Ruthless Battle; Pitiless Battel
1860s and onwards, both of the Dent and the Jardine resorted to the same tactics.
Each side veiling their moves in the deepest secrecy, each determined that the other would not win the Hongkong Challenge Cup.
The cup incidentally a Shanghailander, possibly jaundiced, described as ‘probably the ugliest piece of plate which was ever run for on a racecourse.’
The outcome was that each year one or other side purchased at high price a valuable English or Australian horse.
These raced first at the February meeting in Hongkong, and were then brought up for the May meeting in Shanghai.
When the Dents’ GODOLPHIN, making his first appearance, won the Oriental Cup in Shanghai , his rider received an ovation.
The Jardine side next purchased SIR WILLIAM.
He showed unmistakable signs of winning the Hongkong Challenge Cup race twice.
The Dents bought EXETER, a splendid Australian horse who was to have a fine career in the China races.
EXETER outran SIR WILLIAM, whereupon someone in the Jardine fraternity bought HADDINGTON, who beat EXETER.
The same happened when EXETER and HADDINGTON were entered together.
That year there were six races for horses, and the largest field in any race was three.
1867-02-20 Wednesday, one of the great races in the annals of the Hongkong turf, the Challenge Cup.
The Challenge Cup, it will be remembered, value 500 guineas, two miles.
For all horses—Arabs 9 st., Colonials under 5 years, 10 st., 5 years and upwards, 10 st. 4 lb., English horses under 5 years. 11 st., 5 years and upwards, 11 st. 7 lb.
It had already been won twice in succession by the same horse and owner.
EXETER, owned by Wilkinson Dent, had won the race the previous year.
EXETER had in fact for the past two years been winning most of the best prizes.
The previous day he had won the valuable German Cup. It was an all-out challenge to the Jardines.
The weather was dull and gloomy, but steady. Five came to the post.
All were from either the Dent or the Jardine stables.
A large crowd gathered near the start..
Jardine hopes were pinned on Captain King’s HADDINGTON, who had beaten EXETER in Shanghai, and on Muirhouse’s SIR WILLIAM,
though with the proviso that SIR WILLIAM, once in the lead, could not stand being passed; he lost heart.
Dent entered two of his best, EXETER and PATHFINDER. Prior to the race he declared to win with PATHFINDER.
This, causing suitable betting confusion, was to become a familiar practice in Hongkong and Shanghai, when a single owner entered two possible winners in the same race.
By declaring to win on one, and with a nice arrangement of his wagers, he sometimes stood to gain as much or more if the other horse won.
The start was a good one [the China Mail correspondent reported], all getting away on pretty equal terms.
Passing the stand the first time, HADDINGTON was leading by a clear length, SIR WILLIAM second, PATHFINDER, EXETER, and QUEEN MARY bringing up the rear.
At the turn SIR WILLIAM drew past HADDINGTON and went away with a good lead.
At the Black Rock was about twelve lengths in advance of HADDINGTON, EXETER and PATHFINDER close together about a couple of lengths behind, HADDINGTON and QUEEN MARY falling away.
At the village [Wongneichong, tucked away in the upper part of the valley] SIR WILLIAM still held a commanding lead, and appeared to be going strongly, and passing the grand stand the second time was still the same distance ahead.
It looked all set for a Jardine win.
EXETER and PATHFINDER then raced up to HADDINGTON and passed him at the hill.
EXETER being let out, gradually drew up until at the village he reached SIR WILLIAM and passed him at the turn into the run in.
At the distance PATHFINDER was called upon, and responded in the gamest possible manner, passing SIR WILLIAM about a hundred yards from the winning post.
For SIR WILLIAM to be passed twice was disaster. He was out.
The correspondent, however, continued in all innocence:
But though EXETER was hard pulled, PATHFINDER could not quite reach him, thus making EXETER the winner of the Hongkong Challenge Cup, he having won it two years in succession.
EXETER being ‘hard pulled’ can only be described as sleight-of-hand. PATHFINDER was beaten by a diplomatic — or financial — half-length.
SIR WILLIAM, beaten by three lengths, was led off the course ‘dead lame’ — psychosomatic, probably.
Mr. Rarey’s EXETER won from Mr. Rarey’s PATHFINDER (Mr. Maitland) second, and Mr. Muirhouse’s SIR WILLIAM (Mr. Smith) third.
In racing name of Rarey, Wilkinson Dent carried off the ugly but desirable Cup. They had won, beating the Jardine brigade at last.
That was in February. By October, Dent’s legend faded out and was no more.
July, a pitiable auction was held at which the horses and ponies of the Scarlet stable came under the hammer.
Business was not good, and bidding was languid.
Significantly, a China pony fetched the highest price, 900 taels.
The splendid EXETER went for only 500 taels.
Shanghai’s champion Arab, SULTAN, with a decade of victories behind him, was knocked down for a mere 50 taels.
Exeter (Listeni/ˈɛksɨtə/ or /ˈɛksɨtər/) is a historic city in Devon, England. It was the most south-westerly Roman fortified settlement in Britain, with the longest functioning city council.
John Rarey technique is a method of calming horses that have become vicious and fearful of humans due to abusive handling or other traumatic events.
Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.