Racing schedules have been turned upside-down across the globe due to COVID-19, and this Saturday, July 4, will feature the second leg of Britain’s Triple Crown, the Derby Stakes (officially the Investec Derby) at Epsom Downs Race Course—a race that was first inaugurated in 1780 and has typically been run on the first Saturday in June.
To celebrate the occasion, we have unearthed the following poem about the 1840 Epsom Derby from the February 1841 issue of the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. The poem references the winning colt, Little Wonder, as well as other contenders including the fifth-placed Assassin and an unnamed colt by Muley out of Solace who finished somewhere between seventh and 14th place out of 17 runners. We also like the play on words for Doncaster and Ascot! Enjoy!
Settling Day at “The Corner” by Tom Hood
I wish I’d never bet:
I wish I’d never seen a horse or colt;
I wish I’d never joined that jockeying set;
I wish I’d stopped away
From Epsom on the Derby day,
And all such places!
I wish I’d kept at home,
And never shown by person at a
I wish, instead of going like a dolt
To those horse races,
I’d gone to Cowes’ Regatta!
We’re all our ups and downs, I know,
Both great and small;
Those Epsom Downs are worst of all.
What could have made me join those gambling jockeys?
(Out of poor Crockies)—
How could I reckon so without my host?
How could I, cockney born and bred,
So run my head
Against the betting post?
Brought up in staid pursuits
(Not among nasty animals and brutes).
How could I think, to such a blust’ring clan.
My reason and my cash to yield!
I never was a martial man;
How could I “take the field?”
Why did I, stupid dolt,
Back that confounded, desperate, Solace colt,
Or of that mutish Muley make a pet?
No doubt, large sums I thought of soon amassin’;
But what a double ass I was to bet
On that Ass-ass-in!
The bounds of prudence how hard to regain!
When once a man o’ersteps ‘em!
But I have done: Richard’s himself again!
Yes, be assured.
I’m now completely cured;
At least, this shall be my last dose of Epsom.
It was an awful moment—that run in—
(Especially for those young minors, short of tin!)
I own I felt my heart sink then,
And all my thoughts seemed driven in a Corner
And then I thought of North America and Canton,
And then I turned a scorner
And thought of Joseph Manson.
And then the race-course whirled before my eyes;
And then I heard a voice in words of thunder,
Good sir! You seem to have some great surprise”—
“Yes, and it’s Little Wonder!”
And I have made a vow
That bet shall be my last.
All wagers now I nauseate and detest
(“Odds,” and the rest),
All jockeys hate
(Welter and feather weight),
All meetings fly
(October and July);
In short, I think all racing sad,
And all its courses bad.
And as for the stupidity of those who go
The difference, I trow
(If there’s a tittle),
‘Twixt Donkey-ster and Ass-cot’s mighty little.
I’ve burnt my “books;” no horse again I’ll back
(Racer or hack);
No more I’ll hedge: and by the Grecian gods
I’ll not stand on the long odds.
With tens, and fives, and fours, and threes to one
I’ve done, I’ve done with saying “Done, done, done!”
My means no more I’ll stake upon a Derby Day:
It’s my last lay.
From this day forth for evermore,
Though I should live to four—or forty score,
I’ll never lay another shilling—
If I do I’m a villain—
(Be this the moral of my tale),
Though you should make me the most tempting offer—
Golconda to an empty coffer—
A thousand sterling to a pint of ale—
You sha’nt prevail.
No matter what the sum,
I’ll bet you half a crown I don’t!