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A little bit more Race history - Watt Memorial Plate, 2m, run at Beverley in July

Visitors to Beverley racecourse may well have stopped for a pre or post racing drink at the Altisidora Inn in Bishop Burton and wondered about the name of that establishment.

Altisidora was the winner of the 1813 St Leger and the first of four winners of Britain’s oldest Classic to carry the colours of Bishop Burton land owner Richard Watt, one of the leading owner-breeders in the first half of the 19th Century.

Richard Watt had inherited his vast estates from his father and was a keen racing man throughout his life, winning the St Leger a further three times in the next 20 years with Barefoot (1823), Memnon (1825) and Rockingham (1833).

Richard Watt died in May, 1855 when he was succeeded by his son Captain Francis Watt, whose interest in the Turf did not match that of his father and when he died in Epsom on June 17, 1870, the estate passed to his brother William.

Although William Watt had a couple of horses in training, neither did a great deal, but he did serve as a steward at Beverley. However, only four years after inheriting from his brother, William died at the Oatlands Hotel, Weybridge, Surrey aged 56. He is buried in the Watt family vault at Bishop Burton church.

In his will, William Watt bequeathed £3,000 to the Beverley Race Company, the interest to be used to provide a piece of plate to be known as the Watt Memorial Plate and to be run for annually at the summer meeting.

First run Thursday, June 15, 1876 over a mile and a half, the prize money was boosted by a piece of plate worth 85 sovereigns, which was added to the sweepstake of five sovereigns each.

Just four horses took part in the first running with Lord Durham’s Glendale going off the red hot 5-2 on favourite. Despite being the market leader, he had dropped back last turning into the far straight, but he cruised through in the last six furlongs and won by a length.

There was one condition to William Watt’s bequest and that was that should the race not be staged for two years in succession, the bequest had be transferred to the Hansby Charity, which he had also endowed in his will.

This condition was not met during the First World War when Beverley Racecourse was requisitioned as an aerodrome for military use. During the war, the interest was paid by Beverley to the Hansby Charity, but at the end of hostilities, the Charities Commission brought an action at law for the permanent transfer of the Watt bequest, but the judges with some derision for the claim, ruled in favour of Beverley.

The Watt Memorial remains an integral part of the Beverley race programme with the 134th running having been scheduled in the 2020 season.