Forth, John


In 1828, Yorkshireman John Forth had a good bet with bookmaker Crockford that he would win the next year’s Derby on The Exquisite, a horse which he trained and intended to ride himself. During that winter, he came to prefer another horse in his stable (called Frederick) and asked Crockford for permission to change his bet. The bookmaker readily agreed, saying neither one had the slightest chance. Frederick started at 40/1 – and won! Astonishingly, Forth’s other horse – The Exquisite, ridden by Buckle – finished second, at 50/1. The winning distance was just a head and, given how well Forth knew both animals, it seems highly likely that he would have won on whichever one he’d ridden.

What also  made the event so memorable was that John Forth was over 60 at the time, and he claimed to be the oldest jockey ever to win the race. However, his tombstone indicates that he was not a sexagenarian at the time of winning.

Forth trained a second Derby winner in 1845 with The Merry Monarch, ridden by Foster Bell. Frederick and The Merry Monarch were both owned by Squire William Gratwicke who had Frederick buried on his estate under what is now the 18th green of Ham Manor Golf Course, Angmering, West Sussex. He retired from training the following year.

Forth became embroiled in scandal when Leander, a horse by owned by a German horse-dealer friend, broke its leg while running in the 1844 Derby. Leander was thought to have been a four-year-old and it was decide to disinter the horse and look into its mouth, a way of telling the horse’s correct age. When they dug up the horse, they discovered that its lower jaw was missing. John Forth had removed it earlier to protect his friend.

Aged 74, John Forth died on February 4th 1848 at 240, Oxford Street in London after a long and painful illness.

He was buried in (what was to become) the family grave in St Martin’s churchyard at Epsom.

John’s wife, Hannah Townsend, died on 31st 1825 aged 56.

His son, H T Forth, survived only until 1852.

His eldest daughter Clarissa (born 18 February 1797) married Charles Pitt Bartley on 22nd July 1819 at New Church, Marleybone. She died 3rd January 1830 aged 32

Yorkshire born John Forth, acquired stables at Park Lane, London in 1801; announcing at the same time, that he would continue to run stables at Clandon, Surrey. On the 23rd May1809 he purchased land at Epsom from Edward Harris for £1943.15, and here he set up Down Hall racing stables. In 1824 he advertised the property in The Times, described as a nine bedroom mansion occupied by the Earl of Oxford, plus “very superior stabling for twenty four horses” and outbuildings, and upwards of thirty six acres occupied by a “celebrated sporting character of the turf” i.e. himself. 
The above paragraph was taken from Bill Eacott's excellent book.