A mahogany box, a bit battered around the corners & missing the lock escutcheon, but once it would have been rather handsome. And it has distracted me from all the things that I should have been doing for far too long…
When opened, it has a red velvet lined interior with compartments for two gilded red morocco leather shakers, some bone die and twelve hand-painted lead racehorses with jockeys. But, frustratingly, no instructions or playing board.
I thought to myself “Never mind, I’ll just look it up on the internet. There can’t be that many antique horse racing games”.
I was very, very wrong. Here are a few :
Minoru made by John Jacques & Co of London contains eight painted horses & jockeys, a double sided cloth race track, cards and betting chips. It was named after the Edward VII’s horse Minoru, the winner of the 1909 Derby.
Ascot also made by John Jacques & Co from 1880. Six lead horses on strings are wound towards the wooden game box. Confusingly “Ascot” is also the name of a French version of Totopoly from 1946.
Sandown Racing game by Ayres dates from 1910-20. It features a roulette style wheel which determines the moves of each horse on the track.
Escalado by Chad Valley came out in 1929. Apparently the horses raced on a vibrating track. Later versions had plastic horses.
Totopoly was first produced by Waddingtons of Leeds in 1938. This game hade a reversible playing cloth / board. The first half of the game concentrated on buying and training horses and the second half racing.
Jeu de Course by M.J. & Co, a French mechanical game from the early 20th century
Newmarket from the 1930′s
Good Going by J.Hill & Co from the 1930′s
The Long Green by Milton Bradley from 1936
The Favorite by Glevum a mechanical game from the 1930′s (in view of the spelling, probably American) – this game relied on wire clips and elastic to move the lead horses, it looks really complicated.
The Derby by Bandai
I couldn’t find my game anywhere (although I liked the look of the novelty horse racing version of Scalextric).
I did find a reference to a box of lead racehorses in a rather grand Victorian games compendium. So, are these Victorian horses? Two have paper labels on their bases, and there were some loose labels in the dice compartment.
After a little research I found all of these horses either in the General Stud Book or John A Seavens’ book “Portraits of celebrated racehorses of the past and present centuries: in strictly chronological order, commencing in 1702 and ending in 1870 together with their respective pedigrees & performance recorded in full” . Snappy title, eh?
Lamartine came second in the Port Stakes, Newmarket in 1852. The horse was also recorded as belonging to a Mr Powney and winning the 1853 Craven Stakes at Goodwood in “The Slaveholder Abroad; or Buck’s Visit with his Master to England” by Ebenezer Starnes in 1860.
Buckhound is recorded in the Seaverns book as belonging to the Duke of Richmond in 1850.
Confessor (or “The Confessor”) won the Great St Leger in 1851 and seems to have had a successful stud career between 1855 & 1867.
Touch-Me-Not won the Chesterfield Stakes at Newmarket in 1860 while owned by Captain Brabazon.
Gipsy Boy (note the spelling) and Heartbreaker are both recorded in the General Stud Book in 1860.
So the game is probably mid-Victorian, dating from around 1860.
Considering its age it is remarkably complete. The horses are in pretty good condition, the paint is rubbed on some of the horses and jockeys, but the different coloured silks can still be seen, right down to the stripes. The figures would have been painted by hand, and there is some variation between them.
The reins of each horse are made of thread, they have all survived. The horses’ legs are all still present, but there have been some fairly major pastern injuries, many of the forelegs bow slightly backwards. Perhaps the horses were slammed down on the gaming board rather enthusiastically.
Now the race just needs a track. I’m guessing that it does come from a Victorian compendium, so if I come across a complete one maybe it will have its original board or cloth. I would love to know the distance raced & how many horses ran at once, twelve seems rather excessive. More research needed…