It's surprising that a full account of the 1844 Derby scandal has never been provided before this book, even more so as Byles' account weaves the facts together so as to seem a familiar tale in racing folklore. However, reading that the book only came to be written by chance after Byles' own daughter found the missing case notes at Newmarket Racecourse only adds to the whole mystery of the scandal itself.
As a racing fan I would thoroughly recommend this book and to non-racing fans the story of high scandal in Victorian England should have an appeal all of its own. This is an excellent book!
Great horse racing book,
In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby by Tony Byles, Clacton, Apex, 2011, x111 + 226 pp. bibliography, index, illustrations, £12.99 (hardback), ISBN 1-906358-94-X
Some years ago I was given the responsibility for taking a cache of legal documents from the Wellingborough offices of Weatherby’s , the administrative arm of British racing, to the British Racing Museum at Newmarket. The material related to one of England’s major racing scandals, the 1844 Derby in which the result of the race was changed some weeks after the race had been run. The ‘winner’ Running Rein was disqualified as it was demonstrated that the horse carrying his name was actually an animal called Maccabeus, but, worse still, was a four-year-old, somewhat of an advantage in a race supposedly restricted to three-year-olds. One day, I thought, I would use these to follow up Mike Huggins’s article ‘Lord George Bentinck and the Jockey Club: Racing Morality in Mid-Nineteenth England’, published in this journal in 1996. Too late I fear as they now form the crux of this book on the infamous race by Tony Byles. I doubt that I could have used them more productively.
Whereas writing on sporting scandals tends to emulate the tabloid press, especially when written by non-professional historians, this book is quite the reverse. In fact some readers might find Tony Byles’s prose too dry for their taste, but they should persevere for this is a solid piece of historical sleuthing which fleshes out the detail of a major attempt at fraud in Victorian sport. Sometimes too much factual information is provided which tends to overwhelm at least this reader. Do we really need to know that Fanny Fage, maidservant to Mrs Bean, wife of an early trainer of Running Rein, declined an offer of a glass of gin? That said Byles’s grasp of the detail accumulated in his detective-like research is to be admired. He uses this to set the 1844 Derby into the context of the murky world of horseracing at that time, but also for exploring the intricacies of the pedigrees of the animals involved and the inter-relationships of the personnel. The post-race legal and racing political proceedings are complex, sometimes defying commonsense, but Byles is able to plot the narrative and bring events together.
Some historians might quibble with his failure to fully document his work and to thoroughly interrogate his sources. He does demonstrate that there are errors in the General Stud Book but fails to make much of this. They will appreciate however his cautious approach to using evidence; whereas some turf writers would make cavalier assertions Byles restricts himself to reasoned speculations. As an economic historian I was pleased that he included a note on the value of money which allows a proper financial perspective to be grasped. So comprehensive is his coverage of events that my criticisms are relatively minor should as wondering why the offspring of horses are labelled as ‘cattle’ (p.7) and concern that his discussion of betting market movements may confuse the reader unable to comprehend the differences between ante-post and starting price bets or between odds on and odds against.
There is an interesting collection of illustrations, many of them of buildings associated with the story, usually photographs taken by the author during his research travels. Yet other material could have been discarded. Why do we get a six-page appendix reproducing a poem about the race, especially when it is not referred to in the text? Do the twelve appendices outlining the pedigrees of horses add anything to the story? Yet another appendix, giving a timeline of the affair, proved extremely useful as an aid in deciphering the narrative and might have come earlier. These comments are not to detract from the overall value of the book to sports historians keen to examine the administration of a major sport, to social historians interested in class interaction, and to turf aficionados who will realise that the ‘good old days’ were never that.
Universities of Stirling and Central Lancashire
In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby, by Tony Byles. Foreward by Tony Morris. Published 2011 by Apex Publishing Ltd, Essex, England. [Available through Amazon.com here in the States as a hardback or as a Kindle ebook.]
The history of the “Running Rein Derby,” as the 1844 renewal of the Derby at Epsom is better known, could not be more sensational if written as a script in Hollywood. With this story’s many bizarre twists, Hollywood producers would more likely reject it than take it on as a project. Although nearly unbelievable, this strange story really happened.
And although the major facts of the conspiracy to win the Derby with a 4yo are relatively well known to racing historians, author Tony Byles enlarges the tale with such a degree of detail as I’ve never before found in a racing history. Byles was signally aided in this plethora of added factual material by the finds of a manila envelope held in storage at Newmarket that was filled with original documents from the investigation into the 1844 Derby and then a contemporary “50-page document of case notes” about the race from Weatherbys.
The principal facts are that Levi Goodman bought a yearling colt from the first crop by the (later) important sire Gladiator in 1841 and another yearling colt by the lesser stallion The Saddler in 1842. Goodman switched the identities of the colts, racing the Gladiator colt as a 2yo and 3yo under the identity of the colt by The Saddler, registered under the name of Running Rein.
Goodman’s goal was to make a killing by betting on the colt in the Derby with the knowledge that he had an advantage unknown to most of the rest of the public.
Despite many kinks in the plan, Goodman was successful in the primary goal, and Running Rein won the Derby. But the devious ship was foundering even as the perpetrators sailed into the harbor of their criminal resort. Word had gotten out that Running Rein was not a 3yo, important figures on the turf had tried to prevent the colt from starting in the race, and shortly after Running Rein finished the Derby in the lead over Orlando by three-quarters of a length, the latter colt’s owner appealed the result to the courts.
Lord George Bentinck, an important breeder and owner in addition to becoming an important member of the British government, was central to unraveling the convoluted swindle that Goodman had organized.
And Goodman’s efforts were not the only ones exposed as fraudulent in the 1844 Derby. Another colt was declared over age, and the favorite and second-favorite apparently were doped to impair their performances.
As Morris writes in his foreward to this gripping saga, “I have waited over half a century for the full story of this scandalous and intriguing affair, and take my hat off to Tony Byles for the prodigious research he has undertaken in this comprehensive account.”
Among the stunning information that Byles imparts is that the Jockey Club had every reason to know that Goodman was attempting fraud but chose the path of least resistance. The result was the most scandalous sporting event of the 19th century.
It is a tale of racing that “shook the nation more than a century and a half ago,”
Morris wrote, and it is one that is guaranteed to hold the interest of modern readers and sports fans, as well.
WINFORM RACING CLUB, AUSTRALIA, REVIEW.
Available at our website in the Highstakes bookshop is a unique English publication by Tony Byles In Search Of Running Rein. This relates to the fraud that took place in the 1844 English Derby and it makes a fascinating read.
IN SEARCH OF RUNNING REIN
Tony Byles new book about the fraud in the English Derby of 1844 is an intense read but Australian readers will recognise the swindle as being typical of many events both here and overseas. The detail that Byles has uncovered is remarkable for such a long ago event.
The planning that went behind substituting a 4yo Running Rein in the 3yo Derby was years of work and the subterfuge that went with it, transporting horses around the country and bringing in unsuspecting bystanders into the fraud is a remarkable web of deceit.
What is more remarkable is that, like with the Fine Cotton scandal here in Australia, the substitution seemed to be known by all and sundry in advance. In fact in this case the stewards were alerted to the scam in writing ahead of the running of the race but did nothing about it in the hope that the horse would not win and they’d be able to shovel it under the carpet.
Byles retelling of events that took place over 170 years ago and his placement of the characters, where they were and what they did is first class detective work. It takes a little while to get your head around it but as the action heats up towards the Derby itself it is hard not to keep reading to see how it all panned out.
In Search Of Running Reign is available at the Highstakes bookshop.
Kingsley Klarion Review
Racing Post Review
The great Derby fraud
The Derby may not capture the attention of the wider public in the way it once did, or in the way Royal Ascot continues to do so, but for those who love the race and its rich history, a recommended addition to any racing library is the recently published In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby.
The tale has been painstakingly researched by author Tony Byles, whose daughter Georgina stumbled across a box of case notes and letters relating to the famous scandal of the Derby-winning ringer when working for Newmarket Racecourses. The winner’s true identity was Maccabeus, a four-year-old, owned like the real Running Rein, by the scheming Abraham Levi Goodman.
The detailed account of the long-held plot – or plots, for Maccabeus was not the only four-year-old in the race and another leading fancy, Ratan, was believed to have been nobbled – to deceive is not the only joy of the book. The inclusion of an exchange of letters, many published in the sporting paper Bell’s Life, between the key characters involved in the fraud is invaluable in bringing the story to life.
That the bit-part player Francis Ignatius Coyle who helped to abduct ‘Running Rein’ from his trainer’s yard before the Trial began, is described as ”probably the most unutterable of all unutterable scoundrels ever to have disgraced the Turf” speaks volumes for his low morals.
In the mid-19th century it would appear that he had stiff competition for this title and many of his opponents are present within Byles’ wonderfully reconstructed account of the sinister backdrop to a season described in the Sporting Magazine as “one of the most brilliant Racing Seasons ever known in the memory of man”.
In many quarters the same is being said of the 2011 Flat season. Good job such skulduggery has long been stamped out.
- In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby, by Tony Byles is published by Apex Publishing Ltd, £12.99
Emma Berry, Thoroughbred Owner and Breeder
Country and Border Review
BYLES, TONY. In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby. Clacton-on-Sea, Essex: Apex Publishing. Pp. xiii + 226. 21 illustrations, index. £12.99 hb.
This is an authoritative and readable account of the Running Rein Affair and ranks alongside all the other attempts to understand what happened when a gang of conspirators led by Abraham Levi Goodman tried to win the Derby by deception.
We now know that Running Rein ‘won’ the 1844 Derby and was later exposed as the four-year-old Maccabeus, and thereby disqualified. There had been rumours before the race that Running Rein/Maccabeus was a year older than he should have been, but the Epsom Stewards allowed him to run. The owner of the second objected; Lord George Bentinck took up the case. Eventually the horse was disqualified when he could not be produced before the judge. The story has always been told and retold as an ‘open and shut case’. It was inevitable that he would be disqualified as soon as it was proved that he was a four-year-old. Or so you would think.
But the story did not have quite that certitude at the time. Squire Osbaldeston in His Autobiography* had backed the horse to win several thousand pounds on the basis of his run at Newmarket. Osbaldeston had heard the rumours and therefore wanted to make sure that he did not need to hedge his bets after the race. He approached the connections of Running Rein and, perhaps not surprisingly, was reassured by their solicitor that they had a ‘plain unvarnished case’ and that it would be impossible for the prosecution to prove otherwise. Osbaldeston sat through the trial and judged that for most of the time the Running Rein party was winning ‘in a canter’ and that his bets were safe. It was not until near the end that Osbaldeston knew that he was sunk by ‘old Worley (the farmer)’, who produced evidence that was so clear that ‘not one iota could be contradicted’.
Lord George Bentinck took up the case as soon as the race was run, but it took him a couple of months to gather his evidence. This was not a simple case of turning up and running an impostor in the race. There had been months of planning. A horse had to be found that could run in earlier races and the conspirators had to cover their tracks and distance themselves from the fraud.
Tony Byles has gone back to basics to understand how the fraud was set up and executed. His daughter had found the original case notes when she was working at the Jockey Club. We owe Tony a debt of gratitude for wading through the court papers and then gathering his own evidence over eight years of dedicated effort. He even went to Poland to track down what happened to Maccabeus (renamed Zanoni). Having sifted through the evidence Tony has then put everything in order to produce a very readable account of what happened. This is the work of a racing man who has put his knowledge of racing into a proper understanding of how the fraud was perpetrated and how Goodman and his gang nearly got away with it. It was not an open-and-shut case.
* Squire Osbaldeston His Autobiography, edited by E. D. Cuming (1926)
Tim Cox, The Cox Library
BYLES, TONY. In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby. Clacton-on-Sea,Essex: Apex Publishing. Pp. xiii + 226. 21 illustrations, index. £12.99 hb.
Back in 1996, I wrote a short article on Lord George Bentinck, the Jockey Club and racing morality in mid-nineteenth century England, which in part explored the various famous racing scandals attached to the 1844 Epsom Derby, setting it in the broader context of British racing culture. The Derby was and is the leading English race for three-year-olds. Only the best of such young horses coped with its mile and a half of undulating and demanding turf, and by 1844 it was a major betting focus. That year there were two attempts to secretly substitute three-year-old entries with similar horses a year older and so stronger and more mature. These potential substitutions were already rumoured well before the race, and formal objections by Bentinck and others owning horses were made in the race in the week before the Derby. But both the Epsom stewards and the Jockey Club strangely refused to act. One of the substitute horses, racing under the name of Running Rein, actually won. The notorious gambler and defaulter Abraham Levi (a.k.a. Goodman) was the man behind this audacious fraud. The other substitute horse, Leander, owned by the German horse dealers the Litchwald brothers, was struck by Running Rein’s hoof during the race, and later destroyed. The substitution was revealed when his body was examined. Bentinck’s own horse Ratan, a leading favourite, was rumoured to have been ‘made safe’, and though Bentinck checked the betting book of his jockey, Sam Rogers, and had the horse guarded closely, it finished a poor seventh. Later in the year Rogers was ‘warned-off’ by the Jockey Club. After the race Bentinck took up the cause of the second horse Orlando, and tracked down the evidence to ensure that Running Rein was disqualified.
The tale is a fascinating one, merging complex contemporary attitudes to gambling and social class mixing with honour on the turf and ethnic prejudice, and the race has recently attracted more substantive coverage in the form of two book-length studies. In 2010 professional writer Nicholas Foulkes brought out Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844 (London: 2010). This was extremely well constructed, entertaining and hugely readable. However it exploited few new sources, whilst Foulkes’ actual understanding of racing, horses and the wider context was relatively limited. .
By contrast Tony Byles is not a professional writer or historian, but has a love of horses and racing. To his credit he exhibits many of the historian’s skills, and he provides us with a stronger account than hitherto, for three main reasons. Firstly, the depth of his historical research stands out, as does his exploitation of a much wider range of sources than previously. Among these were material in Jockey Club and Weatherby’s files, court transcripts, county archives, records offices and the newspaper archives at Colindale, especially the sporting press. Second, this was a very complex, difficult case both in its details and in its aftermath, and both are handled well, with a strong sense of the cultural context, drawing attention to new insights and findings. Thirdly, the book, rarely for a sports history, conveys a sense of place as well as time. Byles visited training centres and racecourses associated with the event, such as Newmarket, Epsom and Norton (Malton, Yorkshire), as well as the country houses of some breeders and owners, and even travelled to Poland in his pursuit of what happened to ‘Running Rein’ afterwards.
There are a few reservations. Its bibliography of secondary works is relatively brief, and the footnoting is limited. Byles has a love of horses and racing, but historians of sport may well find the occasional chapters and appendices devoted largely to conformation and breeding of the horses involved less interesting than they undoubtedly are to those readers which anthropologist Kate Fox, in The Racing Tribe: Watching the Horsewatchers (London, 1999) succinctly summarized as ‘horseys’ and ‘anoraks’, both groups attending race meetings who have a particular interest in racehorse breeding details.
One aspect of the story is under-played. Both Levi and the Litchwalds were Jewish at a time when gambling Jews were increasingly exploiting the opportunities racing offered, acting as owners and backing horses. Most came from relatively poor backgrounds, and though their behaviour was little different from many other turfites, they faced substantial anti-Semitic feeling amongst some at least of the upper classes with whom they mixed on the Turf. Whilst Bentinck’s political links with Disraeli over the Corn Laws might suggest otherwise, his actual correspondence in the early 1840s suggests a similar antipathy. Substitutions, manipulation of horses in the betting market, the pulling of horses by jockeys, could all be found across racing both before and after 1844, and despite the publicity there was certainly little if any initial change in overall attitudes and behaviour within racing. Would there have been the same public interest and media frenzy, and would Bentinck have done the detective work, if Levi had not been Jewish?
But historians who want to understand what racing in England was like around the middle of the nineteenth century would gain insight from Tony Byles’s book. It is a fascinating piece of social, sporting and racing history.
Mike Huggins UniversityofCumbria.
 M. J. Huggins , 'Lord Bentinck and the Jockey Club; Racing Morality in Mid-Nineteenth Century England', International Journal of the History of Sport, 13, 3 (1996), pp. 432-444
The story of the substitution of Running Rein in the
1844 Derby offers a fascinating example of the usually hidden underbelly of supposedly respectable Victorian society, illustrating the dishonesty, cunning and rapacious greed that often lay at its
heart. Byles offers us the most detailed and well-contextualised account thus far of this event, providing a gripping narrative of events that exploits new sources and really draws the reader
Dr Mike Huggins, University of Cumbria (Emeritus Professor of Cultural History)
I greatly enjoyed Tony Byles’ account of the amazing
1844 Derby. How it came to be written in the first place, thanks to Gina, is quite a story in itself and the subsequent eight years of research has resulted in a fascinating read.
Lester Piggott, Former Professional Jockey (Winner of the Derby 9 Times)
The most ripping of all horseracing's ripping yarns,
told with panache, deep knowledge of the sport's history, and a wealth of detail. People keep asking whether horseracing is cleaner than it used to be. This book provides the incontrovertible
Sean Magee, Author of ‘Ascot: The History’, ‘Lester's Derbys’ and ‘Arkle: The Story of the World's Greatest Steeplechaser’
The substitution of the four-year-old Maccabeus
for the three-year-old Running Rein to win the 1844 Derby was well planned and almost flawless in its execution. It was the greatest racing scandal of the Nineteenth Century and was only unearthed by
the dedicated detective work of Lord George Bentinck. With a keen ‘racing eye’ Tony Byles has gone to great lengths to uncover all the subterfuge of the perpetrators by a painstaking search of the
original records and shows why they nearly got away with it.
As a horse racing historian I am well aware that the
sport was plagued during the first half of the nineteenth century by, to use Tony Byles' words, "rampant scams, cheating, deceptions, substitutes and, yes, poisoning". But even against such a
background, the "Running Rein Derby" of 1844 stands alone in terms of its sheer audaciousness. Tony has done an excellent and comprehensive job in unearthing the details and the aftermath of the
episode. Furthermore, he relates the story in such a way that brings the best out of the intriguing complexities of this extraordinary case.
Chris Pitt, Author of ‘Long Time Gone: The History of Britain's Defunct Racecourses’ and ‘When Birmingham Went Racing: A History of Birmingham's Racecourses’
A fascinating publication, a story about racing scandals
of old makes for an interesting and exciting read also today, not only for enthusiasts of the turf. As absorbing as a good crime novel, it is also a superbly documented piece of historical work on
extraordinary events from racing's colorful history.
Dr. Jacek Lojek, Warsaw Agricultural University (Faculty of Animal Science)