Marlow, Charles

1814 - 1882

photo courtesy John Griffiths
Charles Marlow belonged to the rough-and-ready- school of jockeys who would make their way from racecourse to racecourse with their racing saddles strapped across their backs and who would more likely be seen taking a stall at an opera than have a valet fussing about them.

‭Marlow was born at Thorney Lanes, Hanbury, Staffordshire. 
His first mount - on the grey gelding The Gab, in 1831 - won, but the racing calendar did not record the rider's name. It recorded, instead, that it had been ridden by a lad.
‭Marlow possessed three admirable qualities which should have made him a top class jockey. 

He was inflexibly honest, he had nerves that were insusceptible of being shaken and he was as strong as an ox.
He was also a chronic alcoholic.

‭It had all started so well. In 1838 he won the Chester Cup for Alderman Copeland on King Cole, beating The Potentate and Birdlime. Then he took the Royal Hunt Cup for Sir Richard Bulkeley and first rode in the Derby in 1841, finishing third on Mustapha Muley

‭It was his win on Mr Merry's grey Chanticleer in the 1848 Goodwood Stakes that became a sensational part of turf history, and the story is worth the telling.

‭For some weeks prior to the race, bookmakers had fiercely opposed the horse in the market and neither Mr James Merry nor his trainer could understand why. The five-year-old was set to carry 9 stone two pounds, and Mr Merry was certain that his horse could give the weight to its only serious rival, the three-year-old filly Refection, which belonged to the Duke of Richmond.
‭Incredibly, Chanticleer stood at 16-1 in the market and Mr Merry, one of the heaviest gamblers of his day, invested a small fortune, yet, strangely, the more he staked on the horse, the bigger its price became. Something was radically wrong in the betting about Chanticleer.
‭The jockey Bumby had been engaged to ride and Mr Merry suspected that therein lay the answer. Had the jockey been got at by the bookmakers? It seemed the only answer. On the day of the race, he quietly gave orders to Marlow to be at hand wearing the owner's yellow jacket and black cap.

‭Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands were being laid against Chanticleer at fifteen and sixteen to one. Then the runners board was hoisted declaring sixteen runners, and next to Chanticleer's number was the name Marlow, not Bumby. In a flash the odds dropped from 16-1 to 7-2. Mr Merry was surrounded by bookmakers begging him to cancel his bets. He refused them all. Minutes later, as Marlow guided Chanticleer home to an effortless victory, a collective groan went up from the ring. Many small bookmakers, who only laid a horse if they knew it was going to lose, quickly disappeared from the scene.

‭Shortly after this affair, Marlow was asked to ride for Lord Eglington, whose stable jockey Job Marson had fallen out of favour. Eglington owned The Flying Dutchman was trained by J Fobert at Middleham. Marlow was given the ride in the Derby but, stupidly showing off, was nearly caught by the outsider Hotspur. He then went on to win the St Leger.

‭ ‬Regarded by many experts as one of the greatest British racehorses of the nineteenth century,‭ ‬it won all but one of its fifteen races.‭ ‬Its sole defeat came in a two-horse race‭ (‬or a‭ ‘‬match‭’ ‬as it was then known‭)‬.‭ ‬The Flying Dutchman was pitted against the‭ ‬1850‭ ‬Derby winner Voltigeur who had won the St Leger just two days before.‭ ‬Mason doubted that Voltigeur would turn up having run so recently and‭ – ‬expecting a walk-over‭ – ‬began drinking.‭ ‬
When his opponent arrived at the start,‭ ‬Mason was not as sober as he might have been.‭ ‬He was given instructions to wait on the colt to conserve its stamina‭ – ‬Mason completely ignored his orders saying‭ ‘‬I’ll show you what I’ve got under me today‭!’‬.‭ ‬
From the off he raced at break-neck speed and began pulling away from his rival.‭ ‬Having started the race at‭ ‬2/11,‭ ‬The Flying Dutchman’s odds shortened to‭ ‬1/10‭ ‬as the race progressed.‭ ‬Then his stamina gave way and Voltigeur,‭ ridden by Flatman and ‬receiving‭ ‬19‭ ‬pounds,‭ ‬wore him down to win by just half-a-length.‭ The crowd, staggered by the result, remained silent as a weeping Marlow dismounted.
Trainer Fobert was not without blame for The Flying Dutchman's defeat. For the first time in his life the horse had been off its food for two days before the match and had become fidgety. Also, less than 24 hours before the race, Fobert had subjected the horse to a searching gallop over the full course.


Marlow’s performance that afternoon was actually completely out of character.‭ ‬He was,‭ ‬in fact,‭ ‬an extremely‭  ‬nice person who was very well liked.‭ ‬He had good hands,‭ ‬was very patient and had a resolute attitude.‭ ‬His riding style,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬was somewhat awkward‭ – ‬he held his hands so high that he often seemed to have the horse’s head as well as his own in his hands.‭ ‬His motto was‭ ‘‬A race is never won till you’re past the post‭’‬.‭ ‬He would have done well to have remembered that when taking on Voltigeur.‭

On Tuesday‭ ‬13th May‭ ‬1851,‭ ‬the pair met again‭ – ‬this time at York in a‭ ‬£1,000‭ ‬winner-take-all match.‭ ‬Marlow was again entrusted with the ride,‭ ‬and this time he made no mistake,‭ ‬winning by a length.‭ ‬Both horses started at evens.‭ ‬The race drew a crowd of‭ ‬100,000‭ – ‬the largest crowd seen at the Knavesmire since the execution of the murderer Eugene Aram in‭ ‬1759.‭

‭Marlow's final descent in drunken oblivion was hastened by a crashing fall he took from the favourite Nettle in the 1855 Oaks. The filly  fell over the chains at the 
mile-post, throwing him to the ground and breaking his leg. Marlow's last Derby mount was on Star of the West in the year of Caractacus.

‭In his last years, Tom Oliver took pity on him and kept him at his training establishment. When Tom died, Marlow moved into the workhouse at Devizes where he died on 23 October,1882, aged 68.

On December 28, 1844, he married Mary Anne Saunders.




Comments