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100 years ago: Annual bet on the Derby

07 June 2024

June 6th, 1924.

TENS of thousands of Englishmen, generally entirely uninterested in racing, are thrilled every year by the Derby. “Form” is discussed even in Cathedral Closes, the pious purchase tickets in club sweepstakes without a blush, and the first Wednesday in June is the occasion of hundreds of “my one annual bet”. We presume that the almost universal interest in the Derby can be explained by the experts in the psychology of crowds. It is difficult — we would even say that it is priggish — to remain indifferent when all our fellows are excited. In face of the magisterial condemnation of the Otley Club sweepstake, it would ill befit the law-abiding to defend these speculations, but we realize the full value of established national festivals, and while the man, concerned daily with tips and winners, appears to us a futile and foolish figure, to condemn the generally modest wagering on the Derby as mortal sin is utterly absurd. The people eager to manufacture new sins are too often tolerant of the old sins. They are, alas! numerous enough. Incidentally, it may be noted, that the popularity of the Derby is due to the fact that it is notorious that it is an honest race in which every horse is out to win.

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