The Court put to Shame
1854-04-04, after the ‘Battle of Muddy Flat’ which was fought across the exposed and dangerous open-field of the racecourse and recreation ground, Shanghai came out of instability.
1855, the first race-meeting at the New Park was held in May, when there was peace, no fear of warlike interruption.
For the first time horses — Arab, English, Australian (from Sydney) and studbred — raced together in Shanghai.
Hongkong had raced horses from the start, as was only fitting in close Court circles.
Inevitably, when Shanghai also took to racing horses, there came polite challenges traveling south across the seas.
Why not sent up some of your horses to our races?
The racing men of Hongkong seemed to have been doubtful about this.
Perhaps they knew those brash young men up north.
Instead of sending a horse, they presented a Hong Kong Cup — rather a decent response, but slightly patronizing?
The Cup was courteously received, though a cliché with a just perceptible yawn.
The polite challenge was repeated as before.
In the spring of the following year after the Hong Kong Cup anecdote, the racing men of Hongkong finally allowed themselves to be drawn.
Taking no chances in the matter of Hongkong’s unquestionable superiority to backwoods areas like Shanghai, the champion Arab, OMAR PASHA, was sent up.
OMAR PASHA’s achievements in the Hongkong races were known in Shanghai.
Mutual approval was shown at Hongkong sending its best.
OMAR PASHA was a hot favourite, entered for the major race of the first day, the Paoshan Cup.
He was a complete let-down.
‘He proved himself the most contemptible cur that ever ran round a course,’ said someone who had evidently lost money on him.
On the second day, OMAR PASHA, apparently deterred by defeat, went to the post and refused to move.
The race was run without him.
Shanghai had a field day.
‘If they want to try the speed of our races, let them send up a horse, not a moke!’ the Shanghainese crowed.
To give everyone their due, OMAR PASHA was entered for the Autumn Meeting.
This in Shanghai produced the desired effect.
He was evidently still game for a win, and wagers were made accordingly, with due regard to the fact that he was racing against CHEERFUL.
This was the meeting at which CHEERFUL was beaten by CANROBERT for the second time.
A disappointing day for him, one would say.
Not for the Shanghainese. CHEERFUL beat OMAR PASHA by three lengths.
“Send him back to Hongkong,” said the racing men of Shanghai in their most exuberant tone.
They had never expected such a walkover as this — “where he may perhaps again shine in the short distances. He is quite unfit for the Shanghai turf.”
Really satisfactory when dealing with the Court; it is, after all, the sport of kings.
Hongkong tried again.
In the spring, they sent up two of their best, TARTAR, an Arab, and DRUID, an Australian who was a star of the Hongkong races.
TARTAR had no chance against Shanghai’s best Arab, SULTAN, while DRUID showed up miserably.
‘Our Hongkong friends do not shine in the specimens they send here. We would appeal to some Hongkong sportsmen to send up something more worthy of our competition. We are quite prepared to meet them.’
Worse followed at the Autumn Meeting, the principal feature of which was:
“the debut and hollow defeat of another Hongkong animal, YELLOW JACK, from the same stable as TARTAR and OMAR PASHA, trained personally by ‘Mr Chance’.
YELLOW JACK did nothing in Hongkong, but in Singapore he was a real ‘flyer’.
It was said he was disposed of to the Shanghai Municipal Council, and harnessed to one of those nice little traps in the Lord Mayor’s yard.
Delivering the coup de grace, Mackenzie the following February took CANROBERT and SYDNEY down to Hongkong, rode them himself, and won four out of the six Cups.
Hongkong shied off Shanghai’s challenge to the May meeting after this.
That was a full circle of the first phrase of racing abroad by Hongkong contenders.
OMAR PASHA Latas (Turkish: Ömer Paşa,1806–1871) was an Ottoman general and governor.
CANROBERT, named after Maréchal Canrobert (1809-06-27 – 1895-01-28), was a politician and marshal of France.
DRUID was named after a member of the educated, professional class among the Celtic peoples of Gaul, Britain, Ireland, and possibly elsewhere during the Iron Age.
SULTAN, a noble title, derived from the verbal noun سلطة sulṭah, meaning “authority” or “power”.
YELLOW JACK, one of the Actinopterygii class, Perciformes order fishes of large size, with ordinary taste.
Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah for relevant content.