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Dark Horse

(A). A racing term for a horse of good pretensions, but of which nothing is positively known by the general public. Its merits are kept dark from betters and book-makers.

“At last a Liberal candidate has entered the field at Croydon. The Conservatives have kept their candidate back, as a dark horse.” —Newspaper paragraph, January, 1886.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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