Hamilton’s big race honours a much-missed local family

Victory Command: bidding to give Mark Johnston a second successive win in the Almada Mile Handicap. Photo: Coolmore.com

Hamilton Park Racecourse is presenting a new trophy or the first time on Tuesday in memory of a now-extinct family that were big supporters of the racecourse. The Watson Memorial Cup will go to the winning owner after one of the Scottish track’s biggest races, the £30,000 Almada Mile Handicap Stakes.

The race has attracted a quality line-up, with trainer Mark Johnston is aiming for a second consecutive victory. His Victory Command, a son of War Command, finished sixth in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot but the syndicate members of Kingsley Park 10 may not have it all their own way in a competitive contest.

Richard Fahey’s hat-trick seeking Coolagh Forest has put in two convincing performances already this season over similar trips but now needs to defy a 12lb hike in the weights.

Club Wexford (trained by Roger Fell), Mikmak and Brother McGonagall (both Tim Easterby) last met in the Carlisle Bell, finishing fifth, eighth and ninth respectively. David Simcock’s Nonios clearly gets on well with 5lb claimer Dylan Hogan, although the pair have been seen more regularly on the all-weather of late.

Scottish-trained horses are represented by Keith Dalgleish’s Never Be Enough, a dual course-and-distance winner this season, and Jim Goldie’s Nicholas T, who has been placed in similar level handicaps already this summer.

The Watson Memorial Cup is in memory of Sir Julian Somerled Watson, 7th Baronet of Earnock, who was a shareholder, loyal supporter and regular visitor to Hamilton Park. Following his passing in May 2016, the Watson Baronetcy became extinct and, since then, the team at Hamilton Park have been working closely with the Watson estate to ensure a lasting legacy.

Since it was founded in c1895, the Watson Baronetcy of Earnock contributed considerably to the local Hamilton community. Sir John Watson, 1st Baronet of Earnock, owned several collieries in the area, including the Neilsland and Earnock colliery on the Neilsland Estate, which covered over 2,000 acres. The Watson family also gifted the elaborate Watson Fountain to the town of Hamilton, which still stands proudly at the triangular merging of Cadzow Street and Muir Street.

World-renowned silversmiths Hamilton & Inches of Edinburgh, have created ‘The Watson Memorial Cup’, which will pay tribute to the Watson Baronetcy and Sir Julian’s love of racing through special hand engravings. In 2012, the racecourse also trusted the leading silversmiths with the creation of the Ladbrokes Lanark Silver Bell Trophy inspired by the original ancient relic.

Sulekha Varma, Racing Manager at Hamilton Park Racecourse, said, “The £30,000 Almada Mile Handicap is rapidly becoming one of the most popular races in the Hamilton Park calendar. Last year’s winner, Ventura Knight, has gone on to give his owners, Middleham Park Racing XXXVII, a lot of fun, competing in Dubai during the winter and regularly appearing in big handicaps across the UK.

“To honour the memory of the Watson Baronetcy, and their contribution to the local area, is something we are very proud to do and associating the family with this particular race is of great significance for the racecourse and the people of Hamilton.”

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