GK Chesterton once wrote “The Victorian Age made one or two mistakes, but they were mistakes that were really useful; that is, mistakes that were really mistaken. They thought that commerce outside a country must extend peace: it has certainly often extended war. They thought that commerce inside a country must certainly promote prosperity; it has largely promoted poverty” Sadly he neglected to mention horse racing.
No meander through the Victorian age would be complete without mention of the spectacularly unsuccessful Fifth Earl of Glasgow, James Carr-Boyle (1792 -1869) who despite owning the largest string of horses in Scotland managed to go through his time as an owner with almost nothing to show from his investment.
Part of the problem was Carr-Boyle’s refusal to name any of his horse’s names until they had won a race, a habit that naturally caused great confusion in the stables. On the evening before the Newmarket July meeting of 1860, according to anecdote, ‘he was induced to christen three, and the following were the names under which they ran: “Give-Him-a-Name,” “He-Hasn’t-Got-a-Name,” “He-Isn’t-Worth-a-Name.”’
Renowned for his bad temper, the cranky Earl was convinced of the efficacy of several bloodlines ‘of proven uselessness,’ and his frequent display of rage made life extremely difficult for the trainer to plan a training schedule for the few promising animals he did possess. The Earl, redefining the word “patience” would order a horse shot on the spot if it failed to show promise. His record, incidentally, was six executions in a single morning.
As none of them had names, and amidst all the arbitrary slaughter it must have been difficult to keep track of the potentially decent horses. More through luck than design, he did have one good horse, the great Carbine. Despite Carr-Boyles meddling he ended up being a multiple winner of races including winning the Old Newton Cup carrying a record weight of 10st.12 lb, which incidentally stood for nearly thirty years. Hardly surprisingly, in keeping with his eccentric manner, Carr-Boyle intended to have him shot at the age when still unnamed after disappointing in a private gallop.
The equine gods finally decided to intervene when Carr-Boyle dropped dead the following morning whilst taking his morning constitutional.