Excerpts from ‘A Maharaja’s Turf’ ….. 21 – Experts and bookmakers bite the dust


They all said that Colombo was unbeatable, that there was nothing that could beat the unbeaten ‘super-horse’. How wrong they were, these experts and bookies. If anything it was the public at large that sensed that there would be something different. The stars too foretold otherwise, and as it turned out, the stars favoured Windsor Lad. The cocksure connoisseurs bit the dust and the apparently astute bookmakers failed to lay their hands on the gold dust that blew off the other way.

It was estimated that the bookies lost as much as a million pounds, and about six big London bookmakers had to pay out in the region of £200,000. There were great stories of punters making a windfall from Windsor Lad’s brilliant win, like ‘Lucky Bill’, and Donald Rudd who was out fishing and did not know that lady luck had smiled on him.

Nottingham Evening News: Derby victory for Maharajah of Rajpipla


“Considerably more than £1,000,000 will have to be paid to lucky backers of Windsor Lad. Six big London bookmakers alone will have to pay something like £200,000, and as there are thousands of bookmakers in Great Britain, some in a large way of business, the estimate is not an exaggerated one.”

Stafford Sentinel: “The victory of Windsor Lad in to-day’s Derby has brought three fortunes of £30,000 each to Midlands people. Staffordshire gains a large share of the Sweep luck, for a ticket for Easton, which ran second, is held by Lucky Bill, c/o Globe Hotel, Rugeley. The ticket holder is believed to be Will Connor, a caravan dweller who some weeks ago was living in the vicinity of Globe Hotel, Rugeley, when he purchased the ticket. He is believed to be an Irishman, and earns his livelihood by selling carpets from door to door. He is a married man with two children, and this week was believed to be in the neighbourhood of Uttoxeter. The proprietor of the Globe Hotel, Mr. W. Merritt, has stated that he is certain the ticket belongs to Connor, as the latter did not know what nom-de-plume to use, and Mr. Merritt’s daughter suggested ‘Lucky Bill’.”

Carlton in Manchester Dispatch: “For some weeks I have insisted that Windsor Lad would be the most popular each-way selection for the Derby, and it must not be thought all the bookmakers have had a good race because Colombo has had his unbeaten record tarnished.”

Stable Boy in Birmingham Gazette: “Another hot favourite for the Derby beaten, the race being won by a popular fancy from Easton, with Colombo third. Such in brief is the record for yesterday’s great race for the Epsom classic. It was the most discussed Derby for many years, and it had its usual setting of animated scenes. Both first and second horses were well backed, Gordon Richards had his host of followers on Easton, and Windsor Lad, who won the Chester Vase – a pointer which many had not overlooked – was even more strongly supported.”

Hannen Swaffer in Daily Herald: “Windsor Lad carried much public money. He was the most popular ‘each way’ tip. The bookies declare that they were badly hit. I notice, however, that they drove home, as usual, in their Rolls-Royce cars.”

Sir John Foster Fraser in Manchester Dispatch: “The run lasted just under three minutes, and it is reckoned over £50,000,000 changed hands – just about enough to satisfy America’s immediate war debt demands. There were many grey faces. ‘Have you done well?’ one lovely lady asked another lovely lady as we crowded down to see the winner led in. ‘Stinking, my dear,’ was the aristocratic reply. Beneath the pleasure-making atmosphere at mid-day there was tenseness of expectation and nerve straining anxiety, for everybody had betted or drawn a horse in some sweepstake in Dublin or among the office staff. A race lasting only a minute or two was to decide momentous things, hoisting some lucky ones to fortune, probably flinging too cocksure backers into despair. There were the raucous voices of the bookies and patient missionaries pleading that the throng prepare for the day of wrath.”

Sheffield Independent: Thousands cheer as “Good old Pip” leads in Derby winner. Maharaja’s Joy – But ‘Bookies’ Pay £1,500,000

“The result of the 1934 Derby, Windsor Lad, Easton, Colombo, was a popular one, for despite the hot favouritism for Colombo, the little backers had pinned their hopes on Windsor Lad, and professional backers had ‘savers’ on. Bookmakers will have to pay nearly £1,500,000 out. There is one man who is worth £30,000 to-day as a result of the Derby. He drew Windsor Lad in the Irish Sweep. But he was away fishing and did not know his luck. Nor will he until he returns or some member of a boat with wireless informs him. He is Donald Rudd, of Bulmer Road, Winterton, Norfolk, who serves in his father’s herring boat as an engineer. The Radiant Rose, the boat, is at present fishing out of Bunerana, Co. Donegal, where Yarmouth boats resort at this period of the year for a few weeks.”

Glasgow Bulletin: Windsor Lad’s £1,000,000 bill for bookies. 250,000 Crowd See Hot Derby Favourite Well Beaten

Bookmakers Pay Out

“The hitherto unbeaten hot favourite, Colombo (11 to 8), could do no better than third place, Easton (100-9) being second. All three were heavily backed, and the bookmakers voted it a disastrous Derby – for them. It is estimated that £1,000,000 will be paid out to backers of Windsor Lad.”

Nottingham Guardian: Derby prophesy of 1868 fulfilled. Crowd cheer “Good old Pip” after Windsor Lad’s win. Bookmakers hard hit.

“It is estimated that considerably over £1,000,000 will have to be paid to backers of Windsor Lad. Six big London bookmakers alone will have to pay something like £200,000. ‘It is the worst result possible,’ said the representative of a West End firm, ‘for next to Colombo, Windsor Lad had been the most heavily supported horse throughout the wagering, and, being at longer odds, he has hit us hard’.”

Ferdinand Kuhn jr. in The New York Times: Windsor Lad takes Derby by a length. 15-2 Shot Equals Record in Historic Race at Epsom by Beating Easton. King and Queen of the Royal Family Among 5,00,000 Who View the Spectacle

“The bookmakers reported a large play on the colt. It is estimated the bookies would pay out over a million pounds to fans, who backed the winner.”

Windsor Express: “The Derby was Windsor’s Derby. Common report has it that all Old Windsor and most of New Windsor had something on Windsor Lad, and there was much rejoicing on Wednesday night. Only the bookmakers mourned.”

Charles A. Smith in New York Evening Journal: “Windsor Lad’s stirring victory in a ding-dong finish down the stretch brought joy to his backers and to the bookmakers. He paid 15 to 2, and although he was heavily backed, the burden on the bookies was by no means as heavy as if Colombo had come first under the wire. The lads who take the bettors’ money stood to lose tremendous sums, many of them as much as $100,000 each, if Colombo had won.”

Sunday Sportsman: “Backers of Colombo cannot perhaps be expected to take a very rosy view of last week’s happenings, for the ‘unbeatable’ horse was beaten with results financially disastrous to the majority of heavy backers. The smaller punters, however, probably benefitted, for they would not look at the short-priced favourite, but backed Windsor Lad, Easton, and others each way. We inquired from a number of bookmakers operating from the hill, and if they told the truth, then, the Derby was by no means a benefit for the ‘little’ men. Readers of the ‘Sunday Sportsman’ had no legitimate reason for grumbling, however, for ‘Ormonde’ for some weeks before the event suggested that Windsor Lad each-way was the best bet in the race. Windsor Lad was first backed many weeks ago at 25 to 1, and on the day was a great public fancy.”

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

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