Chifney, Samuel (DNB00)

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CHIFNEY, SAMUEL (1753?–1807), jockey, was born in Norfolk about 1753, and, entering Foxe's stables at Newmarket 1770, soon learned the rudiments of the art of horseracing. He says of himself: 'In 1773 I could ride horses in a better manner in a race to beat others than any other person ever known in my time, and in 1775 I could train horses for running better than any person I ever yet saw. Riding I learnt myself and training I learnt from Mr. Richard Prince, training groom to Lord Foley.' In 1787 he was riding for the Duke of Bedford, and two years afterwards won the Derby on Skyscraper for that nobleman. For Lord Grosvenor he gained the Oaks on Ceres in 1782, and on Maid of the Oaks in 1783. For Lord Egremont in 1789 he won the Oaks on Tagg, and took the same race in 1790 on Hypolita for the Duke of Bedford. His theory of riding was to keep a slack rein, a method which has never found much favour, but which in his hands led to very satisfactory results. He was one of the first to ride a waiting race, coming towards the finish with a tremendous rush. He was long considered the best horseman of his time; he was 5 feet 5 inches high, and could ride 7 st. 12 lbs. On 14 July 1790 he was engaged as 'rider for life' by the Prince of Wales to ride his running horses at a salary of two hundred guineas a year. Immediately after his riding the prince's horse Escape at Newmarket on 20 and 21 Oct. 1791, insinuations against the character of the prince and his jockey were very general. Chifney was called up before the Jockey Club, when nothing was proved against him; but in consequence of a resolution passed by them, the Prince of Wales sold off his stud and severed his connection with the turf. In 1795, when in reduced circumstances, Chiftiey wrote and published, or probably had written for him, a work entitled 'Genius Genuine, by Samuel Chifney of Newmarket.' This book, although only an octavo of 170 pages, was sold for 5l. The sale must have been considerable, for a second edition appeared in 1804. In the meantime (1800) he brought out 'The Narrative or Address of Samuel Chifney, Rider for Life to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, price 2s. 6p.' In 1799 he was again much blamed for his riding of Mr. Cookson's Sir Harry, but it afterwards became apparent that in this case the horse and not the rider was in fault. He quitted Newmarket for London in 1800, never to return to it. In 1806 he sold his annuity of two hundred guineas allowed him by the Prince of Wales for the sum of 1,260l. He was the inventor of a bit for horses, still in use and called after his name. It consisted of a curb with two snaffles, and afforded a greater bearing on the sides of the horse's mouth. It is sometimes described as an Uppingham bit with Pelham cheeks and a snaffle mouth (Patents, 1805, No. 2809). In connection with this bit he became indebted to a saddler named Latchford for 350l., and after being in confinement for a considerable time died, aged 52, in a wretched lodging in Fleet Lane, within the rules of the Fleet prison, on 8 Jan. 1807. He was buried in St. Sepulchre's churchyard. He had two sons, both well-known men. The elder, William Chifney, born at Newmarket in 1784, was all his life engaged in the care of racehorses in the neighbourhood of Newmarket. On 31 May 1803 he publicly thrashed Lieut.-colonel George Leigh, an equerry to the Prince of Wales, for abusing his father, and was for that assault imprisoned for six months at Cambridge. He died in Pancras Square, Pancras Road, London, 14 Oct. 1862. The younger son, Samuel Chifney, was born in 1786. He first rode for the Prince of Wales at the Stockbridge meeting in 1802. He continued the slack-rein system inaugurated by his father, and during his career 'the Chifney rush' passed into a proverb. He was five times winner of the Oaks, on Briseis in 1807, on Sorcery in 1811, on Landscape in 1816, on Shoveller in 1819, and on Wings in 1823. Twice he took the Derby Stakes—on Sam, a horse called after himself, in 1818, and on Sailor in 1820. The One Thousand Guineas also fell to him in 1843, when he rode Extempore, being at the time fifty-seven years old. He had training stables of his own at Newmarket, where with his brother William he had the care of Mr. Thornhill's and Lord Darlington's horses. The two brothers also had a small stud of their own, but this led them into difficulties, and the horses had to be sold in June 1834. On Mr. Thornhill's death in 1843 he left Chifney his Newmarket house and stables. Here he resided until November 1851, when he removed to Hove, Brighton, where he died on 29 Aug. 1854. The daughter of Samuel Chifney, senior, married Mr. Butler, and became the mother of the well-known jockey Frank Butler.

[Sporting Review, vii. 416 (1842), portrait, xxxii. 231, 312, xxxiii. 31, 401, xxxiv. 5, 75 (1854-5), xlviii. 410 (1862); Corbet's Tales of Sporting Life (1864), pp. 176-82; Rice's British Turf (1879), i. 64-85; Post and Paddock, by the Druid (1885), pp. 81-99, 102-4; Quarterly Review, October 1885, pp. 451-2.]

G. C. B.