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ERBIE'S DOUBLE LIFE as a ring-in

In the early 1930's in Australia, there was a pretty handy nag called Erbie. One suspects it was the diminutive of Herbie but there is no official data to confirm this. In fact according to the pedigree databases no record of Erbie exists at all. Unlike other horses of the era, say Nightmarch, Erbie doesn't rate a mention. Nightmarch? Yes bred in 1925 by Night Raid out of Marsa and won 22 times from 69 starts - even gives you the races he won.

But Erbie? No way. He was however no slouch as he won 23 races in New South Wales which was fine and dandy (great name for a horse!). It was his four wins in South Australia and elsewhere that got his trainer, Charlie Prince, banged up for a couple of years and warned off racecourses for life.

It all came to light in a July 1934 meeting at Murray Bridge in a "Trial" grade race when a horse called Redlock bolted in after its price fell from 10/1 to 5/2 favourite. Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper had a journalist at that meeting whose name was Bert Wolfe and, because he knew Redlock pretty well, asked if he could inspect the horse after he bolted in with another race at a track that was then in operation at Kadina.

Erbie had a white blaze which was a bit inconvenient as Redlock didn't and Wolfe found dye that had been used to mask the blaze on the supposed "Redlock".

In a newspaper "scoop" he wrote that the quite quick Erbie had also raced as Duke Bombita at a Holbrook race meeting and won at Kilmore as Chrybean as well as the two SA meetings as Redlock who was, at the time of his two wins, happily munching grass in a paddock at Sunbury in Victoria.

The game was up. Prince was jailed for two years. It is unknown how much money was won with this sting.

Jump forward forty years and the game was just the same. A used car salesman by the name of Rick Renzella (great name for a salesman!) bought a very slow horse called Royal School for $350 at a disposal sale with his eyes on trying on a ring in. Well it worked brilliantly. "Royal School" won by the length of the straight at Casterton in a low grade race. In fact it nearly was by the length of the straight which immediately sparked a stewards inquiry. On close inspection they found the horse was in reality Regal Vista who'd previously won the Liston Stakes at Caulfield in 1970.

Mr Renzella also copped two years in the slammer.

Fine Cotton ring in? Well we've all been bored with this amateur hour attempt so we won't re-hash the 1984 fiasco - but have you heard about the Gentleman Jim scam? Probably not. Back in 1903 Gentleman Jim was a pretty handy horse owned by the delightfully named Jim "The Grafter" Kingsley. Now you just know with a name like that it's going to be good. In an April 1903 meeting at Newcastle, Gentleman Jim was sent out a very big odds because he had to carry the massive weight of, what is in today's terms, 68 kilos. Didn't deter The Grafter who had a poultice on him and he won very very easily.Fights broke out in the weighing in room after the race between Kingsley and bookmakers who claimed they were scammed.

As the melee died down, The Grafter was told by the stewards his horse weighed in 13 kilos light but Kingsley stamped his foot and demanded a recount at which point the scales correctly showed 68 kilograms.

Later in the afternoon, officials discovered a trapdoor giving access to an area beneath the scales where they found a boy and next to him, a lead weight for 13 kilograms. The stamping on the floor was the signal to attach the weight to the bottom of the scale.

Gentleman Jim's other recent wins were investigated and more tunnels found below weigh-in rooms at other race courses. Kingsley was banned from all racetracks, a penalty he often ignored.

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