Notes on the text
These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.
The Indian Turf has played a great part in the improved treatment of horses. One does not look for the nimbus of a saint over the head of the average racing man, but in India he is also a missionary, spreading no ignoble gospel. For it is impossible to get high speed and quality under the old conditions of starveling upbringing and crippling bondage.[Page 164, line 5] Australian larrikin slang for a rough or hooligan.
'It’s Oh to meet an Army man[Page 164, line 8] demirep a woman of dubious reputation – the mare is no good.
Set up, and trimmed and taut
Who does not spout hashed libraries
Or think the next man’s thought,
And walks as if he owned himself,
And hogs his bristles short.'
( "In Partibus" in Abaft the Funnel)
The Maribyrnong Plate certainly exists on the Australian racing calendar. It was first run in 1871 and was named after the Maribyrnong River which flows beside Flemington racecourse. It now takes place on Oaks Day, which is the third day of the Victoria Racing Club's spring (Melbourne Cup) carnival held at Flemington. However, it is a 1000 metre (5 furlong) race for two-year-olds, not a jumps race, and it has always had this format.[Page 166, line 16] jarrah a tough Western Australian timber that would have had to be shipped some two thousand miles to Melbourne to make these formidable fences.(Welcome, p.14)
As to the horses named by Kipling, I have checked the "Turf Register" for 1886 and 1887. This book lists all thoroughbred horses racing in Australia for those years, and none of Kipling's horses are listed. I think we can, therefore, conclude that apart from the name of the race, Kipling's scenario is an invention. Accidents in jumps-races were then, and still are, a common occurrence and Kipling may just have drawn on events which any racing person would have been familiar.
However, as Melbourne is the location for the race, it is possible that he may have read or heard of the accident which took place during the running of the 1885 Caulfield Cup, held at Melbourne's other major racecourse. In this race, which is the worst to have taken place in Australia's racing history, 16 horses fell in a mass pile-up. One jockey was killed and a number of horses had to be put down or were permanently disabled.
This is Cyanosis - a bluish discolouration of the skin that occurs when there is not enough oxygen carried by the haemoglobin in the blood. It is first seen where the skin is thin e.g. lips and mucous membranes, and in extremities such as nail beds, fingers and ear lobes. Brunt had a very bad fright. This caused constriction of the tiny blood vessels in his skin. This, in turn, slowed down blood flow through these vessels allowing more time for oxygen to be removed from the blood, hence leading to cyanosis and his blue lips. (G.S.)[Page 169, line 31] tweeds clothing made from woollen cloth.