Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844 – The Gambling Craze of the 1840s by Nick Foulkes - review by Matthew Bell

Matthew Bell

Turf Wars

Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844 – The Gambling Craze of the 1840s

By

eidendfeld & Nicolson 298pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Before football, there was racing. What started out as the private amusement of a few aristocrats, when two young blades might challenge their best horses to a sprint, had, by the early nineteenth century, become part of a number of rakish activities that characterised the chaotic years of the pre-police age during the Regency. In Gentlemen and Blackguards, Nick Foulkes has taken the Derby of 1844, and the ensuing legal dispute over its outcome, as the focal point of a book that charts how racing spawned a gambling mania that swept through all levels of society.

As soon as the idea was born of pitching more than two horses against each other, each owner chipping in a stake that was pooled to form a prize, money was wedded to racing. When George Stubbs was commissioned to paint Whistlejacket for the Marquess of Rockingham in

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