Literally, a horse of a different color.
June 8, 2019 5:36 PM   Subscribe

History’s Greatest Horse Racing Cheat and His Incredible Painting Trick [Hidden History] In the sport’s post-Depression heyday, one audacious grifter beat the odds with an elaborate scam: disguising fast horses to look like slow ones.
“He was a master, at 38, of the various measures a man could take to bend the odds at the track. He knew, for example, just how much heroin to shoot into a horse’s neck to make him “think he was Pegasus,” as the Daily News put it in 1932 (about 30 milligrams by hypodermic needle, or 160 milligrams down the throat). But it was Barrie’s fingernails that told the story of his particular genius: They were nearly gone, eaten away by the bleach and ammonia he rubbed into the hides of thoroughbred horses so that racetrack stewards, detectives, jockeys, and even the horse’s own trainers mistook them for entirely different creatures.”
posted by Fizz (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Phony Pony!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:51 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]

You have to be careful, though. Too much heroin for too long and your horse will start singing “Horse in the Box” or “Where Did You Stand Last Night”.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:52 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

This is less entertaining to me when I consider how the animals must have suffered.
posted by praemunire at 6:54 PM on June 8 [22 favorites]

The horse bleaching was in the service of an elegant scam that the gamblers called “ringing.”

"Horse bleaching." Good lord.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:55 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]

Gregory: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.
Gregory: The dog did nothing in the nighttime.
Holmes: That was the curious incident.
posted by scalefree at 7:44 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

Huh. The right dose of heroin makes a horse faster? I suppose the pain-relief qualities could make it keep going even when its body is telling it not to, but, still, I'd think opiates generally would not be conducive to extraordinary feats of vitality. (And later in the story, opium is cited as a way to slow a horse down)
posted by jackbishop at 12:13 PM on June 9

Even today, horses often have horrible injuries resulting from being doped with painkillers to increase performance. I'm not going to include any links because these stories kill me.
posted by praemunire at 1:50 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]

Turns out this is why they call it 'horse'...
posted by motty at 3:26 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Another famous example of horse painting from 1984, the Australian horse Fine Cotton and it's substitute Bold Personality:

"Fine Cotton was an eight-year-old brown gelding and had white markings on his hind legs, whereas Bold Personality was a seven-year-old bay gelding with no markings. To overcome this problem, they applied Clairol hair colouring to Bold Personality with limited success. On race day, having forgotten the peroxide to whiten the legs of Bold Personality, they resorted to crudely applied white paint."
posted by mosessis at 8:16 AM on June 12

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