boat races: "throwing" races

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Nov 7 21:57:25 UTC 2003

In a message to me after I posted my recent message on the term "boat race", (meaning a fixed race, or one wherein one of the contestants lost on purpose), Jonathon Green indicated that the extract I gave from the NY Times, 1868,  seemed to contain an early example of the expression "to throw a race".  The passage, as I gave it, was a mixture of paraphrase and direct quotation, as is frequent in my notes.  I have since noticed that the OED online has a passage from 1868 for its first citation, and one from 1940 (!) for its second.

Here is the full quotation:
The general opinion was that BROWN -- who is a slippery and unreliable customer --  had thrown the race for the purpose of getting the odds heavy against him in the second race.  N-Y Times, June 25, 1868, p. 8, cols. 2-3

Checking Proquest's APS and NYTimes databses, if also find the following:

Several who had betted on Wood, declined paying, on the plea of something unfair having taken place.  The regular frequenters of Newmarket said, the bets ought to be paid, although they were of opinion, the race was thrown over.  American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, vol. 1, #10 (June, 1830), p. 513.  (A report of a footrace in England, copied from an English publication.)

. . . previous to the race all considered that GRINNELL was the best and smartest rower in the club.  A large number did not believe LE ROY could beat him.  They also believed after LE ROY did beat him, that GRINNELL for some reason or other threw away the race purposely. . . .
        N-Y Times, June 15, 1868, p. 5, col. ?


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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