Running Rein: The Disqualified Epsom Derby Winner

Hi Guys!

Welcome to a new post in my Horse Racing History series. Today’s is a shorter post, however I found it very interesting so thought I would share!

On July 1st 1844, The Epsom Derby was run as normal, or so everybody thought… Let’s get straight into it.

For some context, the Derby is a race held every year, starting in 1780 and as continued up until today. The race itself is a race that is run over one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards and is open to three year old colts and fillies and is classed as one of the Classics of the flat racing season.

In the weeks leading up to the 1844 running of The Derby, rumours had started circling in regards to two attempts to substitute three year old horses with similar horses who were four years old and much stronger and mature. At the time Lord George Bentinck who was a well known gambler and owner as well as owning his own stables, sent formal objections to the Epsom Stewards alongside multiple other racehorse owners. However the Jockey Club refused to act.

Nevertheless, The Derby was run as normal. Running Rein owned by Abraham Levi Goodman won The Derby, beating Orlando. However, all was not as it seemed. When returning to the paddock, suspicion was raised by idol gossip of those in attendance, so severe were these suspicions that the horse and jockey were both greeted with catcalls and jeers when returning to the winners circle.

Following the on-going rumours, Lord George Bentinck filed suit on behalf of the runner up, Orlando’s, owners. They declared that they believed the winner, ‘Running Rein’ was not in fact 3 years old and further than that, that ‘Running Rein’ was not even ‘Running Rein’, he was in fact a four year old horse named Maccabeus.

A little later on, a London courtroom was packed out by horse racing enthusiasts who sat through hours and hours of testimony as to the vetting of ‘Running Rein’. This included a local hairdresser who sold hair dye to disguise tell-tale markings on the horse in question. The owner of the horse Abraham Levi Goodman, was told to show the horse to the court. His lawyers at this point admitted that ‘Running Rein’ had vanished and that their client had, for the first time, conceded that ‘some fraud had been practiced’.

It was described by the Solicitor General as ‘a gross and scandalous fraud’. At this point it was deemed that Abraham Levi Goodman was so desperate to win The Derby that he had brought four year old Maccabeus to run in the place of Running Rein. Previous to Goodman buying this horse he had been entered to run in races under his own name, so to keep the lie under wraps, he brought a five year old horse to compete as Maccabeaus. As Maccabeaus was four years old and there had been a massive case of fraud, ‘Running Rein’ was disqualified and the race was awarded to the original runner up, Orlando.

It was later found that this was done, not only to win The Derby, but also due to a monstrous betting ring who had plans to defraud bookmakers. Following one of the biggest scandals in racing, even to today, Lord George Bentinck made strenuous efforts to eliminate fraud within the sport. He proposed a set of rules to cover racing to limit the corruption involved in making and settlement of bets. Another interesting fact is that he is credited with inventing the flag start at race meetings, when introducing this at a race meeting at Goodwood. Prior to this, races were always started by the starter shouting. Just two years after the incident happened, he committed himself to his political career due to his father reportedly disapproving of his activity within racing and gambling, so he sold his entire stable and racing team for just £10,000Reportedly this was a very very low price for the facilities he had at the time.

I tried to research into what had actually happened to the real Running Rein, however I could not find any information whatsoever as to where he was or what had happened to him.

A little bit shorter than my regular posts, but I found this one interesting and thought I would share. Racing has come a long way since back then and there is no way that this would happen in today’s day and age. I hope you all enjoyed this story as much as I did!


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