A Wonderful Day Out

15th September 2014

Relaxing and enjoying a day’s sport (from left to right): - the “unbeatable”; a champion jockey from America who was a character in an age of characters; the “King of the Derbys”; a very successful jockey from a prominent “les Anglais en France” family. Tony Lake tells us about the men involved and that day’s entertainment....

A wonderful day out


It was my “Howard Carter moment”; I had discovered “wonderful things.” Admittedly, my discovery was not quite on a par with finding Tutankhamun’s tomb, but it certainly made my day… and more. I had been browsing through old books and magazines, looking at great racehorses and famous jockeys, when I came across this photograph from 1905.


The rider on the left is Alec Carter, the first pin-up boy of the Parisian racing scene. He was a member of the Carter dynasty, a family that was phenomenally successful in France for over a century. In 1902, as a 15 year old apprentice, he stormed into the headlines when winning the Omnium on Affection.  In landing Longchamp’s richest autumn handicap (£1000) he provided owner/trainer, Baron Henri Foy, one of France’s greatest racing names, with his biggest success. Riding on the flat and over the jumps, the winners flowed for Alec. Allied with his exquisite manners, he was as much a part of the “smart set” as “the racing set”. Widely known as “the unbeatable”, in 1907 he scored 139 victories in the National Hunt season, a record that still stands in France. He won the Grand Steeplechase de Paris twice, in 1908 on Dandolo and in 1914 on Lord Loris. In 1910, he was conscripted into the French Army and at the beginning of war he served with the 23rd Dragoons. Noted for his gallantry, he was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to an infantry regiment. Whilst fighting at Arras, he was hit by six bullets from a machinegun and was killed on Sunday, 11th October, 1914.

Born in Brooklyn, Winnie O’Connor was successful on his local New York tracks and by 1901 he had become the leading American jockey. However, as the anti-gambling lobbying was taking hold in America, he followed a number of his colleagues across the Atlantic. Like Tod Sloan, Reiff brothers and Jay Ransch, he rode plenty of winners and was in demand. He regularly rode for the Kaiser and the King of Spain, and in 1902, l’écurie de Rothschild signed him on 155,000 francs retainer for three years. He was twenty one. He was front page news with various papers speculating on just how much he would earn. He featured in the gossip columns, especially when he married Edna Loftus, the English Music Hall star, who later eloped with Harry Rheinstrom, the son of a millionaire distiller from Cincinnati. On the sport pages, his name was often alongside winners, notably when landing the Prix du Jockey Club twice (Auto Da Fe in 1905 and Diabolo II in 1909, dead-heat), but he was also an accomplished cyclist and boxer.  On one great day, he rode the winner of a St Cloud Handicap, won a five mile bike race in Paris, and then out boxed Ben Jordon, the European Flyweight champion. He also rode over fences, including Trianon III in the Grand National, where he tipped up at Valentines. Undoubtedly, he made a (not so) small fortune but spent a bigger one, and by 1922, like his old pal Tod Sloan, he was broke. According to O’Connor they hatched a plan: he had a ride on a 22/1 shot in a steeplechase which he thought would win so they pooled all they had and gambled it on the horse. All was going well until at the last the horse fell and broke its neck.  O’Connor never saw Sloan again. A little later, O’Connor returned to America and he finished his days working as a waiter in a Broadway diner.

The jockey clearing the brook is Georges Stern, a top class European jockey in the true sense. In 1904, he won three derbies - the French, Austrian, and German – and in 1908, won them all again, as well as finishing second in the Belgian version. Much in demand on both sides of the English Channel, leading owner, Jack Barnato Joel, tried to engage Stern as much as possible. Significantly, in 1911, Joel booked him for his Derby hope, the handsome Sunstar. After the combination took the 2000 Guineas, the colt became extremely lame eight days before the Derby. His trainer, Charles Morton, patched him up with a treatment which included wrapping cabbage leaves round his legs, but prophetically warned that if he managed to get to Epsom he would never race again. The courageous colt cantered to the start sound, but in the race jarred himself rounding Tattenham Corner and had to be very tenderly ridden to head the field of 26. In England, “The King of the Derbys” also won the 2000 Guineas on Kennymore   (1914) and the St Leger on Troutbeck (1906). As well as winning Le Prix Du Jockey Club (the French Derby) six times in 1901 (Saxon), 1904 (Ajax), 1908 (Quintette), 1913 (Dagor), 1914 (Sardanapale) and 1922 (Ramus),  he clinched the prestigious Grand Prix de Paris three times on Ajax (1904), Bruleur (1913) and Sardanapale (1914). By the end of World War I, he was training, as well as riding, for the textile magnate Marcel Boussac and continued to train for him after he retired from the saddle in 1926. Two years later, on October 28th, at the age of 46, the jockey described by Charles Morton as, “a more fearless rider I never knew,” died.

Taking a tumble is Georges Bartholomew. The history of racing in France is indelibly linked with English families that settled in the Chantilly area during the mid-nineteenth century.  Along with the Carters, Cunningtons, Jennings and Watsons, the Bartholomews played a part, with Georges’ grandfather, Jim, arriving in 1840. Georges’s breakthrough came when chocolate millionaire Albert Menier established a racing stable at Chamant. He employed him as his jockey and his brother Charles as trainer. After Menier died in 1899, Charles moved to a stable built by Max Lebaudy in Lamorlaye.  Georges‘s careers straddled the Great War. Before the conflict he won the prestigious Prix des Reservoirs-Harras d’Etreham twice, in 1907, on Le Nivernais, and in 1909, on Valdahon. Soon after being demobilised in October 1919 he won the valuable Prix du Conseil Municipal, on outsider Loisir. In the twenties his significant victories included two in Le Prix du Prince D’Orange with Cid Campeador (1920) and Guercoeur (1923). By the end of that decade, as one of the senior jockeys, he was one of the first flat jockeys to join the Association des Jockeys, established to look after jockeys’ welfare.

The scene is from a jockeys’ rallye-paper which took place around Chantilly in December 1905. Altogether twenty-one jockeys took part in the event which involved chasing a paper trail through 25 kilometres of wooded and hilly country.  Others who took part included William Pratt, who won four French Derbys, and Georges Parfrement, who became the most famous French jump jockey of all time and won the 1909 Grand National on Lutteur III.

Approaching the end of the race, Georges Stern took the lead only then to take the wrong track. As Stern turned his mount around, Winnie O'Connor, on the appropriately named United States, went on to win, with the luckless Stern coming in second, just ahead of William Pratt. The victor received a bronze of a horse valued at 200 francs; the runner-up a box of Louis V cigars and Pratt won a hunting whip… and we have a simply marvellous photograph.