Horseracing Scandal

I’ve been trying (still!) to figure out the mystery for the murder mystery dinner. Apparently, sometime back in the 1920s, there was some sort of racehorse scandal around here, which I thought would be a fun basis for the mystery, but so far no one has been able to find the details, so I need to make them up.

The trouble is, I know nothing about horseracing (except what I’ve read in Dick Francis’s books). I do know that women wear fancy hats for the Kentucky Derby, though I don’t know why. (My research shows that no one else really knows why or how the Kentucky Derby hat craze started, either, though it could be because a Derby is also a hat and they extrapolated from that, or it could be that southern belles and society ladies wore hats to the Derby, and when television showed the hatted women to the world, others wanted to join in.)

Despite the hat/horseracing connection, my mystery won’t have anything to do with hats except that both actors and guests are dressing up in 1920s attire for the dinner, and hats were one of the definitive cultural aspects of the era.

Rural horseracing would probably be different than at the big tracks, but I don’t know that it would matter except that the jockey’s might be easier to get to in the smaller venues, which would add to the mystery.

I think it would be fun to have so many different people try to fix the race in question that it will be the slowest race in history, with every jockey trying to lose, but I’m afraid such a scenario might get too complicated for a mystery dinner. But maybe not. We have about a dozen people lined up who want to have parts, and we will be assigning roles to anyone else who wants to play, though most of those roles will be along the lines of having them to talk about their big winnings or maybe their bigger losses at the track.

Although the dinner won’t take place until February, the story needs to be done sooner so that plans can be made. Which means, I’m down to just a week to figure it all out. I suppose if it’s too complicated, the other members of the art guild (the group that’s putting on the dinner) will help me sort it out, but they can’t sort it out if I don’t have anything to present.

It sounds like I just talked myself into going with the complicated scenario.

Luckily, I don’t have to write a novel, just the scenario, a few conversations, a few instructions, and then it will be done. So simple!

Except for the part about sitting down and actually writing it.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

9 Responses to “Horseracing Scandal”

  1. Auntysocial Says:

    Can’t help you on the info re: Kentucky horse-racing scandals but your idea about a fixed race brought to mind the 1967 Grand National in which what can only be described as a donkey named “Foinaven” managed to win despite being 100/1

    Link to clip which shows how it unfolded but Foinaven’s owner didn’t even show up to the race that day knowing he’d be lucky just to get back home never mind win. The sole reason Foinaven won was because he was so far behind all the other horses when they wiped out and piled up at the fence (later named “Foinaven”)

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, what a great addition to my horseracing lore. I read about one fellow in the 1950s who bribed every jockey to lose, but the one who refused the bribe, he paid him to win. My idea was that the winning jockey got fired (the owner wanted him to lose in order to set up better odds later) but this Foinaven scenario sounds even more fun.

      • Auntysocial Says:

        Think historically there has always been a lot of dodgy bribes, fixed races, doping and whatnot going on in the world of horseracing particularly back in the day when it was easier to do because of so few regulations. Not as easy to do nowadays fortunately but the deaths and disappearances of horses and owners wasn’t all that uncommon. Still much debate and theories about Phar Lap being deliberately poisoned and of Shergar’s fate – sure there are many others but I’m not big on racing so can’t think off the top.

        Poor Foinaven was the most knackered looking horse I ever saw in my life. Wouldn’t be allowed to run in the National now but back in the day there were so few rules, regulations and fewer concerns for horse welfare. Carl became the first jockey to test

        I know a former jockey who was the first to positive for alcohol since testing from urine samples began in 1994. He was exonerated in somewhat incredible circumstances: finding it impossible to give a sample he asked if he could accelerate delivery by disappearing to the bar for a couple of pints!

  2. rodmarsden Says:

    This might help. There was thought to be a conspiracy to poison Pharlap by unscrupulous American gamblers. It turned out he wasn’t poisoned at all but succumbed to a disease for which, at the time, there was no known cure. Phar Lap (4 October 1926 – 5 April 1932) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse whose achievements captured the Australian public’s imagination during the early years of the Great Depression. Foaled in New Zealand,[3] he was trained and raced in Australia by Harry Telford.[4] Phar Lap dominated Australian racing during a distinguished career, winning a Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, an AJC Derby, and 19 other weight for age races.[5][6] He then won the Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico, in track-record time in his final race.[7] After a sudden and mysterious illness, Phar Lap died in 1932 in Atherton, California. At the time, he was the third highest stakes-winner in the world.

    His mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and his heart is currently on display at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.[1][8]

  3. SheilaDeeth Says:

    You’ve got me thinking of those amazing hats at Ascot. I wonder if the hats could carry secret messages.

  4. Judy Galyon Says:

    Good Luck!!! I’ve never heard of betting on a slow horse.

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