoyed the drive, although there is nothing particularly striking in the country enroule. Arrivodatthocrestof thehill, wo looked down on the natural amphitheatre which has been formed into the racecourse and training grounds of the Victoria Racing Club. Art has supplemented nature in making this one of the moBt perfect coursos in tho world. But why, oh why, was suah a hideous grand-stand erected? It may well be called a cowshed. Early though we wero, there was a goodly collection of people by the " scraping sheds," watching their equine favourites aa they carno in and out from exercis- ing. Privileged individuals impressed ordi nary bystanders with their importance by the manner in which they examined fotlocki and hoofs. Scattered about tho ground watching the performances on the different tracks
f sand, tan, and cinder (a mo3t excel- lent arrangemement) were other groups of touts. For wo wero all touts, differing in degree, but still with one object, the scrutiny of the horses before us, with the hope of discovering somothing by which directly or indirectly wo might make money. First here were the newspaper touts, the sporting reporters of the daily press, and the great oracles "Augur," "Beacon," "Nemo," "Asmodeus," &c before whose utterauces men bow down, and bet, and cry, " They have said, and Newminster must win !" TheBe gentlemen, for whom I havo the veiy highest reepeot, not knowing thom, will I dust not be offended at any apparent en- croachment on their prerogative. The spirit of sporting prophecy with which I am now endowed is only a tem- porary one, and will not last long. Sporting writers in England generally base their predictions on calculations arrived at from the previous public form or market state of a favourite. Here these gentlemen whom I refer to not only take such into con sideration, but daily tout, and with their own eyes endeavour to form correct conclusions to place boforo tho public, and in this thuy do their work honestly and well. Then there ia the trainer tout, the man who watches not only the movements of his own horses, but particularly those of his rivals, often giving these the greatest attention. One trainer who is renowned as a spinner of racy yarns, and as always losing his moderato bets, is great as a tout of other people's horses Next there aro tho bookmaker touts, "motal HcianB,"who fancy they knowsomethingabout horseflesh, and will not trust others to furnish them with any information. There is the amateur tout, who may have really a love for a horse, and a good knowledge of his points ; he has come out to watch the performance of some favourite, and will return to town, perhaps to business, full of the information ho has acquired, with " 100 to 5 taken up to a thousand" mingling with tho figures in his ledger. Then there is the tout perse, who is nothing but Buch-a Boody disreputable indi- vidual, who, but for a sporting turn of mind, would have been a politician. He is, or en- deavours to be, on intimate terms with jockeys and Btable boys, and to his moro credulous clients has always a wonder- ful "Btable secret" for disposal. Ho acts for a large circle of clients ; the book makers will pay him for any early and .accurate information as to the perform-
ance of favourites ; shopkeepers and pub Heans accept his weekly tips, and besides supplying him with present boer and half crowns, promise him "a fiver" or "a ten- ner," if the good thing ho has given thom comes off. Except that be risita no money, hiB modus operavdi is much the same as the theory of bookkeeping - in practice the
'talent" may find themselves astray after this meeting. The tojit takes so many horsas which are likely to win, and gives their names as tips to BO roany different olien'a, with much Beeret and important information and instructions how to "get on." To those to whom he has tipped losers, ho will be profuse of apologies and explanations why "the 'oss" ought, but didn't win. Those who have won on his tip will moat likely, with colonial generosity, double their pro. mised gratuity, and so year by year he makes a dirty living. This class of men are those who, in England, "rend the winner of tho Derby for 24 stamps." Victorians aro not quite suoh fools in racing matters as Loudon clerks and shop boys, still their knowledge of the turf makes them more credulous of the superior knowledgo of the professional
On the turf there is true democracy Amongst all this crowd of touts, there woro trainers of Victoria and of New South Wales ; shopkeepers and clerks of sporting ten- dencies; sporting publicans, who tinko a modest book, or bet on commis- sion; and a few gentlemen. There were outlawed blacklegs, men who subsist by getting up sham "sweeps," or laying against "dead 'uns," amongst their number some who have broken all laws human and divine, and should be hounded from the society of even ordinary vicious men. There were Jew bookmakers (applied only as a national dis- tinction, Mr. Cohen, for religion these cur tainly have none), one of these an old money lender being an especially noted character. He lends at a few hundred per cent, per annum, and the mode of calculating such interest is easy, but the intricacies of a betting-book require a little higher education or natural aptitude for figures. Now, this old Shylcck has neither, and his book is kept by bis son. In his greed he is continually laying odds in boto which in his cautious
moments, and after consulting with his son, he will revoke, or pay Bmall sums as forfait to cancel. Another I hear described as a " smarr man," " Well, if yon call making a stiff 'un smart, he may be," was the reply. This ap- pears to be a favourite occupation of the Victorian bookmaker. But only the minor fry oi the ring and of the tribes aro down thin morning. "The Leviathan" and "King of the Ring" does not rise at such an early hour but shows up in the afternoon. He and his brothers-the mystic trio who control the hotting-ring of Victoria-are Tritons to these minnows who are touting. But let it be clearly understood that I don't respect them any the more for that. I admit to having " a down" on the ring. Mr. Thomas Hughes,
who, as tho author of Tom Brown's Kchool Daus, is known aB an advocate of manly spurts and an opposer of cant, once Bsid in tho House of Commons, "the members of the betting ring are chiefly some of the greatest Bconndrels unhung." I think he had reason, and that his remarks would equally apply to Victoria. I believo that under the present system betting neither blesses him that gives nor him that takes tho odda." A chance in a friendly sweep, a bet between gentle- men, or wager between man and man I do not object to, but tho whole syatem on which the betting-ring is founded is a vicious one, and breeds a spirit of chicanery and swindling. The bookmakers endeavour by every means in their power to win your money, and you return the complimont. Cheating is universal, and the old high standard ot gentlemanly honour has baeu lowered during the last quarter of a century by the operations of the botting-ring, which is a fungus of recent and rapid growth ia Eng- land. In the present contest between "the gentlemen" and " the talent" the one endea vour is to deceive each other as to the merits or demerits of certain horses. There may be still a few high-toned gentlemen who declare the merits of their horses, and run them to win on such ; bat how often we hear in England that Mr. Swellpace has scratched ahorse because "he was foro Btalled in the market," that is, he could not get sufficient odds to satisfy himself, and so he reserves it for a future race, when he will try to get on early for a heavy sum. Many devote their whole attention to breeding " a dark horse," and obtaining heavy oddB against ¡te winning some great event. To deceive the ring all sorts of rumours are circulated. Another stable companion is ostensibly backed, and is supposed to be "meant," when suddenly, from different quarters, commissions are issued to back the dark one, and the money is got on. The dark horse does not always win-it is generally the other way-hut the members of tho ring are keenly alive to the efforts made to bleed them, and return the attempt in kind. And so the struggle goes on; in chicanery "the gentlemen" cannot overreach " the professionals," and the result often is that eome historic nama is dragged through the mud of the Bankruptcy Court, the estate won by the Bword of some Norman baron is in the hands of "commis- sioners," and the rained owner of a title-no longer hononred as o£ yore-seeks shelter in a foreign land. The ring and the tribes have picked his bones. If I hate tbe ring bitterly it is not only that it has ruined many a noble gentleman, but that previously his honour was smirched in the contest with its members. People talk about the honour of bookmakers and their geno roBity. They pay their losseB, when they can weU afford it, because they know thoy must do so to preserve their standing and future prosperity. They are foolishly lavish, because thoy recoguiso not the value of money for which they havo not worked, and aro gene- rally considered by hotelkeepers to be lino spirited fellows, because they drink cham- pagne and smoko shilling cigars when their deserts only entitle them to beer and 'baccy.
The ordinary betting man in England is bad enough, but the highly successful ones of Victoria are worse. They are still greater rogues. Here, unfortunately, tho line ba tween gentlemen and " professionals" is not sufficiently defined, and such men as the " operator " who has initiated his country- man, Baron Grant, iu changing his Biblical name to an ordinary Anglo-Saxon one, doub'. less out of respect to the feelings of Mr. Coben, receive an amount of adulation, and ore recognised by people who should know better. It may be a lowly occupation that of selling fisb.butit is not necessarily dishonest however, lam wandering away from the train ing-ground at Flemington. Amongat all the different groups t'iere I strolled, as is my wont, listening to their talk. The jockeys and stable-boys are looked after pretty sharply by the trainers, aud I had no chance of bribing them or poisoning any horse. The lads I talked with were all very Bweeton their particular stable, and although they allowed Newminster might be first, they were pretty sure tbey knew a " oss as would be very near him at the finish." Then too, it was stated that Newminster would not be allowed to win ; " he's backed for more money than any "oss ever carried before, half a million at least, and he'll bo nobbled on the course." The belief in the powors of villainy of the bookmakers was universal and flattering, The moBt respectable portion of the company present passed their timo sit- ting on fences at the lower end of the ground, the Sydney contingent, however, adopting a peculiar stylo of squatting like a Hindoo, pensively plucking blades of grass Raoy yarna were spun by Mr. Filgate ; the new coursing club was criticised, and the whereabouts of Irish Stew was a topic of discussion. Some Baid this horse was at Woodstock, others at Ararat, bsing trained in secret for fear of its being " nobbled." What a fine manly sport racing is I There were a few real thorough gentlemen here, and amongst them Mr. Bagot, the energetic sec e> tory of the V.R.C, I know nothing of this gentleman.butlovehimforone thing. He carno up riding an old broken.down respectable looking horse, the sort of steady animal winch would convey an English farmer safe home from market dinners, finding the road when its driver, for various reasons, could not. I heard that this horse was Badger, a cele- brated steeplechaser which won many noted races. Two of his owners coratnittod suicide, tho last being that erratic poet, genius, and sportsman, Lindsay Gordon, After his death, poor Badger fell upon ovil days, his youthful prime was gone, and bia market value at last reduced to three half, crowns, for which sum he was sold to the knackers. He was being driven past Mr. Bagot's house, when that gentleman asked the man what horse it was. " Badger ! Lindsey Gordon's famous hunter going to the knackers !" Bagot's soul was wroth within him, and he swore it should not be whilst he lived. He purchased the poor old horse and turned him out to grass, and fed him with corn. Ho at least should dio happy. On this kind treatmsnt Badger waxed fad and strong, hiB youthful powers revivod, and he is now a Bteady hack, " useful to rido or drive," and, if put to it, will take a fence as lightly as of yora So his preserver is rewarded.
About the real business of tho morning, the "fast work," "striding gallops," and "gentle canters" indulged in by the favour- ites, I shall say nothing. It is all written in another column. But even to any one totally ignorant of racing matters the scene had its charms. The strings of blanketed horses gently walkingaround,others,stripped, quietly cantering ¡othersstill, racingattheirfall pace. It was an undress rehearsal. As the horses came thundering past us, it was carious to watch tho faces of tho riders. Boys, mostly in their shirt sleeves, had an eager, intent look-it was evidently hard work to thom. Some oidor jockeys had a quiet, determined appearance, tho brand of many a tough finish. The "finest horseman in Australia" was pointed out to mo as also beiae. " the -est rogue who ever put his leg over a horse," which rather neutralises his accom- plishments. But the touts ware very par ticular in watching the gallop?. Stop- watch in hand reportera and trainers care folly timed the mo: lent of starting and finishing the round of the track, criticising
the performances us the horses passed, af er wards comparing notes as to the time. Some- thing, of course, may be judged from these trials as to a horse's condition, but they are no real criterionB of the merits of rival per- formers. Touts can never tell what weights the horses carry ; shrewd trainers will not even let the riders know, and an extra 51b. Blipped under the saddle will make all the difference botweenordinary and first-rate time over the two miles. I admired the quickness of eye of many of these gentlemen ; they would separately name each of a string of clothed hoieeB, and could, without aid from their field-glasses, say the moment when per- formers began to gallop, although far away at the other side of the course. I found there was a little rivalry existing between Vic- torian and New South Wales trainers. It oppears to be thought that the struggle will bo an intercolonial one, Newminster and Tocal being the respective champions. At Tocol's performances round the Derby course a leading trainor sneered, saying, " He'll have to go a little faster than that to win« and there's a little boss down at Point Crook will show him and the rest his hind, quarters-that's all they'll see at the finish." This sentiment was highly popular with the Victorians. In this manner hour after hour passed, the touts as well as the horses receiving great benefit from inhaling the breezy morning air. I began to think that this was the correct form of existence It was healthful and lazy, and did not appear to demand any great strain on the intelloct I made up my mind to go into the touting bneiness seriously, and this resolution was not shaken after partaking of an excellent breakfast at the Racecourse Hotel. We sat down a sort of " happy family," quite as in. congruous a collection. Reporters, trainers, bookmakers, Jews and Christians, infidels una heretics, gentlemen, vagabonds, and blackguards, all made good time, the sweet breads being the principal plate for which we entered, and the performance about ' equal. Apticot jam and cream closed
tho mootiug. Afterwards there were many entries at the bar, and the smoke of prime Havannabs scented the morning air Touts enjoy themselves, and in fine weather their occupation is to be envied. On wet days, though, it must be pretty miserable, but then many of the fraternity survey the course from the hotel through their field, and other, glasses ; on such occasions the reports and tips are more than usually glowing. Touting at Flemington is amongst a large section decidedly respectable and luxurious, far different to such at Newmarket, where the needy individuals who act the spy for London bookmakers stand a good chance of being horsewhipped off the Heath by some irate trainer, if they pay too particular attention to any favourite. Still, the arrangements for touting are defective to a certain extent, and might be improved upon A few seats and card tables scattered about tho grounds, and a watorproof tent or two, would conduce to our comfort, and help some of us to pass the lazy hours profitably. I recommend this to the attention of Mr. Bagot and the committee of the V.R C.
I left the Newmarket of Australia highly pleased with my first visit. In the interest of the public I shall again visit tho training grounds, and keep a watchful oye on the touts and the cracks ; but my present tip is-for the Derby, TOCAL ; for the Cup (weather being suitable), KISMET. Giving the straight tip is ni easy as the pips-playing described by Hamlet-when you know how.