LAST week, we mentioned how there’s a plaque on the wall commemorating the “honesty and skill” of James Croft who trained the first four in the 1822 St Leger at the Glasgow House stables in Middleham.

Theodore came first followed by Violet, Professor and then Corinthian – the order in which James had sent them out from the stables.

Now information reaches us that suggests that the skill required in getting this most extraordinary result may not have been entirely honest.

Theodore was the outsider who won the race at odds of 200-1. His form in 1821 had been good, and he won his first four races of 1822 so that at one stage he was 20-1 favourite for the Great St Leger, held on September 16.

But word started seeping out of Glasgow House that all was not well with the bay horse. First of all, he was badly lame. Jockey John Johnson burst into tears when instructed to take Theodore onto the Middleham gallops where he was outpaced by all the stable’s other horses. Then corns were found on Theodore’s feet.

His price slumped. Even his owner, wealthy gambler Edward Petre, sold the bets he had taken out on the horse at the start of the year, thus indicating a complete lack of confidence in Theodore’s chances. Instead, Swap, owned by the Orde-Powletts of Bolton Castle was installed as the 2-1 favourite in the large field of 23 runners.

At Doncaster on September 16, Johnson put Theodore at the front from the start, and he stayed there, winning easily by a length from Violet (50-1) and Professor (200-1), with Swap finishing way down the field.

Not only had James Croft trained the first four horses, but the first three had come home at lucratively long odds.

Indeed, it was Marmaduke Wyvill of Constable Burton Hall, near Bedale, who had bought the bets worth £200 from owner Mr Petre, and when Theodore crossed the line first, he made £6,000 (more than £750,000 in today’s prices, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator). Only a fortnight ago, we told how Marmaduke’s father, the Reverend Christopher Wyvill, campaigned against slavery and his brother, Admiral Christopher Wyvill, commanded a warship off the African coast which actually stopped the slave trade.

“It just goes to show they weren’t all saints,” says their descendant, Charles Wyvill, as he kindly passes the story on.

Two days later, the Gascoigne Stakes were run over the same distance and course at Doncaster. They were just two entrants: Theodore and Swap. Given their respective performances in the St Leger, Theodore was the outright favourite – and came hobbling home a long way behind Swap.

There were, understandably, allegations that a Yorkshire triumvirate of Middleham, Bolton Castle and Constable Burton had somehow conspired to fix the big race, but other pundits pointed out that Swap was a notoriously “sulky” horse who wouldn’t have liked the crowded field of the St Leger and that Theodore had probably aggravated his old injuries in winning the big race.

Nothing was proved.

But the St Leger was the pinnacle of Theodore’s career. He retired in 1826 have won nine of his 22 races. He wasn’t considered a success at stud and ended up in France.