Lord Rosebery’s Turf Successes–Arthur F. Mayrick (July 1901)

A Liberal Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery is not, apparently, ranked as a particularly great leader these days, but was obviously rated more favourably back in 1901. According to Wikipedia, ‘He was widely known as a brilliant orator, an outstanding sportsman and marksman, a writer and historian, connoisseur and collector. All of these activities attracted him more than politics, which grew boring and unattractive.’ This article is all about Rosebery’s horse racing stable, although the most interesting part for me was the picture of the Rosebery as part of the Bullingdon Club, an infamous Oxford drinking club which another recent British Prime Minister was also a member of.



Of Lord Rosebery’s many biographers few have ever dealt at any great length with his remarkable turf successes. Most of us know that his mother, Lady Stanhope, married the Duke of Cleveland; but it may not be generally known that as a sportsman he inherits his love for horse-racing from the Clevelands. But one has to only turn up the pages of an old “Weatherby’s” to find that, among many victories, one of his lordship’s relatives won the St. Leger of 1831 with a colt called Chorister, which beat two dozen starters.

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Lord Rosebery’s love of sport early developed itself; indeed, apart from his strong liking for horse-racing, his Eton companions soon saw his keenness for all manly pastimes. Lord Rosebery was at Eton in 1864 and the two following years, and I am indebted to his lordship for the accompanying photographs of his college days and turf career.

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Oxford to his lordship was a sort of “go as you please.” There was a smart sporting set there during the three years “he was up,” and racing seemed more in his line than real study. To quote the words of one intimately acquainted with him at Christ Church: “Oxford in Lord Rosebery’s days was not the Oxford of the present time. There is now no Bullingdon sports or running to Aylesbury or Moreton chases; indeed, so far as district horse-racing is concerned, not only have the Port Meadow races long since been done away with, but the last has also been seen of those pleasant ‘grinds.'” The “Bullingdon” referred to was a sporting club, and I am here allowed to reproduce a most interesting photograph of a group of its members at that date. Of Lord Rosebery’s Oxford companions there were in the hard riding division Mr. C. S. Newton, Lord Melgund, who used to take the assumed name of “Mr. Rolly,” and Lord Willoughby de Broke, Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir William Milner, Earl of Ilchester, Sir George Chetwynd, Lord Lansdowne, Major L. Rolleston (wounded in South Africa, but since appointed on the Yeomanry Commission), and Mr. W. H. P. Jenkins, who, like Mr. Newton, Lord Willoughby de Broke, and Sir George Chetwynd, is at the present day a prominent member of the National Hunt Committee. Apart from those with keen interests in hunting and racing, the “key” to the photograph of the Bullingdon Club further shows many eminent names of Lord Rosebery’s contemporaries at Oxford.

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It will be seen that Lord Rosebery forms a conspicuous figure of the Bullingdon group, the photograph of which was taken at Christ Church; but their club ground, where its members used “to sport,” was a little way out of Oxford–in fact, was held on the same ground upon which the barracks now stand. One who knew it well tells me that all the men of highest social standing belonged to the club, and they used to dine about three times a year in a barn, lent by the owner of the ground. Festive cricket (although many good cricketers played) and horse races were the chief amusements, and it was here that the “Dark Blues” got fit for their battles at Aylesbury with Cambridge. Oxford riders were more numerous than those of Cambridge, but the latter was not far behind Oxford, for Mr. J. Maunsell Richardson, a sort of Dick Christian, came over to Aylesbury in that era. It is true that Lord Rosebery never “sported silk” himself, but he took more than ordinary interest in these competitions; in fact, he ran several steeple-chasers with varied success. It was at Aylesbury, one of the finest natural steeplechase courses in the kingdom, that the two Universities had most of their fun. Mr. C. S. Newton was the first man to ride and win for his lordship. He had the honour of wearing the delicate racing livery, and no more appropriate set of colours are registered at Old Burlington Street. The rose and primrose hoops are a pretty combination, as compared with the pink and black stripe and cap of the Marquis of Cleveland. The rose and primrose is an amalgamation of Lord Rosebery’s family names, and it was in 1869 that Mr. C. S. Newton first put them on to ride in a steeplechase confined to Oxford undergraduates, decided at Moreton in the Marsh. It was, too, a lucky start for Lord Rosebery. His horse, Tipperary Boy, and Mr. Newton, came in second; but Reveller, the winner, was subsequently found not qualified to run, and thus did Lord Rosebery win his first race.

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It has often been asked whether his lordship ever presented otherwise than his present clean-shaven and studious appearance; but Baily of 1870, as will be seen from the photographs on page 49, decides the point.

The Moreton contest took place in February, 1869, but on the 18th of March of the same year a match was run, which excited considerable interest, between the late Sir William Milner and Lord Rosebery over two miles and a half of the Aylesbury country for £25 a side. Lord Rosebery was represented by The Fawn, the mount of Mr. Newton, and Mr. Richardson rode Cora Pearl for Sir William. Odds of 6 to 4 were freely betted on Lord Rosebery’s mare, and the match, Mr. Newton tells me, was made overnight and strengthened the second day’s card. I well recollect Mr. “Dick” Fowler, of Broughton, weighing out the two undergraduates. Few could then have anticipated that Mr. Richardson would subsequently turn out the rider of two Grand National winners, or that Mr. Newton would eventually take so prominent a part in the welfare of the National Hunt. The only thing that marred the affair was the rain. Mr. Richardson recollects this, too. He writes: “What a drenching Charlie Newton and myself got riding as fine a run race as you could wish to see, and I just won by a neck.” Mr. Newton, also trusting to memory for over thirty years, says: “Mr. Richardson and myself lay close together all the way, and Sir William Milner’s mare just stayed the longer and won by three parts of a length. The going was very deep.” It was a most sportsmanlike affair, and perhaps inspired Lord Rosebery a few years later to indulge in so many similar contests on the flat, for in the autumn of the same year (1869) as The Fawn was beaten at Aylesbury, in a match for £200 a side at Newmarket he successfully engaged a horse called Ladas against Badsworth. This was perhaps more memorable than the said steeplechase, for at Newmarket the betting was even between the pair, the verdict was a head, and it was won by the first horse Lord Rosebery ever ran in the Derby. Subsequently his lordship was most successful in single-handed contests with Controversy, Touchet, Mars, and others.

Before leaving Oxford Lord Rosebery sold his steeplechasers and took a trip abroad with the late Marquis of Bute, but he was soon home again and began to race under the Jockey Club rules. He was very much in earnest. He had purchased the Lambton colt, Ladas, with a view to Epsom. The horse had not been beaten as a two-year-old, and expectation ran high during the spring that the colt would carry out one of his lordship’s much talked-of Eton wishes and win the Derby. But Pretender won for Sir Robert Jardine, and Ladas was unplaced.

Eagerly as he started flat racing, it may not be generally known that his lordship soon afterward very nearly gave up the pursuit. This was owing to a horse he owned called Mavela. At Stockton (1869) in a small race Mavela started a warm favourite, but he cut up so badly that a writer in the sporting Press, making comment on the event, touched the proud spirit and dignity of his lordship. Indeed, he took the matter as an insult, and at once declared he would “sell off,” and it was common talk that Lord Rosebery’s turf career had early ended. Eventually, however, the newspaper retracted the uncalled-for remarks, but it was some months before he could be persuaded by his friends to reconsider his determination.

The first Ladas having failed, Lord Rosebery was again making an effort at Epsom in 1876. In this year he held three original Derby nominations of his own. Neither, however, ran, but Lord Rosebery relied on All Heart, a half-brother to Doncaster, which had cost a good deal of money as a yearling, the race; All Heart was three others who walked crowd. But previous to All Heart, Lord Rosebery nearly won his first Derby with Couronne de Fer, a colt he purchased from the late Mr. Padwick. He was second to George Frederick. In 1879, a moderate year, in which Sir Bevys won, “the rose and primrose” was placed on Visconti. Then, two years later, Town Moor, another yearling purchase, was third to Iroquois and Peregrine. It was just at this period that his lordship owned the smartest filly that ever carried his colours, called Kermesse.

Before the second Ladas had achieved the height of Lord Rosebery’s ambition the subject of this memoir had not been idle in other races of interest. Harking back to 1873, he had won the Gimcrack Stakes at York with Padoroshna, the City and Suburban with Aldrich and Roysterer, the July Stakes with Levant, the Lincolnshire Handicap first with Controversy and then with Touchet, the Cambridgshire with La Merveille, the Chester Cup with Prudhomme, the Ascot Stakes with Ridotto, and the Northumberland Plate with Snail, who also won the Liverpool Cup after a desperate finish with Petrarch. Controversy also won this event; again, too, there was Vista in the Great Metropolitan at Epsom the same week as Roysterer won “the City,” and she also won the Great Yorkshire Handicap at Doncaster in 1883, the year Lord Rosebery won his first classic race, the Oaks, with Bonny Jean. Then came a blank of about ten years, caused by a most regrettable family loss and a spell of politics which led up to his lordship’s office of Prime Minister. But Markham and Griffiths had kept the stud up at Mentmore, and Illuminata in the meantime had produced the great Ladas. As a two-year-old he was never beaten, and, with the exception of the afternoon when Persimmon won the Prince of Wales, now King Edward, his first Derby, such a scene on Epsom Downs never occurred as when Lord Rosebery, as Prime Minister, walked to the weighing-room door at the side of the hero who had just won for him the ambition of his Eton days. It is still green in my memory, that pale face by the side of Hampton’s third Derby winner as he entered the little saddling inclosure; what a volley of cheers; what a raising of hats; what excitement beyond words! It was, I venture to say, the proudest moment of his lordship’s life. But as the old adage says, “It never rains but it pours.” Sir Visto did the same thing the very next season to Ladas. Expectations of success were great in 1897 with Velasquez and Chelandry, for if the latter won the One Thousand Guineas, Limasol stopped the way in the Oaks and Galtee More beat her in the St. Leger. It was Mr. Gubbins’s colt that also prevented Velasquez from winning both the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby. In 1899 Tom Cringle’s Ascot Stakes victory was the chief event won for Lord Rosebery, and a worse season was that of 1900, for the popular jacket on only one occasion first caught the judge’s eye.

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In a career extending over some thirty-three years Lord Rosebery in attaining so many successes may be said to have employed the best of talent. In his many chops and changes he has had some seven or eight trainers, and I am unable to count the number of jockeys who have assisted him in his efforts. When he purchased the first Ladas–he bred the second–the late James Dover became his lordship’s trainer, and held the post from 1868 to 1876, when the horses were removed from that quaintly-built village of East Ilsley to Russley. The late Mr. Dover was in the zenith of his fame when he took charge of Lord Rosebery’s racers, Lord Lyon and Achievement having earned a great reputation for the Ilsley stable. But Dover did very little for Lord Rosebery until 1874, when Aldrich won the City and Suburban. Controversy was also one of Dover’s best early cards; the horse could stay fairly well, and he was most useful in the matches already referred to. Controversy won three, but the one over which Dover became more delighted was that run at Ascot. Well do I recollect the excitement it caused. It was one of those old-fashioned affairs, that arose out of a runaway victory of Lowlander on the first day of the meeting. The wagering between the pair was very heavy, and Lowlander, who was giving weight away to Controversy, was the favourite at 6 to 4 on. A close contest had been eagerly anticipated, but such did not prove to be the case; the mile and a quarter was too far for Lowlander, and he was beaten a couple of lengths.

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After Lord Rosebery’s horses left East Ilsley, Dover had many good racers under his charge, and of these Bruce was the unluckiest horse to have been beaten at Epsom in Shotover’s Derby. Bruce’s picture hangs on the walls of the Ilsley home, where also are pictures of Achievement and Lord Lyon; but when once paying Dover a visit there I have no recollection of having seen any souvenir to commemorate Lord Rosebery’s connection with the stable. The late Mr. James Dover died some years ago, and a granite monument in the little churchyard on the hill above his late home and stables marks the career of a genial trainer and one of the old school.

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Lord Rosebery’s horses in training were in the same county when in 1877, 1878, and 1879 they were with Mr. Robert Peck, who rendered Russley famous with such as Bend Or and his sire Doncaster, and it cannot be said that he did badly in large handicaps during the three years he trained for Lord Rosebery. In 1877 the first important races he won for his lordship were the New Stakes at Ascot and the victory of Snail over Petrarch at Liverpool already referred to, but the next year was not an important one. Attached to it there was a deal of ill-luck, and particularly so in the autumn, when Lord Rosebery respectively ran second and third for the Cambridgeshire with Touchet and La Merveille, the pair falling against one of the horses of the century in Isonomy. The money lost here was however recovered in the spring and autumn of 1879, for Touchet won the Lincoln Handicap, La Merveille the Cambridgeshire, and Ridotto the Ascot Stakes. The end here came between Lord Rosebery and Mr. Peck, and Robert I’Anson at Epsom took charge of the horses; Constable, as at Ilsley and Russley, being first jockey to the stable. Constable was a quiet, unassuming, and good-natured man, and a special favourite of both Lord and Lady Rosebery; indeed, during his illness, which terminated fatally, her ladyship was a frequent visitor at Constable’s home hard by The Durdans. Constable was a bright-eyed, intelligent jockey, and although he always finished with a slack rein and in a style different to that of Archer or the Cannons, he could always keep a horse straight. Constable’s name is to be found enrolled among many of the earlier of Lord Rosebery’s turf victories.

While Mr. Peck trained some of his lordship’s horses at Russley, Robert I’Anson had others at Epsom, and when at The Durdans Lord Rosebery often used to take his morning breather to the Downs to see the horses at work. I’Anson had many good racers and jumpers under his care besides those of Lord Rosebery, and it is not a little curious that he trained both Hampton and Illuminata, the sire and dam of Ladas, the Derby winner. Besides Illuminata, who only won one race for Lord Rosebery, and Hampton, who then belonged to Mr. Harvey, I’Anson had also noted horses like the National winner, Austerlitz, Touchet, Charles I., and Bacchus under his care. He gave up training after his severe accident at Sandown Park in 1881. It may not be generally known that I’Anson was born on the Marquis of Waterford’s estate, at Waterford, in 1850, had his first ride in 1861, and his first win three years later at the now defunct Harrow meeting. As a jockey over fences and hurdles he had few if any equals, and now he is one of the chief officials at Sandown. His second son, born May 12th, 1879, I may mention, was named Archibald Philip after Lord Rosebery, who stood as his godfather.

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From Epsom his lordship, as a training quarter, tried Newmarket, where he engaged Joseph Cannon as his private trainer, and from 1881 to 1883 he had great success. Constable’s health failing him, Tom Cannon was in possession of the riding, and he achieved feats upon Kermesse for the stable. Both the Cannons were born in Eton town, and it is the opinion of brother Tom that Kermesse was the best racer of Lord Rosebery’s he ever crossed. This good filly was not bred at Mentmore, but at Blankney, and Lord Rosebery purchased her as a yearling. She won all the chief two-year-old races in 1881. Other good racers which Cannon prepared for Lord Rosebery were Prudhomme, Vista, the dam of Sir Visto, Roysterer, and the Oaks victress Bonny Jean. A clever and able trainer is Joseph Cannon, and a fine horseman was Tom. But Danebury has always been the home of good jockeys. Besides young Tom, there are Mornington, Kempton, and a still younger brother, and we have had riders like Watts, S. Loates, Brown, and others emanating from the Hampshire stable; and of this party Watts won Lord Rosebery his first classic race–the Oaks–on Bonny Jean. The only Derby winner Tom Cannon every rode was Shotover, and if you ask “Joe” his greatest feat he will probably tell you it occurred in 1876, when on Regal, after an exciting contest, he defeated Congress in the National by a neck.

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During the ten years’ retirement of Lord Rosebery, Matthew Dawson had given up training, and had gone to live at Exning, but on his lordship’s return to turf affairs he persuaded Mr. Dawson to take a few of the Mentmore bred ones, and he was at once rewarded by having Ladas. Mr. Dawson naturally came in for a host of congratulations from his lordship and his many friends. Ladas as a two-year-old, in the hands of A. White, won all his four races; but Watts was engaged for the three-year-old contests, and won the Guineas and the Derby on him. The praises of Mr. Dawson have too often been sung to need enumerating here, and it requires no words from my pen to eulogize the feats of a man who had trained twenty-eight classic winners, this number including eight Derbies, five Oaks, and half-a-dozen St. Legers. Matthew Dawson’s four years with Lord Rosebery saw a second Derby and a St. Leger winner in Sir Visto, and ill-health compelled Mr. Dawson to seek assistance, first from Mr. Felix Leach and then from Mr. Walters, jun. Mr. Leach’s association with Derby winners is somewhat remarkable. He looked after Melton; he broke in Ayrshire and Sir Visto; he took Ladas to Epson, and was with Richard Marsh at Egerton Lodge when Persimmon scored his great victory for our present King Edward VII. Mr. Leach, who is standing at the head of Ladas, with Watts in the saddly, in the portrait I reproduce, has, to use his own words, been among horses all his life, and he is, at the time of writing, preparing Orchid, a son of Orme, one of the winter fancies for the recent Derby. Mr. Leach was in partnership with Mr. Dawson at the time of the veteran’s death.

It was in 1896 that Mr. Walters, jun., took charge of the horses, and he had a real good time that year with Velasquez and Chelandry. When Velasquez made his first and victorious début in the New Stakes at Ascot, Lord Rosebery, I recollect, narrowly eyeing the colt after his success, turned to Mr. Leopold de Rothschild and made some remarks suggestive that he might turn out better than Ladas. But both Velasquez and Chelandry were unlucky to have been born in the same year as Galtee More, for Mr. Gubbins’s colt defeated the former in the Middle Park Plate, Guineas, and Derby, while the Irishman also disposed of Chelandry for the St. Leger. The expectations formed of Velasquez were not realized, but he did better next season, when Charles Wood became jockey to Lord Rosebery’s stable, and at the end of 1898 the horses were transferred to that well-known rider, who has established a nice house and stables at Jevington, in Sussex.

Velasquez, Wood tells me, was the best horse he has every ridden for Lord Rosebery, and he seems a bit disheartened that the stock of Ladas has not turned out so well as anticipated. But, then, there is plenty of time for an improvement in matters, for I do not believe in the report that Lord Rosebery intents to altogether retire from a sport which so long has afforted him so much enjoyment.

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Again looking back over Lord Rosebery’s racing career, it will be seen that most of our best jockeys, besides those already named, have had the honour of wearing the rose and primrose jacket. It was Custance who rode the unplaced Ladas in Pretender’s Derby; it was the late Tom Chaloner, the rider of Macaroni, who steered the horse in his match with Badsworth; again he piloted Padoroshna in the Gimcrack Stakes of 1876. Then I recollect among other events Fordham wearing the colours on Levant in the July Stakes at Newmarket. These jockeys whose portraits are here reproduced from photographs when at their best all earned Derby honours. Fordham is in the colours of the late Mr. Drewitt, to whom he served his apprenticeship; Custance in the puce and lilac sleeves; and Tom Chaloner in the late Mr. R. C. Naylor’s livery, which he wore on Macaroni. For the latter’s portrait I am indebted to his widow, and mother of the brothers training now at Newmarket. Mrs. Chaloner is very keen on the now much-discussed subject of race-riding. In a letter to me she says: “I ill compare the new school to the old,” and as regards her husband, she thinks for judgment of pace, patience, hands, coolness of head, and conduct of a race he had no superiors, and boldly asserts in her postscript: “No American would have beaten him.”

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As a portrait and autograph of the late Fred Archer so recently appeared in The Strand Magazine in an article on the Prince of Wales and his jockeys, it is not necessary to repeat it here, but he often rode for Lord Rosebery and won him the only important cup he was ever successful in–that was on Controversy at York in 1876. Finally I may mention that, of other riders, C. Morbey for his lordship carried off the City and Suburban on Aldrich in 1874 and the Northumberland Plate on Snail in 1876; Luke the Shrewsbury Handicap of 1879 on Rhidorroch; Lemaire the Chester Cup of 1882 on Prudhomme; Gallon the City and Suburban of 1883 on Roysterer; Fagan the Royal Hunt Cup, 1896, on Quarrel; and S. Loates, besides the Derby and St. Leger on Sir Visto, steered Vista, the latter’s dam, to victory both in the Metropolitan Stakes at Epsom and the Great Yorkshire Handicap at York. Watts is here depicted on Ladas, taken shortly after the Derby. He is the only jockey who can boast of having won the Derby for a King and a Premier. T. Loates’s best successes in Lord Rosebery’s colours were on Chelandry in the Woodcote and Velasquez in the New Stakes. As a two-year-old A. White steered Ladas in four victorious races. He rode the horse in his trial, which took place in the presence of Lord Rosebery and Mr. Dawson, and White was engaged by his lordship to ride for a season. His lordship in making presents to his racing employes mostly forwards cheques, and White received over £400 in presents for his services in 1893.

In a great and honourable career like that of Lord Rosebery a trainer and jockey mostly come in for all the praise bestowed when the horses are running, and especially so when they are winning; but it is very few folks who turn a thought to the man who has reared and weaned the stock on which hundreds and hundreds of pounds depend. In the early days the anxiety of the stud groom is as great as that of the trainer later on, the jockey coming in, perhaps, for the least liability. Mr. Griffiths at Mentmore, the home of Lord Rosebery’s young stock, no doubt has his times of trouble, but he is a man of much experience and enjoys the fullest confidence of Lord Rosebery. Mr. Griffiths was born in 1846, and went to The Durdans as stud groom in 1878, but on the death of Mr. Markham he took charge of the Mentmore stud. Mr. Griffiths is of opinion that Ladas is the best race-horse ever owned by Lord Rosebery.

As I have already stated, Lord Rosebery’s career has been an extended one, starting in 1868; but, not including hurdle races and steeplechases, his successes on the flat have been very marked; the best year being 1896, when eighteen races ran to the value of £20,592.

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