The aptly-named Correction

I am intrigued by this race horse, born in 1888, owned by J.A. and A.H. Morris (of the Morris Park track in the Bronx). She’s got a race named after her, to be run today at Aqueduct, and Pedigree Query calls her “the best sprint mare of her day.”

But Pedigree Query’s usually extensive race records don’t indicate anything all that impressive, listing only two stakes wins for Correction: at two in the Clover and at six in the Toboggan Slide. There are some seconds and thirds, but she’s not in the Hall of Fame, and, proving her cultural irrelevance, no entry exists for her in Wikipedia. Then again, maybe that’s a compliment.

Correction made 122 starts, winning 38 of them, but I found none of those hallucinatorily laudable articles about her in any newspaper archives.

Rather, I found that Correction was the subject of no little bit of racing controversy on more than one occasion, reminding me of the line from Dickens, when Little Nell arrives at the races:

The child, sitting down with the old man close behind…had been thinking how strange it was that horses who were such fine honest creatures should seem to make vagabonds of all the men they drew about them…

In 1893, another of those freely speaking New York Times writers used his race report to express his certainty that a certain Johnny Lambley, in conjunction with racing bigwig Mike Dwyer, pulled his horse so that Dwyer could cash a ticket on one of his own horse’s rivals:

Johnny Lambley seems to have gone into training as a rival to the two strong-armed men that are now on exhibition at a couple of the roof-garden shows in this city, Sandow and Sampson. He took his exercise while riding Stonenell in the first race at the Sheepshead Bay track yesterday, and not a man who saw the performance but will now be willing to back him against either of the imported strong men.

Mr. Dwyer…backed [Correction] heavily to beat his own horse, Stonenell, though the latter is better at any weight and any distance, if he is allowed to run honestly, than a whole breeding farm full of Corrections. (“A Very Queer-Looking Race”)

The writer notes that the betting public made Stonenell the favorite,

…supposing…that they would get an honest run for their money, and that Stonenell would be allowed to beat Correction if he could…People knew that if the race was (sic) honestly run, it would be but child’s play for Stonenell to beat Correction.

Such categorical pronouncements! Perhaps this is why those authors were anonymous? Or perhaps they felt free to express such brazen opinions because their names weren’t attached?

The author enumerates the suspicious factors in the race: Dwyer had bet and lost $25,000 on Correction in her last race; Correction was 0 for 5 at the Sheepshead Bay track, while Stonenell had won over it; Correction had never won beyond five furlongs, but on this day, she ran five and a half “in slow time [1:08] over a fast track.”

One spectator is said to have remarked at the start of the race, “So Lambley is taking the overland route home, is he? And Mike Dwyer is backing Correction…” The reporter points out that,

[The spectator] voiced the feeling of all close observers of the race. That Lambley was showing how strong his biceps were was thoroughly apparently when the horses came into the stretch.

Correction won under the circumstances. M.F. Dwyer got square for his losses on the mare at the Morris Park. The public got it where the chicken got the axe, except those who were shrewd enough to hedge their bets when they found out what Mr. Dwyer was doing. Lambley got off without punishment.

Two years earlier, Correction had found herself at the center of yet another set of suspicious circumstances, and in this case, it appears that her connections, and not those of one of her rivals, were to blame.

Following a win at the Sheepshead Bay track in August of 1891, the stewards inquired of her trainer, given what they saw as a rather surprising reversal of form in the filly. Her trainer, R.W. Walden, told them that her improvement over her last race (in August at Morris Park) was due to a change in the length of the race—when she was beaten at Morris Park she ran at seven furlongs, but in the Sheepshead race, she won at five and a half (so I guess our 1893 reporter didn’t have it quite right). The August race had been her first after an illness, and she ran out of gas at that distance because she wasn’t fit.

That was Mr. Walden’s explanation, and, as the Stewards [of the Coney Island Club] had no jurisdiction as to what was done over the Morris Park track they accepted the explanation which was in effect that Correction had been run for work at Morris Park and that the work she then had had keyed her up to the race she won. As there is no punishment in the rules for trainers who run their horses for work in races, the board could do nothing, particularly as the offense was committed on a track over which they have no jurisdiction…If any punishment was to be meted out to Mr. Walden for running the filly for work they decided that the Board of Control must be the party to act, and there the case was left. The board has not acted, and will probably do nothing. (“Correction’s Running“)

One of the many great things about these old articles is the recognition that the good old days of racing of which are so wistfully spoken may indeed be old, but not really so good. Horses were medicated, trainers and jockeys cheated, and various organizations, as seen in this incident, squabbled and competed for authority—or lack thereof. Maybe it’s not the turf writers, after all, who had it right; maybe it was Dickens. Unlike Little Nell, though, we know what it is about these magnificent creatures that can turn those around them into vagabonds.

A Very Queer-Looking Race.” New York Times. 20 June 1893. 30 Jan 2008.

Correction’s Running Inquired Into.” 1 Sept 1891. 30 Jan 2008.

One thought on “The aptly-named Correction

  1. Great post! I have long wondered about the apparent willingness of the racing press to write about the “seamy side” of racing back in the early days of racing, and whether it actually hurt or helped the sport. We’re so cautious today. Great food for though… thanks!

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