During his period in charge of the Jockey Club Sir Charles sought to ensure that high standards were maintained, that anyone attempting to cheat was severely punished and that the use of the Heath, overseen by the Jockey Club, was efficiently run. However, the authority of the Jockey Club was seldom tested, and Sir Charles needed an incident which would broadcast to one and all that, whatever your position in life, if you were deemed to have carried out an indiscretion then punishment would be swift. That wish to indicate the ultimate authority of the Jockey Club was close to being tested by the highest authority in the England, HRH the Prince of Wales, in 1791 with the Escape affair. George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales, was born on 12th August 1762 and became a Jockey Club Member in 1784. He became too heavily involved in the Turf, owning many horses, running up large training bills, and even larger gambling bills, so much so that by 1786 his debts were so great that he had to rely on Parliament, with the support of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, to settle his debts for him and to enable him to withdraw from the Jockey Club. However, his absence from the Turf was short-lived, and by the early 1790s his interest was rekindled, aided and abetted by the crack jockey Sam Chifney senior, and the pair launched another assault on the betting ring over a prolonged period, often employing questionable methods. It was likely that the Stewards of the Jockey Club monitored the pair's activities closely until they came to a head in October 1791 over the running of a horse called Escape.
The story begins at the start of the season when, at the Craven Meeting on Tuesday 26th April 1791, Escape contested a 50 Guineas Subscription at Newmarket over the 3 miles of the Dutton Course.
1. ESCAPE, 5-y-o carrying 8st 7lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
2. SKYLARK (1/2 fav), 4-y-o carrying 7st 13lbs owned by Lord Grosvenor
3. HIGHLANDER, aged horse carrying 9st owned by Lord Barrymore
4. MAGPIE, 4-y-o carrying 7st 13lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
5. GLAUCUS, 4-y-o carrying 7st 13lbs owned by HRH Duke of York
6. HALKIN, 4-y-o carrying 7st 13lbs owned by Duke of Bedford
7. METEOR, aged horse carrying 9st owned by Lord Grosvenor
8. BUFFER, 6-y-o carrying 8st 12lbs owned by Mr Fox
A summary of this race suggests that, despite being (1/2 fav), Skylark was at least 8lb inferior to Escape who had a pacemaker in Meteor.
The next form line to consider is the Oatlands Stakes at Ascot Heath on Tuesday 28th June 1791 over 2 miles when Escape was asked to give Skylark 16lbs, Coriander 12lbs, Pipator 23lbs and Chanticleer 28lbs, and one would have expected Escape to have little chance at those weights and over that distance.
1. BARONET (20/1) 6-y-o carrying 8st 4lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
2. EXPRESS (100/30) 6-y-o carrying 8st 4lbs owned by Mr Barton
3. CHANTICLEER (9/1) 4-y-o carrying 7st 10lbs owned by Lord Barrymore
4. ESCAPE (33/1) 6-y-o carrying 9st 10lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
5. CORIANDER (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 8st 12lbs owned by Mr Dawson
6. TOBY (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 8st 10lbs owned by Mr Bullock
7. SKYLARK (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 8st 8lbs owned by Lord Grosvenor
8. PRECIPITATE (7/1) 4-y-o carrying 8st 8lbs owned by Lord Egremont
9. MINOS (33/1) 6-y-o carrying 8st 3lbs owned by Mr Hamond
10. PIPATOR (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 8st 1lb owned by Lord Clermont
11. EUPHROSYNE (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 7st 12lbs owned by Mr Philips
12. COMPETITOR (33/1) 5-y-o carrying 7st 10lbs owned by Lord George H Cavendish
13. MICROSCOPE (33/1) (33/1) 4-y-o carrying 7st 6lbs owned by Mr Wastell
14. ECLIPSE colt (33/1) 4-y-o carrying 7st 3lbs owned by Mr O’Kelly
15. CRAZY (33/1) 4-y-o carrying 6st 12lbs owned by Mr Vernon
16. TURNIP TOP (33/1) 4-y-o carrying 6st 11lbs owned by Lord Grosvenor
17. BUZZARD (8/1) 4-y-o carrying 6st 11lbs owned by Mr Bullock
18. LAMBINOS (33/1) 4-y-o carrying 6st 10lbs owned by Mr Wyndham
19. VERMIN (3/1 fav) 3-y-o carrying 5st 5lbs owned by Lord Foley
A summary of the race suggests that, even over 2 miles, Escape was deemed to be 16lbd superior to Skylark, 12lbs superior to Coriander, although he could not give 28lbs to Chanticleer; a short distance was not seen as a problem. Furthermore, despite a gap of 2 months between races, no claim was made that he needed a 'race to clear his pipes'.
At the First October meeting at Newmarket, on 3rd October 1791 Coriander won a £50 Stakes over the Round Course while, on the same day Escape beat the Duke of Bedford's Grey Diomed, each carrying 8st 7lbs, over the 3 miles of the Beacon Course. No 'clearing of the pipes' was required despite a gap of over 2 months since his last race. Two days later, on 5th October, in the Second Renewal of 140 Guineas Subscription race Escape defeated Grey Diomed again at level weights over 3 miles of the Beacon Course.
On Thursday 20th October 1791 at Newmarket over 2 miles of the Ditch-In Course there were 4 runners and Escape was made a strong 1/2 fav, but all did not go according to plan.
1. CORIANDER (4/1), 5-y-o bay carrying 8st owned by Mr Dawson
2. SKYLARK, 5-y-o carrying 8st owned by Lord Grosvenor
3. PIPATOR, 5-y-o carrying 8st owned by Lord Clermont
4. ESCAPE (1/2 fav), 6-y-o carrying 8st 4lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
The form would suggest that Escape was at least 4lb inferior to both Coriander and Skylark over 2 miles.
However, the next day, Friday 21st October 1791 at Newmarket over 4 miles of the Beacon Course there were 6 runners, including Chanticleer, Skylark and Pipator and, given his comprehensive defeat the day before by the latter 2 horses, Escape drifted in the market to 5/1 from 4/1, but to the consternation of the crowd and the Stewards, Escape gained an easy victory.
1. ESCAPE (5/1), 6-y-o carrying 8st 13lbs owned by HRH Prince of Wales
2. CHANTICLEER (7/4 fav) 4-y-o carrying 7st 7lbs owned by Lord Barrymore
3. SKYLARK, 5-y-o carrying 8st 6lbs owned by Lord Grosvenor
4. GREY DIOMED, 6-y-o carrying 8st 13lbs owned by Duke of Bedford
5. PIPATOR, 5-y-o carrying 8st 6lbs owned by Lord Clermont
6. ALDERMAN, 4-y-o carrying 7st 7lbs owned by Mr Barton
The plain facts are that Escape had to give both Skylark and Pipator a further 3lbs extra, and was comprehensively beaten 24 hours beforehand, but the distance was double that which had been run the previous day.
Sir Charles Bunbury, Thomas Panton and Ralph Dutton called an enquiry for Sam Chifney to explain the turn around in form. Sam suggested that Escape had needed the race the previous day to 'clear his pipes' and that he was better over the longer distance. He added that he had not backed Escape the previous day, but had bet 20 Guineas on him on the latter race. He could not explain that, even after a 2 months absence between July and October, he had not needed to 'clear his pipes' before landing 2 Subscription races within 2 days. The Stewards rejected his arguments and it was left to Sir Charles Bunbury to inform HRH Prince of Wales that 'no gentleman would start against you as long as you employ Chifney'. The blame was clearly put at the hands of Sam Chifney, reported to have been in a £300 debt to the bookmaker Vauxhaul Clarke prior to Thursday 20th October, but having cleared his debt by end of play on Friday 21st October. Furthermore, he was in a position to lay Escape on Thursday and back the other 3 horses to secure a profit, purported to be £700, and to bet 20 Guineas on Escape on Friday and extended odds. The finger was pointed at Chifney, but the pressure mounted on HRH Prince of Wales to sack Chifney, but the Prince chose to stick by his jockey. The Stewards had the option to warn-off Chifney, so avoiding embarrassment to the Prince, but they reject that course of action and the Prince was effectively warned off.