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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
As he had done the previous year, Reiff made his challenge at the bend, and into the straight the favorite and the outsider were running neck and neck. At that moment, the unbelievable happened. Just beyond the bend, with five leading horses gone by, Emily Davison ducked under the rails, eluded a policeman and ran onto the course—directly into the path of the oncoming horses.
Walter Earl on Agadir skillfully avoided her by a whisker. Jones aboard Anmer also saw her in time and reacted quickly. Oddly enough, he had faced similar situations on three recent occasions, when women had vaulted onto the track and tried to cross over during a race. But this time was different. This woman was deliberately heading toward him.
"Surely she was mad." he later recalled. "I reined Anmer cruelly. And then with a great rush she seized Anmer's bridle and leaped at his neck with the movement of a matador. An awful scream. The crowd yelled. Women fainted. In an instant we were all three in a struggling heap on the grass."
When Emily somehow managed to grab the King's horse she was bowled over and kicked in the head. Almost simultaneously, Anmer turned a somersault and fell upon his rider. As the horse struggled to his feet, Jones was torturously dragged over the ground with one leg caught in the stirrup, and when he finally fell free he was left unconscious in the center of the track. A few yards away, now hatless and lying half on her back with arms outstretched and knees doubled up, was Emily Davison. She, too, was motionless.
After its initial shock, the nearby crowd fell silent and immobile. Then, after the remaining runners had scrambled safely through, spectators began to surge onto the course. Mounted police galloped up to draw a cordon round the bodies, and soon stretcher-bearers were carrying away the famous jockey and the unknown woman. Away from the disaster, attention still focused on the outcome of the race.
The leading riders were oblivious to the chaos behind them as Craganour and Aboyeur were in a bruising, hell-for-leather duel over the final straight. Almost inseparable to the eye, they seemed to be running too close for comfort. Aboyeur gave his rival a hefty bump. Reiff replied. In the finishing scrimmage they were still shoulder to shoulder, with Louvois, Great Sport, Day Comet and Shogun only a few paces behind.
"Craganour by a nose!" someone shouted, and the cry reverberated round the downs. A smiling Mr. Ismay led in his heavily backed horse. Johnny Reiff glowed with the distinction of his third Derby triumph. Bookies gloomily accepted appalling losses and began to pay out as the "all right" flag was hoisted.
But it was not all right. Two minutes later came the second stunning blow of that mad afternoon on Epsom Downs. The red "objection" Flag was being run up—a sight seen only once before in the 133 years of the Derby. The stewards were questioning whether Craganour had interfered with other runners.
For 30 minutes, the result hung on the findings of a court of inquiry. The judges' decision hit like a thunderbolt. Craganour was disqualified because "by not keeping a straight course, he had at one point of the race seriously interfered with Shogun, Day Comet and Aboyeur, and had afterwards bumped and bored the latter so as to prevent his winning." Aboyeur, the hopeless 100-to-1 shot, was declared the winner.
That result was to be debated by the racing fraternity for years to come, but the incident involving Miss Davison and the King's jockey soon became a national cause c�l�bre. Who was she? Why had she done it? Curiously, her motive was established before her identity: when a policeman turned over her body he found, tied around her waist, three ribbons of purple, green and white—the infamous colors of the militant suffragette group, the Women's Social and Political Union. Their catalog of crimes had outraged most of male Britain and had recently escalated from window smashing to planting bombs, firing railway stations and (most despicable of all in the eyes of sporting gentry) burning their slogans into putting greens with acid.