The Suffragette Derby
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On Wednesday 4 June 1913, fledgling newsreel cameras captured just over two-and-a-half minutes of never-to-be-forgotten British social and sporting history.The 250,000 people thronging Epsom Downs carried with them a quartet of combustible elements: a fanatical,publicity-hungry suffragette; a scapegoat for the Titanic disaster and the pillar of the Establishment who bore him a personal grudge; a pair of feuding jockeys at odds over money and glory; and, finally, at the heart of the action, two thoroughbred horses - one a vicious savage and one the consummate equine athlete. Taken together, this was a recipe for the most notorious horse race in British history. One hundred years on, this particular Derby Day is remembered for two reasons: the fatal intervention of Emily Davison, a militant suffragette who brought down the King's runner, and the controversial disqualification of Bower Ismay's horse Craganour on the grounds of rough riding - the first and only time a Derby-winner has forfeited its title for this reason. The sensation of Davison's questionable interference in the name of suffrage has overshadowed the outrage of Craganour's disqualification and the intricate reasons behind it. Now, with a view to allowing this scandal the attention it deserves, Michael Tanner replays the most dramatic day in Turf history - and finally uncovers the truth of the Suffragette Derby.
the floral tributes that over a thousand were loaded onto a later train. After being held overnight in a siding at Newcastle Central station, an honour guard that included Leigh, Yates and Marsh standing vigil in pairs throughout, the brake van containing the coffin was attached to the 10.40 train to Morpeth where a further 20,000 people had gathered on a bright sunny day. This second procession, organised by the Newcastle branch of the WSPU, lost little in comparison to its predecessor,
Craganour received his due at Newmarket and Epsom, he almost certainly would have been aimed at the St Leger and the Triple Crown. That final Classic was won by his vastly inferior stablemate Night Hawk. Craganour had stayed the one-and-a-half miles of the Derby; there’s no reason to suppose he couldn’t have lasted the additional 572 yards of the St Leger. His younger full sister Glorvina, for instance, would win the Ascot Gold Vase over two miles and Desmond had already sired such doughty
at Dawpool at least achieved one of Ismay’s racing ambitions, but he was not present to see it. Ismay’s year was earmarked for sterner campaigns than any racecourse might possibly offer. On the declaration of war Ismay had immediately sought action. Within weeks he held two commissions, one as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Earl of Chester’s Territorials and another as a ‘temporary 2nd Lieutenant’ – a rank usually associated with pre-war part-time soldiers or ones in poor health – in the 12th Lancers.
victories. At season’s end he led the French jockeys’ championship. Though he’d traversed the globe and earned enough money to spend the rest of his life in luxury, he was not yet out of his teens and youthful naivety was to cost him dearly. In the autumn Reiff’s head was turned by Edmond Blanc, the owner of the most powerful stable in France. ‘Being a youngster of seventeen, coupled with the fact that M. Blanc had the best horses in France, I signed the contract,’ Reiff explained to American
Behind the tapes Johnny Reiff kept Craganour on the move, cluck-clucking at him as they circled to the right of the starter, eager to anticipate the break: he was drawn in the middle of the field at seven; Louvois (two) and Aboyeur (three) were on his inside; Shogun (eleven) and Anmer (fourteen) to his outside. Billy Saxby’s brow furrowed in concentration upon Louvois: playing out in his mind the tactics necessary to secure victory for himself – or ignominious defeat for Reiff – but he needed