, , , , , , , ,

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.