Newmarket 1852: Running For Their Lives… Literally

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at! Today’s post is another piece in my Horse Racing History series and it’s a fascinating one to say the least! I think this may be a slightly shorter post but it’s one I found interesting and wanted to share, so without further ado, let’s just get right into it!

On a Saturday in October 1852, thousands flocked to Newmarket racecourse for one reason only. The Earl of Glasgow had announced that he intended to run 6 of his horses the next day and had said:

The losers should pay the penalty of death.”

And everybody knew that this was not an idle threat, with a fellow owner George Hodgman recording:

A bad horse in his opinion was only fit to be shot. The Earl of Glasgow knew no such word as ‘hesitation’, his thinning out process by aid of the gun being a common topic of conversation at this period.”

The news of the Earls threat had spread very quickly amongst thousands which meant crowd and crowds of people headed towards the course with a morbid curiosity as to 1) if he kept his word and 2) what horses would be losing their lives.

The first horse to run was a bay filly called Senorita who run in a half mile race and was sent off as the favourite. She ran for her life – literally and ended up winning by one and a half lengths.

The second horse up was a chestnut colt called Knight of the Garter who was taking on Lord Exeter’s Ilex over one and three quarter miles. Luckily, he ended up winning by three quarters of a length.

The next horse was a bay colt called Double Thong, who was spared an expected defeat when his main opponent bolted in the wrong direction when the flag fell.

We then move onto the forth horse a brown colt called Caracara who was 1/3 favourite again a horse called Sackbut who ran in a 1 mile race. Both horses passed the line at the exact same time and everybody held their breathe until the number went up showing that Caracara had in fact won. A cheer of pure relief rang around the track.

We then move onto the fifth horse and the first horse to be partnered with a new jockey. All 4 of the previous horses were partnered with Nat Flatman, but now Tommy Lye took the ride on the 5th horse who was a sister to the previous horse Caracara, however she had not been named. The owner did not believe she deserved a name and he had previously called his horses ‘He Isn’t Worth A Name’ as well as ‘Give Him A Name’. She was relatively unfancied as she was taking on an odds on favourite for Duke of Bedford called Hesperus Across The Flat, however shockingly she beat the odds on favourite.

So now, it was the final horse’s turn to run. Another filly without a name, however the Duke of Bedford declined to start his horse called Ernestine against her, so therefore she did not run and her life was saved.

So in the end, all 6 horses were saved and went on to live another day. Some suspect that the horses had been given a helping hand, however others suspect it was all a cynical publicity stunt set up by the Earl. But truly, nobody knows if he was doing it for publicity or if he would have stuck to his word be it one or more of his horses had lost. And he never really spoke out about the situation after the day had ended either, so to this day, nobody really knows and probably never will.

I honestly found this one so interesting to read into, it’s such a crazy story and we still don’t know the real truth which makes it even crazier. What do you think? Would he have stuck to his word? Was it all a publicity stunt? Or did others help his horses along to win? I love these history posts and from what my figures show so do my audience so I have plenty more planned!

Thank you for reading and I will see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for a new post!


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