The Story Of Horse Racing, Legalities, And Gambling. Frampton’s Legacy
Putting seven pounds additional weight on one’s steed may appear a short cut to losing cash although not to Tregonwell Frampton, keeper of the royal running horses at Newmarket thru 5 reigns, from Charles II to George I.
Frampton was a professional horseman, a shrewd match-maker who made a good living from the horses he trained. On one famous occasion nevertheless , this machiavellian personality was outfoxed. He accepted a challenge from the Yorkshire baronet, Sir William Strickland, proud owner of Merlin, a racehorse acclaimed throughout the northerly counties. The match caught the imagination of the racing world: the champ of the north vs a favorite of the greatest southern trainer. Merlin was sent to Newmarket for acclimatization under the handling of a jockey-groom named Hesletine.
Acting on his master’s instructions, one of Frampton’s grooms approached Hesletine who authorized himself to be ‘persuaded ‘ to run a secret trial between the 2 horses in order that Frampton would know whether to hedge his bets. Although the trial was supposed to be at the weights allotted for the match, Frampton’s horse actually carried 7 pounds excess, so that when Merlin won by only a length Frampton felt certain that the race was his and plunged heavily. So did others; both those aware of the subterfuge and those just confident in Frampton’s judgement. But Merlin too had carried half a stone too much in the trial: the reliable Hesletine hadn’t fallen to his southern tempters and had informed his employer of the upcoming trial which Sir William made a decision to exploit to his very own advantage. The results of the race was a duplicate of the trial; with both horses carrying seven pounds less than in their prior encounter, Merlin repeated his one-length victory. Many of these who had banked on Frampton and his steed now faced bankruptcy.
Such were the losses sustained and the volume of property that modified hands it is alleged that Parliament was triggered to pass an Act in 1710 to inhibit unrestrained gambling. Part of the Act authorized any person losing over £10 in a bet to take legal action to recover the cash. Presumably it was hoped that the chance of not having the ability to keep prize would deter large—scale wagers. In fact the Act stayed very much a dead letter, mainly because betting men were generally pleased to honour their obligations.
If they weren’t, there wasn’t any need for them to invoke the Act as they could simply refuse to pay, there being no legal support for winners saying their spoils. Just when losers paid out and then changed their minds could the 1710 Act be employed; but losers were reluctant to do that for other legislation passed in the same year had made it illegal to even make a bet of over £10, so to sue for the recovery of losses was to risk prosecution yourself. Often nevertheless , the authorities turned a blind eye. Perhaps they shared the view of the Victorian commissioner of the City police who thought that this was decidedly an evil for a spirit of betting to prevail among the industrious community but had ‘no desire to interfere with that class of persons who, having adequate funds and leisure, select so to get rid of their property?
The Act of 1710 had a further significant clause which specified that any person informing on transgressors could get up to 3 times the cash staked. This legislation too was barely, if ever, employed. The gambling elite would never tell on one another. Many of them had a peculiar code of racing ethicality but honour would discourage informing; they’d buy info from the stables but they would never sell evidence to the authorities. Small beer betters would be unattractive to informants for the likely monetary rewards were scarcely sufficient to cancel out the risk of physical attack, Anyway the informant could not be involved in the bets himself, or he too could be up against prosecution: so far as racing was concerned this eliminated a lot of the potential informing just because betting books and horse racing systems were exceptionally non-public property.
Original horsepower – awesome!