The talent had come in great muster from London; the great bookmakers were there with their stentor lungs and their quiet, quick entry of thousands; and the din and the turmoil, at the tiptop of their height, were more like a gathering on the Heath or before the Red House, than the local throngs that usually mark steeple-chase meetings, even when they be the Grand Military or the Grand National. There were keen excitement and heavy stakes on the present event; the betting had never stood still a second in Town or the Shires; and even the “knowing ones,” the worshipers of the “flat” alone, the professionals who ran down gentlemen races and the hypercritics who affirmed that there is not such a thing as a steeple-chaser to be found on earth (since, to be a fencer, a water-jumper, and a racer were to attain an equine perfection impossible on earth, whatever it may be in “happy hunting ground” of immortality)—even these, one and all of them, came eager to see the running for the Gilt Vase.
For it was known very well that the Guards had backed their horse tremendously, and the county laid most of its money on him, and the bookmakers were shy of laying off much against one of the first cross-country riders of the Service, who had landed his mount at the Grand National Handicap, the Billesdon Coplow, the Ealing, the Curragh, the Prix du Donjon, the Rastatt, and almost every other for which he had entered. Yet, despite this, the “Fancy” took most to Bay Regent; they thought he would cut the work out; his sire had won the Champion Stakes at Doncaster, and the Drawing-room at “glorious Goodwood,” and that racing strain through the White Lily blood, coupled with a magnificent reputation which he brought from Leicestershire as a fencer, found him chief favor among the fraternity.
His jockey, Jimmy Delmar, too, with his bronzed, muscular, sinewy frame, his low stature, his light weight, his sunburnt, acute face, and a way of carrying his hands as he rode that was precisely like Aldcroft’s, looked a hundred times more professional than the brilliance of “Beauty,” and the reckless dash of his well-known way of “sending the horse along with all he had in him,” which was undeniably much more like a fast kill over the Melton country, than like a weight-for-age race anywhere. “You see the Service in his stirrups,” said an old nobbler who had watched many a trial spin, lying hidden in a ditch or a drain; and indisputably you did: Bertie’s riding was superb, but it was still the riding of a cavalryman, not of a jockey. The mere turn of the foot in the stirrups told it, as the old man had the shrewdness to know.
So the King went down at one time two points in the morning betting.