Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Famous Dreamers - Walter Craig's 'Nimblefoot' Dream

In 1895, American author Mark Twain described Australia’s Melbourne Cup horserace as “The greatest racing event on Earth.” The story behind the winner of the 1870 Melbourne Cup, Nimblefoot and his owner, publican Walter Craig is a remarkable one. 

In the early spring of 1870 Craig, proprietor of Craig's Hotel in Ballarat had an extremely vivid dream. In his dream he saw a horse being ridden by a jockey, sporting violet coloured silks, draw away to win the Melbourne Cup. He assumed it had to be Nimblefoot, as he was entered and being trained for the big race and after vividly seeing the horse cross the finishing line, became sure that he recognised the winning horse as Nimblefoot. However, Craig had also noticed in his dream that the jockey, J Day, was sporting a black armband. Craig took this as a sign of his own impending death. He promptly went about telling several people the next morning the details of his dream, declaring Nimblefoot to be a certainty for the Cup, but that he wouldn't be alive to enjoy it. He then made a doubles bet with a bookmaker named William Slack, coupling a horse called Croydon in the Metropolitan Handicap Stakes, with Nimblefoot in the Cup. Considering at the time both horses were unfancied, Slack, due to the light hearted nature of the wager gave him the odds of 1000 pound to 8 free beers.

Amazingly that night Craig died and a couple of days later Croydon won the Metropolitan. The story of Craig's prophecy was then published in The Age Newspaper, the day before the Cup. To everyone's shock and amazement,  Nimblefoot, ridden by  jockey J Day, sporting a black armband, went on to salute the judge. Due to Craig's death, Bookmaker Slack was under no obligation to pay out on the bet. He did however honour half the winning sum of £500 to Craig's widow.

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