Doubtable Game; Disputable Race
1883-02-24 Off Day, the first record of an alleged indecent race.
Officially, each Annual Meeting was of three days only, with ten or eleven races per day.
But there was always a fourth day, the “Off Day”, usually the following Saturday afternoon.
1883-02-24, the weather was much colder on Saturday than on the three previous days.
But there had never previously been such a large company in the Happy Valley, on an “Off Day”.
For some time it seemed that there would be no race for the Ambassador Cup.
Only Mr Brandt had weighted to ride SCOTCH REEL which belonging to F S Gordon’s stable.
Mr Fraser-Smith, however, at length entered another pony, CUTTY SARK, observing he did so on behalf of the public.
Thus to prevent what would have been a gratuitous insult to the donor of the Cup, as it would be better than a walk over.
Mr Fraser-Smith, the joint owner of SCOTCH REEL and sole owner of CUTTY SARK, made a suggestion to Mr Sheppard, who was Steward In-charge of the weighing room.
In order to make a race he should start the last named and let the pair run on their merits.
The ponies belonging to either stable, Mr Sheppard agreed urgently.
But it was pointed out to him that both ponies would be run in the same interest.
Messrs Gordon and Fraser-Smith had declared a confederacy throughout the meeting.
Mr Smith then declared the confederacy dissolved, and stated the ponies would run in opposing interests.
Mr Coxon, the gentleman who had been officiating as starter throughout the meeting, subsided after this rebuff and allowed the race to start.
The Ambassador Cup – presented by Mr St Vincent for all beaten Griffins, One Mile and a half
The two ponies went to the post, started and covered the course.
SCOTCH REEL (P Brandt) took the lead and both ponies ran the first round very easily.
But after going past the Rock, CUTTY SARK (Gun) was sent along.
He ultimately won the race by about three-quarters of a length.
SCOTCH REEL being apparently hard held all the way down the straight, and not let out until it was too late.
CUTTY SARK won by the right side of the post, though SCOTCH REEL considerably decreased the lead.
However, that was the controversial finish of a historical two-horse-race.
1. CUTTY SARK (Mr Gun) Mr R Fraser-Smith
2. SCOTCH REEL (Mr P Brandt) Mr F S Gordon
An unpleasant scenes occurred in the weighing room immediately after the race.
Mr Fraser-Smith entered, Mr Coxon, the starter, and one of the stewards, asked him some explanation would have to be made with regard to the race.
Coxon and the other stewards thought it was a most disgraceful affair.
He said it was no race, and the cup ought to be withheld, the race ought to be three competitors.
Mr Fraser-Smith in a somewhat excited manner, and argued that the cup was given unconditionally and could have been walked over for.
He merely sent the other pony out to make a race for the amusement of the public.
He contended that both according to the rules of the Race Fund and to precedent, he was entitled to walkover if he so desired, but he didn’t.
If Mr Coxon could find that he or any person connected with him betted so much to report it to the Stewards.
Mr Coxon said that was Mr Fraser-Smith’s mere quibbling but agreed the race nothing about betting, and still strongly insisted according to the rules there should be three competitors.
Mr Fraser-Smith struck back against Mr Coxon’s insult; said that was disgraceful Mr Coxon told a lie.
Mr Coxon reminded Mr Fraser-Smith had better put it all in his newspaper; referring to the Hongkong Telegraph of which Mr Smith was editor and proprietor.
Mr Fraser-Smith replied it was nothing to do with the paper.
After a few more words the belligerents parted and the racing proceeded.
At the end of the races Mr Fraser-Smith came for his Ambassador Cup trophy.
Mr Tripp, the Clerk of the Course said a protest had been lodged by Mr Coxon, and the cup would be sent up to the Club pending the decision of the stewards.
But as soon as he had the permission of the stewards, he would hand the cup over to Mr Fraser-Smith.
Mr Tripp left, upon which Mr Fraser-Smith re-entered the weighing room, he took the cup from the table, telling the clerk that he would hold him blameless in the matter, and went out.
The clerk followed Mr Smith out, and informed Mr Tripp of what had taken place.
Mr Fraser-Smith persisted, however, in this intention to address Mr Tripp and Mr Coxon, and excitedly claimed his right to the cup and vindicated what he had done.
Mr Tripp advised him to let the matter drop there, and to remember that they were on the Racecourse.
Mr Fraser-Smith said everyone who was there was of opinion that he was in the right.
The unpleasant scene then came to an end.
The incident was reported in newspapers, among those Hongkong Telegraph with full pages coverage.
Governor Henry May also recorded it in his 《Notes on Pony and Horse Racing in Hong Kong 1845-1887》Page 33 & 34:
“At no time have professional Jockeys been permitted to ride. To this circumstance and to the thoroughly sporting spirit in which racing has been conducted, is no doubt due the fact that only once in the history of racing in Hongkong — extending as it does over a period of more than 64 years—has a charge for dishonest riding been made against a rider at our meetings.
This one exception occurred in 1883 in connection with a race on the Off Day, when a certain rider was reported to the Stewards for pulling his pony. The Stewards “ accepted Mr.————- ’s explanation of the reasons which induced him to ride SCOTCH REEL in a very unusual manner” and thus this scandal ended.”
According to Governor Henry May’s 《Notes on Pony and Horse Racing in Hong Kong 1845-1887》, it was also mentioned that 1883-02-24, Off Day, likely the first record of an alleged disgraceful race.
Horse owner, Mr Fraser-Smith was involved, the founder of《Hong Kong Telegraph》; former of《South China Morning Post》.
Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah Tsai for relevant data.