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Running Rein horse racing legacy

The Running Rein ring-in affair may well have happened nearly 300 years ago but the fall out from the scandal has had positive effects on the sport of horse racing to this very day.

For those unfamiliar with the Running Rein story.......Running Rein was a ring-in that "won" the 1844 Epsom Derby which was already established in the punting world as British racing's premier event of the day. Running Rein was really a one year older horse named Maccabeus and was backed to win fifty thousand pounds in in the 1844 Derby - an absolute fortune in those days and the equivalent in today's money of many millions and millions of dollars.

The horse won by 3 lengths from Orlando, whose owner protested and took the matter to the courts to have it decided. When the ring in was proven, the race was awarded to Orlando which is why it appears in the records as the winner of the 1844 Derby and was of course awarded the £4250 in prize money.

The furore in the punting fraternity that followed was long and loud and forced the authorities of the time, headed by Lord George Bentlinck who was head of the stewards, to undertake a massive revamp of the sport to stop it being destroyed by corruption and controversy. Interestingly, Bentlinck was assisted by Admiral John Henry Rous, who was later to give us the weight for age scale.

Racing was in a shambles by the time the revamp was ordered and the changes were wide ranging.

Up until this time race meetings were "rambling affairs" with races often match races over three or four miles run at dawdling pace until the last half mile. To make it more interesting, Bentlinck introduced race programmes with large fields competing over much shorter distances.

To make sure the events actually started on time, the clerk of the course was now to be fined for every minute the race was late. (Imagine the furore if they brought that law back today at some tracks!)

The committee also made it standard practice that the saddling of all horses had to be done in a centrally located public enclosure and that a "large notice board should be erected for the purpose of displaying saddlecloth numbers, jockey and weight".

Lord Bentlinck also devised the "Dual Flag" system with red flag (starting signal lights today) and white flag 100 metres down the track from the start, to warn jockeys of a false start.

To improve the jockeys image, that 'gentleman riders' could no longer compete in 'important events' and that professional riders' names should be published in the Racing Calendar.

In 1848, the Jockey Club also introduced a rule that stated "that the Judge should be precluded from receiving any presents what ever from winners of races" which in the next century evolved in to the system of stipendiary stewards.

All these new laws were then published in the 1850 book, The Laws And Practice Of Horse Racing, by Admiral Rous.

The ring-in punters in the know may well have lost the lot due to Running Rein - but racing certainly was saved from oblivion by that same horse which led to laws of racing being introduced that still apply in their basic form all these years later.


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