William Crockford


Illustration of William Crockford


Crockford’s horse Ratan was favorite for the 1844 Derby. A few days before the race the horse was poisoned. Crockford’s rage and disappointment brought on a fit of apoplexy that proved fatal. This put his gambling friends in a quandary as Crockford also had a heavily backed filly entered for the Oaks, which is run at the same Epsom meeting a the Derby itself. If the owner’s death became known, the filly would be disqualified. They therefore propped Crockford’s body up at a window in his house at Epsom, overlooking the racecourse, where it would be clearly visible to the crowd, who would thus discount any rumor of Crockford’s demise. The filly won the race and the punters duly collected their winnings before their ruse was discovered.

Biographical Note: 

William Crockford was a British gambler whose successes enabled him to abandon his original profession of fishmonger and found the famous gambling club that still bears his name.

More Information: 

Read more about Crockford’s Club

Illustration Info

The illustration above of William Crockford — identified here as “Crockford the Shark” — was sketched by the great British caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson in about 1825. Rowlandson, himself an inveterate gambler who blew his way through a $10.5 million family fortune, knew the former fishmonger before he opened the club that would make his name.