The Ruin of the Turf in New Zealand.
Printed at the "Daily Times" Dunedin Office, Corner of Dowling and High Streets.1881
Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace:
God defend our Free Land;
From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame:
God defend New Zealand!
May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee:
God defend our Free Land!
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan:
God defend New Zealand!
Mackay, Bracken and Co., Moray Place, Dunedin.
I Think it advisable to state that this Essay is no Bookmaker's attempt to crush the Totalisator. I have endeavoured to make it a fair and, I hope, clear statement of a very great danger that threatens, unless promptly checked, to bring the New Zealand Turf to utter destruction.
I attribute no injurious intentions whatever to those who have been concerned in the introduction of the instrument; while the fairness with which it has been worked is quite beyond doubt. But the inevitably disastrous results that must succeed its continued use seem to have been overlooked by the Dunedin Jockey Club. The only point raised was as to the legality of the machine, and, that difficulty overcome, it was admitted into the Stand without further difficulty. To the Public the new betting automaton commended itself highly as affording unusually long odds. The Club viewed with satisfaction the prospect of a share of the profits, while the murmurs of the Ring were set down to a natural ebullition of spleen.
I can only hope that the appearance of this little Essay may lead to a thorough discussion of the whole question; nor have I any doubt that the force of my objections to the Totalisator will then be more fully appreciated.
The Ruin of the Turf.
As this essay may chance to fall into the hands of persons ignorant of Turf matters and unacquainted with Turf terms, I shall commence with a few explanatory remarks which may serve to render my subsequent arguments intelligible to all.
The word "Turf" is a generic and clastic term conveniently applied to all matters connected with horse-racing. The three great supporting classes of the Turf are:—(I.) Owners of Horses; (II.) Bookmakers; and (III.) Backers.
(I.) The Owners, of course, are they who supply the Horses, or, in racing parlance, who "furnish the Field."
(II.) Bookmakers are a professional body of men, whose business it is to wager money against any particular horse's chance of winning any particular race. The amount thus wagered depends on the status and discretion of the Bookmaker; but it should always be a fixed sum. Thus, if A wishes to make "a thousand page 6 pound Book," it is his object to lay £1000 against every horse in the race. If he is unable to do this, then he must wager as much of the £1000 all round as he can; but on no account must he lay more than £1000 against any one horse. If he does, he violates the fundamental principle of Book making, and must put up with the consequences. If, on the contrary, he prudently adheres to legitimate business, and succeeds in wagering at least a good part of his money against a number of horses, then he is assured of a profit. He is technically said to have "backed the Field," or "laid the odds." The rate of odds naturally varies according to the real or supposed merits of the different horses. And the amount of profit will, of course, be materially affected by the result of the race: there would be a difference of several hundreds of pounds between the victory of the favorite and that of an outsider. But, inasmuch as only one horse can win, the Bookmaker is certain, in any case, of a fair return for his capital, time, and trouble.
Why, it may be asked, since "Fielding" is such a certainty, does not every one with time to spare make a book? Because it is practically a very difficult thing to do. Because the addition of each new member to the Ring makes it more page 7 difficult and less profitable. And because, as I shall presently show, there is a prospect just now of the race of Bookmakers being well-nigh exterminated.
(III.) Backers are those who take the odds from the Bookmakers, on the fascinating chance of winning perhaps a large sum at a comparatively small risk. Backing horses is usually considered a losing game, and so no doubt it generally is. In this, as in every other sort of speculation, the wise Few make money at the expense of the foolish Many.
A much-vexed question now arises. Cannot the. Turf flourish, or at least stand its ground, without the joint support of Owners, Bookmakers, and Public? No, emphatically no. Remove any one of these props and, so far from flourishing, it cannot even exist; it can no more stand than can a two-legged stool. Why? One can readily understand that Owners are indispensable; but what necessity is there for Book-makers? Can we not abolish the whole tribe, do away with betting (or at least with betting in public), and "reform the Turf"? Oh yes! very easily. Make all betting illegal, close the mouths of the Ring, and you will reform the Turf as effectually as you civilise the savage——off the face of the Earth!page 8
Is this mere assertion on my part? Can I prove that which I affirm so positively? I think so; and that too without going very deep into the matter. Let us glance at the state of the Turf in England. If we find that betting is confessedly and evidently a necessity there, we may rest assured that we cannot dispense with it here. If wealthy and populous England cannot maintain her National Sport without the help of the Ring, how can New Zealand hope to do so?
English owners do not keep horses merely for the public amusement. Some few do it from genuine love of sport. Some few for the honour and glory of the thing. The great majority for the purpose of making money. To the first two of these classes belong men of high position and vast wealth; men to whom the expenses of a racing stud are of no more consequence than the keeping of a yacht—merely an agreeable way of spending a portion of their enormous revenues. And yet even of these men, there are very few who do not try to clear their racing expenses by backing their horses; still fewer who would keep horses at all but for the excitement offered by betting. It is true that now and then an owner will win enough in stakes to pay his Trainer's bill. Two great supporters of the. Turf have frequently clone so. I mean, of course, Lord page 9 Falmouth and Count Lagrange. And of these two it is notorious that the first-named never bets. How does he manage it? Well, he has secured the cleverest Trainer in England (Dawson); the best horseman (Archer); he has a string of 100 horses to pick from; and he always runs to win. Thus if he is lucky in the big races, his stud is self-supporting or nearly so. Cannot others go and do likewise? No. For even supposing there were fifty Falmouths with fifty Dawsons, fifty Archers, and five thousand horses, the total value of the Stakes won could not possibly pay for the horses' oats. The result of dividing the whole annual amount run for in Stakes in England by the number of horses in training, shows a quotient of barely £30 per horse. And this is supposing every owner to get a fair share—an obvious impossibility. Now, except in the case of very large studs, the mere training and feeding a race-horse costs at least £150 a year. In addition to which are the heavy items of Entry Stakes, Jockeys' Fees, Travelling Expenses, Accidents, &c., to say nothing of the continual necessity of replacing old Stock by new.
How, then, are the hundreds of English owners to save themselves unless they bet? The question has been debated in England till it has become page 10 quite worn out. Common sense, experience, and statistics all prove conclusively that without Betting there would soon be no Turf. One swallow does not make a summer. Nor could a dozen Falmouths keep alive a National Sport.
I do not anticipate that any one will be foolhardy enough to pretend that what applies to England does not apply to New Zealand. It is unreasonable to suppose that Owners here are more indifferent to profit and loss than Owners at Home; nor is such the general impression.
We may assume then that Betting is a necessity; that unless Owners can back their horses, they will take them out of training and put them into harness; that, in short, without Betting there can be no real Turf.
The next point is, Can Betting be carried on without the intervention of Bookmakers? No, again emphatically, No. Who is to lay an Owner say 1000 to 60 unless it be a Bookmaker? If Bookmakers be swept away, who, or what is going to take their place?
My reader, especially if he be a Sporting man, will naturally ask, Who wants to abolish Bookmakers?
My good reader, especially if you be a Sporting man, let me tell you that I am now getting at the heart of my subject. Let me ask of you to page 11 weigh carefully what I shall submit to your consideration. And if you agree with what I shall say, let me beg of you to aid in the good cause and do your utmost to save the New Zealand Turf from a very imminent danger—from ruin indeed unless measures be taken in time. Where is the danger? And why should the Turf in New Zealand be nearer ruin than the Turf elsewhere? The danger lies in that latest specimen of an infernal machine, the Totalisator. And New Zealand is running special risks because her Jockey Clubs are welcoming the fatal instrument with open arms. The Trojans, when they admitted the Wooden Horse within their gates, did so with many rejoicings. But when from within that horse, in dead of night, there poured forth a host of armed Greeks, their rejoicings gave place to death-cries, and Troy ceased to be.
Dividimus muros, et mania pandimus urlris.
* * * * *
Venit gumma dies et ineluctabile tempus
Dardaniœ, Fuimus Troös: fuit Ilium, et ingens
The moral of which is that the sooner this modern edition of the Trojan horse is dragged out of the Stand again the better.
* * * Eqvo ne credite, Teucri.
Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
And to assist in this laudable object I purpose weaving an argumentative rope strong enough to bear the strain of fifty such treacherous contrivances. I trust I shall only have to show that the Totalisator is an enemy to the best interests—nay, to the very life—of the Turf to secure the hearty co-operation of every true Sportsman. I have little doubt as to the issue of the contest. But I am very anxious that the mistake made in allowing the Totalisator inside the Stand, should be quickly acknowledged and remedied. Time is of the utmost importance. The Totalisator must forthwith be banished from every Race-course in the Colony. And now let me proceed to make my rope.
The arguments against the Totalisator (and unanswerable arguments they, in truth, are) may conveniently be stated thus:—
I. Betting is essential to the existence of the Turf.
II. Owners of horses can bet only with Book-makers. Totalisators are of use only to the Public.
III. Bookmakers and the Totalisator cannot exist side by side. The Ring cannot hope to compete with a Co-operative Betting Machine.page 13
IV. If the Public deserts the Ring in favour of the Totalisator, then the Fielders' occupation is gone, and they must close their Books.
V. If the Fielders disappear, Owners cannot back their horses.
VI. If Owners cannot back their horses, they certainly will not run them for the Public profit and amusement.
VII. As soon as Owners cease to run their horses there is an end to the Turf.
If I succeed in establishing these propositions, then I conceive my object will be accomplished. I have reduced the whole question to the appearance of a proposition in Euclid, and the solution is just as easy. I shall, for the sake of clearness, deal with each section separately.
I. The first need not detain us; it has been proved already. Indeed, it hardly requires proof, having good claims to be regarded as a "Turf axiom."
II. Owners can bet only with Bookmakers. For if not, with whom or what else are they to bet? With the substitute for Bookmakers—the Totalisator? Absurd. For let us suppose an Owner wishes to back his horse for a small amount—say £100. (We must suppose a small amount, because nothing large is possible.) How can he do it by means of the Totalisator, at £2 a page 14 ticket, without taking fifty tickets and ruining the odds? Have more Totalisators? Very well. Suppose fifty machines are at work. How does that help him? He must employ a regular staff to get his money on in time; and if his horse wins he will only get his money hack (less 10 per cent.); for the Public will bet with that machine which has the most money in the Pool, and they will back his horse as one man as soon as they see that the "Owner is on." It is useless to follow this absurd suggestion any further. It must be obvious to the most obtuse of minds that no possible number of Totalisators can be of the slightest use to that mainspring of the Turf—the Owner; and therefore it is absolutely necessary that he have Bookmakers to bet with.
III. Bookmakers and the Totalisator cannot exist side by side. This is easily proved. The existence of the Ring depends on the public support; so does the existence of the Totalisator. The Ring can no more compete in prices with the Totalisator than a grocer can compete with a co-operative store. (The question whether the Public is not justified in investing in the cheapest market will be answered fully and convincingly in the negative when I come to speak of the origin of the Totalisator.) But, it may be urged, the Totalisator is used only on the Course; the page 15 only harm it does the Ring is to rob them of small wagers, and cannot affect Books made weeks before the Race.* Very superficial reasoning, and, like most superficial reasoning, quite unsound. It assumes, in the first place, that Bookmakers have inexhaustible funds at their back, or that they have all taken leave of their senses. How could men whose business it is to lay against every horse in the Race, bet against one horse, and that, too, with the Owner, who knows his animal's chance to a pound? For be it remembered that the Public will naturally give up baching horses before the day of the Race altogether. They are not such fools as to run the risk of their favorite going wrong or being scratched if they can possibly help it; and so they will save up their notes for the Totalisator and make sure at all events of a "run for their money."
* The amount invested in the two Totalisators during the recent Cup Meeting reached the respectable total of over £7,000; and of this a good share would, in the absence of the instruments, have passed through the Bookmakers' hands. The loss of "small bets" to this extent becomes a very serious matter.
IV. This, the fourth strand in my rope, is in reality so like the previous one that to argue it out would involve an unnecessary amount of repetition. I placed it under a separate heading more for the sake of logical sequence and symmetry than for any essential reason. In order, however, not to pass it over quite without comment (and at the risk of going over the same ground again), we may pause to answer a very common question. How, it is asked, in spite of the Totalisator, has so much money passed through the Bookmakers' hands over the late Cup Meeting? By which it is inferred that the Totalisator does not injure the Ring so very much after all. The answer is, that the Totalisator has not as yet had time to make itself felt thoroughly. The Fielders are not yet quite ruined. A couple more Meetings accompanied with Totalisators, and the Ring will cease to be. Is it not obvious? The public has only a certain amount of money to speculate with, and on this money the Bookmakers exist—or used to exist. How are they to exist now?
V. If the Fielders disappear, Owners cannot back their horses. We have seen that the page 17 Totalisator is of use only to the public, that it is worse than useless to the Owner. With whom, then, are Owners' wagers to be made unless with the Bookmakers? With the Jockey Club?
VI. Owners will not run horses merely for the public profit and amusement; or at least nine-tenths of them will not. Finding that all chance of profit is taken from them, they will take their horses out of training and put them to more remunerative uses. A few indeed may hang on for the sake of popularity, or in hopes of clearing themselves in stakes with so little competition. Races will cease to possess any interest, they will become a series of matches between the horses of one or two Owners. It may be suggested that if the stakes run for be increased in value, then Owners may be induced to keep on their studs. This is not at all probable, for Betting is the salt of Racing to most Turf patrons. But even admitting some sort of weight in the suggestion, where, I would ask, is the money to come from necessary to increase the stakes to the required extent? Does any one suppose that the Club's share of the page 18 Totalisators profit would suffice?* Or is it proposed to obtain larger grants from Parliament? Or are public subscriptions to arrange the matter? Certainly the total value of stakes run for would have to be increased at least four-fold to induce even half the present number of owners to enter their horses. And it is extremely doubtful whether even half-a-dozen men would be at the trouble and expense of keeping race-horses were the betting stimulus once removed. At all events all real interest in racing would be at an end. It is the Bookmakers who, all over the country, keep up the National interest in the National Sport. Abolish them, and a Derby or a Cup (even if three or four weedy animals could be got together under the new régime) would never be spoken of until the day of the race. In fact, the farther this vein of thought is pursued, the more certain must the conviction become, that, under the supposed altered conditions, a Race-Meeting would be about as interesting as a Church-Bazaar.
* An opinion has been expressed that the Jockey Club's share of Totalisator profits would suffice to increase the value of stakes to the required extent. This is a thorough fallacy. Five per cent, on the public money invested would barely pay the expenses of two or three racing-studs, even supposing two or three large owners to win all the races between them—not a very attractive supposition. What would become of the other owners?
VII. As soon as Owners cease to run their horses, there is an end to the Turf. This, of course, is obvious, and requires no comment. It is merely an inevitable logical sequence.
I think most readers will admit that I have made out a very strong case against the Totalisator, even if they do not go the length of regarding my arguments as unanswerable. But I have not yet done with the obnoxious machine. I have to meet an objection that is certain to be put forward in its favour. "Give it a fair trial before you condemn it," will be the cry of its supporters. "Time enough to suppress it by and by if it really turns out mischievous." Nay, O advocates of the automaton! it must be crushed forthwith. Give it a fair trial forsooth! As well give a fox a fair trial in a hen-roost. Time enough to destroy the fox if he really kills the hens! Is this reasonable? Is it not perfectly certain that he will kill the hens? Is it not a law of his nature to kill hens if he gets the chance? Assuredly it is; and it is just as certainly the mission of the Totalisator to ruin the Turf. Furthermore, hens can at the worst be easily replaced.
But the brave Thoroughbred, his Country's pride,
When once destroyed can never be supplied.
Owners are beginning to feel, if no one else can, that the value of blood-stock is steadily going down; that, at the present rate, the best horses in the Colony will soon not be worth half what they were and what they should be. And what is the reason? The Totalisator again, which, by preventing owners from backing their nominations, is rendering it a ruinous business to keep horses at all. Who would dream of giving £1200 for a colt like Le Loup under the Totalisator regime? And it will go from bad to worse unless the machine is promptly crushed. We have the examples of England and France to guide us. A contrivance, the same in principle as the Totalisator, was tried in both these countries. It was called the "Pari mutuel," meaning "mutual bet." The Jockey Clubs of both countries instantly suppressed it within their precincts. It made another effort to do business on the public course, but was promptly put down by the police and the proprietors prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act. Now mark this: it was not stopped so much for injuring Turf interests (the Jockey Clubs took care of them) as for being a public gambling machine. What! a gambling machine! Is it not in many people's mouths that it will lessen gambling, and ought therefore page 21 to be encouraged? Such is a general impression, I admit. But it is an utterly groundless one. The Totalisator offers ten times the temptation to bet that the Bookmakers do, and especially to persons who know nothing of betting and can least afford it. A Bookmaker bets only with persons who, he knows, can afford to pay if they lose. But any shop-boy can bet with the Totalisator, provided he can by any means get £2. Many people who would never dream of betting with the Ring are irresistibly attracted by the Machine, especially if long odds are begging. I verily believe that if a cow had started for the Dunedin Cup some lover of long odds would have backed her. It is so pleasant to "stand to win a hundred pounds at a risk of two notes," as I recently heard a worthy tradesman observe. "It is so fair," is another pet phrase. Well, I believe it is, so far; but as the machine pays "first past post," a very pretty little game might easily be played. Suppose A has a horse handicapped at 9st., and a "rank outsider." Suppose A backs this horse at the enormous odds the Machine sometimes offers. All that A has to do is to get 6st. on his horse, win the race and "annex" the Pool. Of course the horse will be disqualified, but the Totalisator takes no notice whatever of that. A thousand other devices would speedily page 22 be put into execution were the Machine to become an established institution.
Moreover a general but very erroneous impression prevails concerning the "long odds" afforded by the Totalisator. Suppose that 60 persons invest on a race and that 20 men back the winning horse, nineteen out of the twenty (if not the whole lot) run away with the idea that they have won at the rate of three to one, on the principle that three times twenty are sixty They quite forget that £2 of what they each receive is not profit at all, but merely the original stake returned. Commission reduces the amount each receives to £5 8s, of which but £3 8s is clear profit. Thus what they too hastily regard as a three-to-one chance is in reality only at the rate of one and seven-tenths to one! And there is the additional aggravation of having to pay commission on their original stake as well as on their winnings.
This is a most important matter, as the Totalisator owes its popularity entirely to the long prices it is supposed to give. And this palpable fraud seems hitherto to have entirely escaped notice. The results claimed for the totalisator have been obviously exaggerated to nearly two points beyond their real merits. A Bookmaker's 3 to 1 means that you receive, if you win, three page 23 times your stake, clear. The machine's 3 to 1 means that you receive, if you win, one and seven-tenths times your stake. Is not this a gross fraud on the public intelligence?
And here I may introduce a very pertinent remark. It will be generally allowed that the only thing that justifies Betting on the Turf is the necessity that exists for it, and the only sort of betting that is necessary is that supplied by Bookmakers; because, as we have seen, it is from them alone that Owners can obtain wagers. What shadow of an excuse can be advanced in favour of a Machine which encourages gambling in its most dangerous form, while it is ruining instead of encouraging the National Sport?
Now although this is an Essay, and therefore makes no pretence to an exhaustive treatment of the subject, I have made it my object to touch at least on as many points as possible. I am writing more with a view to provoke a general discussion, than with any well-grounded hope of annihilating the Totalisator by my individual exertions. I am neither so ambitious nor so conceited as to aim at the title of "Saviour of the Turf." I am content to point out how it may be saved.
I have one more very interesting point to touch on. Whose fault is it that the Total- page 24 isator exists at all? Is it the fault of the Jockey Club? or of the Bookmakers? Or of the Public? It is the fault of all three, but chiefly that of the Public—the Club having yielded mainly in deference to Public Opinion. Now in thus saddling the public with the chief blame, I am aware that general opinion is against me. The cry is that the Bookmakers have brought a judgment on themselves by laying short odds and being to greedy. "Serve them right," is the popular verdict. But admitting that the Ring did get into a bad habit by giving short prices was not that the fault of the Public? Naturally, a Bookmaker bets as cheaply as he can. It is the business of Backers to refuse to bet until a good price is forthcoming. The matter is in their own hands. It is the weight of their money that rules the market. If the Ring cannot find takers at short odds, they must increase them. But instead of compelling the Fielders to raise their prices, by refusing to take short ones, the Public has, as it conceives, at length found a means of doing without the Ring altogether. And this means is the Totalisator. "Since," say Backers, "the Bookmakers could not be satisfied with a fair share of profit, they shan't have any at all. We'll bet among ourselves and share profits and all." The Totalisator is, in fact, merely the "Cooperative Store" system applied to Betting.page 25
Now, the co-operative idea was a very ingenious invention, and has succeeded (in London at least) in ruining hundreds of tradesmen. All members of a Co-operative Society can buy goods at nearly cost price, the profits going towards working expenses; or, if there be any surplus, then that is divided among the shareholders. This plan is certainly an enormous saving to the Public: shareholders get the full benefit of the profits which formerly went into the tradesmen's pockets; and, having applied the new principle to the annihilation of tradesmen, some genius bethought him of applying it also to the Turf. Hence arose the "Pari mutuel" and its more recent improvement—the "Totalisator."
The Public is doubtless right to get what it wants as cheaply as possible, even at the cost of a legion of ruined tradesmen. "Private interests must yield to the general good," &c. In despite of the groans of the victims whose occupation is gone, the Public rejoices to buy its tea and sugar at one-third less cost than before. And this is all right, because the poor grocers are helpless in the matter. They have merely to shut up their shops and speculate at leisure on the progress of the human intellect. It matters nothing to importers and manufacturers whether they supply tradesmen or co-operative stores.page 26
But the Public has been in rather too great a hurry in its attempt to establish Co-operative Betting. If there were only the Bookmakers to be dealt with, no doubt it would be highly profitable and amusing to send them after the grocers. How funny to see them all working Totalisators at an average profit of 10s. a day, half forfeit to the Club! Very funny indeed. But unfortunately for the success of the plan there arc the Owners of Horses to be considered. A shortsighted Public has overlooked this very important fact. What is to be done with the men who furnish the Fields? Totalisators, as we have seen, are useless to them. They must have Bookmakers to bet with, or else most assuredly they will not start their horses. Bookmakers must have the Public custom, or else they cannot satisfy the owners. And the Public must give up its new craze, the Totalisator, or else it will have no racing. The choice does not lie between Bookmakers or Totalisators, but between Bookmakers or nothing. There is no way out of it. Unless indeed the same genius who devised the Totalisator will carry the co-operative system to its full extent, and show the Public how it may buy and run its own horses!
Were it not for the unavoidable and yet ungraceful repetition which such a course would page 27 involve, it would not be out of place here to summarise the counts of my indictment against my pet aversion, the Totalisator. But I have not deemed it either necessary or advisable to write at any great length, and I shall leave the summing-up to the memory of the reader. It is incumbent on me to remember that I am penning an Essay and not an exhaustive treatise. Doubtless many objections to the new Betting-automaton will occur to my readers, which I have not dwelt upon or not insisted on strongly enough. The fact is that I have had a very difficult task before me. The object of my attack is a favorite with the Public, and encouraged by the Jockey Club. The only persons commonly believed to be hostile to it are the Bookmakers, and for their hostility a very obvious reason is assigned. Bookmakers get credit for regarding the Public as their legitimate prey, and the Public is but too ready to triumph over the discomfiture of the Ring. It does not look far enough ahead to see that the interests of Backers, Bookmakers, and Owners are indissolubly bound up together that the co-operation of all three is absolutely essential to the well-being of the Turf; that no one of the three great supports can be removed without bringing the whole structure to confusion and ruin. It may be possible to abolish page 28 "middlemen" in trade; it certainly is possible (and has been done) to bring producer and consumer in direct contact in certain branches of trade. But it cannot possibly be done on the Turf. It is only through the "middleman" (the Bookmaker) that the producer (the Owner) can secure his fair share of profit. There is no conceivable way of bringing Owner and Public in direct rapport. The Public is trying to get its Racing for nothing, and the attempt is as unjust as it is futile. Surely the man who furnishes the Sport has some claim to be considered. And most surely if he be not considered but be sacrificed to the Totalisator, he must in self-defence give up keeping horses. Nor does the injustice stop here; for even this compulsory abandonment of his Stud would entail a heavy loss owing to the present depreciation in the value of blood-stock—a depreciation attributable solely to the ominous presence of that wretched Totalisator.
The Bookmakers, too, are blamed far more severely than they deserve. I have known Members of the Ring in, I believe, well-nigh every country in the world where the Ring exists; and I know also something of their life. Theirs is harder work, mentally and physically, than falls to the lot of most men; and they do page 29 their work on the whole, honestly and well. The reports spread and believed in about their enormous profits are absurdly exaggerated. No doubt now and then the victory of an "outsider" will bring them a handsome return. But on the whole they are by no means well-paid for the labour they have to undergo. And to judge from the number of favorites that win over here, they must have a tough job to keep afloat at all. The knack the public has here of "spotting the winner" as soon as the weights come out, accounts to a great extent for the shortness of the odds laid by the Ring.
And here (if the suggestion may be pardoned coming from one so new to New Zealand as I) may I hint that the Handicapping is in rather a confused condition? It is a science in itself, and unfortunately a science that seems to be little understood. No doubt the gentlemen who officiate for the various Clubs do their best. But if we consider that all horses in a Handicap are supposed to have an equal chance, surely it is startling to find the favorite winning nearly every race. It is at all events rather hard on the Fielders to lose the only money they have a chance of laying, and be debarred by the Totalisator from getting any of it back. Cannot the page 30 Handicapping be done by a Committee? Or better still, cannot some "Admiral Rouse" be found to act for all the Clubs?
This matter, however, important as it is, sinks into utter insignificance beside the great object—the utter annihilation of the Totalisator. If I have not written in vain, let me once more call upon all those whose hearts warm to Racing to unite in "a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull together." I have endeavoured to weave an argumentative rope which, although far from perfect, is I trust strong enough to bear the strain of so miserable a fraud as the Automaton. All I now desire is plenty of willing hands. I have little fear as to the sequel.
And so with a heartfelt prayer for the success of this Essay, fraught as I believe it to be with the best interests of the New Zealand Turf, I launch it on the stream of Public Opinion, and trust to Justice, Wisdom, and Truth for the result.