(Throughout my career as author, feature writer at both North America and Japanese magazines, and editor of the horseracing magazine, I occasionally came across the Jersey Act. Yet didn’t seem to pertain directly to anything I was writing about, hence, ignored it.
Tracking Canada’s Rivers of Gold I decided to leave no stone unturned. Which led me to William Robertson’s marvelous work: The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. Brilliantly written and researched, reading Robertson is like taking a time-machine back to the days when horseracing in North America ruled as the continent’s number one and favourite sport. Indeed, the first edition this book was first published in 1964, the year our Northern Dancer triumphed in the Kentucky Derby.)
“… The Jersey Act effectively dismissed the vast majority of American horses as half-breds. Lexington was among the casualties. Despite his strong ties to horses in the original General Stud Book through Diomed (both Lexington’s sire and dam were descendants) British authorities deemed the breeding of Lexington’s dam to be suspect. Hence Lexington would be dismissed as a half-breed as long as the Jersey Act remained in force.
While designed to keep the Thoroughbred blood pure, it also had economic undertones. The outlawing of racetrack betting in the US (1900-1913) resulted in an influx of American horses being shipped to the UK to race.
In some quarters the scenario gave rise to fears Britain would be inundated by “impure” US bloodlines. Not only would this possibly taint the British, hence pure bloodlines, it also had the probability of affecting the bottom-lines.
“The reaction of most Americans to this demeaning classification was mild to begin with,” wrote William Robertson in The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America,”… but indignation increased over the years as the Act remained in force when there no longer was any need for it.”
to be continued… lawlessness and anti-racing legislation