Archive for November, 2017

An obscure question arose this week with Salisbury research, but it wasn’t too obscure for fellow author Tony Byles, who kindly delved into his library to find the answer to it and the supplementary questions I posed.

These were about the Royal Plates, usually four mile races for six-year-olds sponsored by the monarchy. Though the first may have been as early as 1634, it was the fun-loving Charles II that got them going.  Future royals kept them up, so that by 1727 there were eleven of them spread round the country.

Originally they had trophies worth £100 but they moved to cash prizes later. Basically their value was such that the best horses would enter, and with no second or third prize money fields were often small or there would be a walkover.

Their numbers increased in the 18th century and their terms and conditions evolved, but as racing changed to an emphasis on speed instead of stamina, they became anachronistic and the last of them was run in 1887.  Their descendants are the stayers’ Cup races at Ascot, Goodwood, Doncaster and York.

Tony talks about this more fully in his Kindle book of 101 Interesting Facts on the History of Horse Racing, and you can see some of it on Google Books. I know he hadn’t planned to write any more after his book about the ringer who won the 1844 Derby, In Search of Running Rein.  (I see hardback copies of that one are being offered on Amazon for £85 to £503.93.  Plus postage.  Paperback and Kindle versions are rather more reasonably priced.)

He must have found, like I did, that once you start this research plus writing malarkey it’s difficult to stop. Let’s hope he is compiling the Next 101 Interesting Facts on the History of Horse Racing.

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Fillip the great?

In the last month or two the Salisbury research has turned up some particularly interesting possibilities which, if confirmed, will give the book a big fillip.  It’s far too early to go public with them, and there is more testing of these theories to be done.  There is also the ghastly fear that if and when these are unveiled, someone will say, “Oh no, this isn’t right,” and come up with proof that I was mistaken – in which case I’ll have egg on my face.

Nothing has come along to disprove these notions so far – quite the contrary – and I can temporarily luxuriate in an “aren’t I clever” glow while dismissing, for the time being, any prospect of disappointment or embarrassment.  It must be like having a horse being prepared for a race who you know is well handicapped, or better than its public form suggests.   It’s exciting, but he might go lame the day before the race or fall at the first fence.

On a more prosaic note, I’ve realised there is a file in a distant archive that I’d like to see, but for all I know it may consist of one piece of paper that doesn’t tell me anything new.  I figured out an opportunity to see it by taking a diversion from another journey, only to find the place is closed that day.  There is no real urgency about seeing this file, and another excuse to be in the same part of the country is bound to come along eventually, but having been thwarted once I am now unreasonably impatient to see it.

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