ALLY SLOPER AND THE RACING SCANDAL

A CONTINUATION OFTHE SLOPER  AND THE STEEPLECHASE

NEW OWNER FOR  THE SLOPER

 

The chestnut gelding Ally Sloper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1911, three years on from his near win at Flemington’s  Grand National Steeplechase,  the Tasmanian jumper Ally Sloper was  a little past his best. He was now owned by  the Sheffield GP,  and Justice of the Peace, Dr Victor  Ratten.  The  well known jockey Wally Morphett continued to ride the horse, just as he had done for the previous owner, Hugh Powell.

 

Cpt. Victor Ratten in 1914. He enlisted with the 12th Battalion as Regimental Medical Officer.

In July  1911  the  horse was entered in the  Newnham Racing Club’s steeplechase at Mowbray, a suburb of Launceston. it was the final event of the season.

 

The favourite was a horse called Kindred, owned by Tom Butler who was also from Sheffield, and  a close friend and associate of Dr Ratten

He had left school at 13 to become a  bullock driver. Through hard work he had become a successful road building contractor  and farmer.  Unfortunately,  on the day of the race his wife was ill  and he  was unable to attend the meeting.  He asked Dr Ratten  to hand Kindred’s jockey  a letter containing his riding instructions. Apparently he did not view Ally Sloper as a significant  threat. The letter read;

I believe that James Waldon [a steward at the course] has engaged you to ride my horse Kindred in the Steeple on Saturday; if so, I want you to take your instructions from Dr Ratten, as I never wrote to Walton how you were to ride. I think he is a certainty to win. I want you to take him out from the jump, and let him run along with anything that comes, as I think he will race and stay with any of them. I think Player is the hardest horse to beat, but I think if he paces with you, he will fail. I may take this horse to Melbourne if he wins, and if you don’t ride him there, I will give you a little cut if I have a good win in Melbourne. Wishing you luck, (Signed) T. Butler.’

Player had finished  second behind Kindred the previous week and had won the  steeplechase at Bendigo in May.

Dr Ratten motored  up to Mowbray  in his sports car and after dealing with his own horse and jockey  he sought out Percy Williams. However, instead of handing Williams the letter of instruction  he read it out to the jockey.

A BLATANT MISREPRESENTATION

Shockingly, Dr Ratten put a completely different spin on Tom Butler’s words.   Percy Williams was so uncomfortable about his purported instructions that he confided in  steward  Waldon.   In turn, Waldon sought out Dr Ratten, but the letter was not handed over.  Perhaps the doctor said he had destroyed it.

 THE RACE

Big crowd at Mowbray, circa 1900

Oddly enough, by the time the steeplechase got underway, Ally Sloper had been backed heavily enough to start as favourite. The punters must have begun  counting their cash when the highly fancied Player  fell at the very first jump and completed the course riderless. But it was bookmakers who were smiling when Percy Williams and  Kindred romped home, five lengths ahead of Ally Sloper in second place.

Williams weighed in after the race  then went  straight to the stewards and  dropped a bombshell.  He said  Dr Ratten had told him  Kindred’s owner wanted to lose the race, with the  idea of winning a richer  event  in Melbourne (presumably the horse would carry less weight if it lost at Mowbray. ) He added that Ratten said Tom Butler would still pay him for  a win if he ‘stopped’ the horse.

THE INQUIRY

Ally Sloper’s jockey Wally Morphett also came under scrutiny.  Witnesses claimed   to have heard Morphett say he had  intended forcing Kindred to run wide and cover extra ground  at the five furlong mark. He said he  decided not to because he was afraid The Sloper  might run wide too. When questioned, he told the inquiry  he had been joking.

Dr Ratten admitted to having £30 on his oracewn account invested on Ally Sloper,  plus an interest in a syndicate worth £70 – 80 pounds. That was a hefty sum in 1911. It sounds as though the whole race, perhaps even the fall of Player, was fixed;  or would have been  if Kingston’s jockey had co-operated.   The fall of Player does not appear to have been investigated.

THE CONSEQUENCES

Dr Ratten’s defense was a flat denial, but  after a lengthy inquiry he  was disqualified for life by the Tasmanian Turf Club.  He immediately appealed, but was unsuccessful.

Back in Sheffield, locals refused to believe that their beloved GP was guilty. An editorial in the North West Post read;

Surprise was expressed yesterday at the disqualification of Dr Ratten by the Newnham stewards. Racing people in the know are astounded at this, but feel quite certain that a more enlightened body of men [such] as the committee of T.T.C. will at once reverse the decision. Racing in Tasmania is a poor game at any time, but when an owner of high moral character is disqualified on the unsupported word of a jockey who has previously been disqualified by the T.T.C for giving unsatisfactory evidence it is considered that all decent people should give it up. The result of the appeal is awaited with interest here.

Newspaper reports  of the attempted race fix were published all over Australia. The fact that a doctor was involved made it all the more salacious. The captions  appearing above the article   in the Brisbane Truth were merciless;

ROTTEN RATTEN

DOCTOR DISQUALIFIED IN TASMANIAN RACING SCANDAL

Wally Morphet was reported for giving unsatisfactory evidence, but was not suspended. He was registered  as a jockey again in October 1911. In 1913 he had a bad fall  when jumping a horse at Shefield. He underwent  serious hip and spine surgery performed by Dr Ratten.

Ally Sloper ended up in retirement on a property at The Nook.   He died there in 1919.

FOOTNOTE – Recently I visited Mowbray Racecourse. In the committee room is an honour board listing winners of the Launceston Cup. Check out that middle name.

 

Dr Ratten,(right) 1935

Oddly enough, he was back racing horses as early as 1923!  Hmm, not quite a lifetime ban then. How on earth did Dr Ratten manage this?

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4 Comments
  1. My goodness, what a web we’ve weave! Seems like ‘nobbling’ has been going on for a long time then. Also hating to hear about all the drug takers reports in cycling at the moment. It all rather tarnishes the word ‘Sport’. Cheating is usually about money but I was ‘into sport and a win would have been a poor victory if I hadn’t got there honestly.

  2. Oh what a tangled web we weave when we set out to decieve. Author Unknown . Pauline perhaps 38 years was considered a lifetime ban in the early 1900s. Today we see a person committed of murder serving less than the recommended 25 yrs. It seems to me that a lifetime ban equates to whatever is socially acceptable at that point in time. Great read. Cheers.

    • Pauline

      Well would you believe, Pat….Dr Ratten was back racing as early as 1923. By then he was a very high profile surgeon, which may explain things.

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