The Silver Bell is one of the most ancient Racing Trophies in Britain, yet its origins are disputed. The Bell disappeared without trace for many years. It was rediscovered in 1836 in Lanark Town Council’s vaults when they were in the process of moving to their new offices in Hope Street.
Many believed the Bell to have been gifted from King William ‘The Lion’ of Scotland in approximately 1165. If this were the case, the trophy would be the oldest in the world! King William often stayed at Lanark Castle to participate in the local hunt and watch the racing on the moors.
Studies of the various hallmarks on the newly rediscovered Bell linked them to silversmiths dating to the years 1587 and 1599. These do not automatically reflect the date of its actual creation and leaves us with the possibility that the traditional belief may not be unfounded.
The Silver Bell was a highly acclaimed race competed for annually at Lanark Racecourse. The old inscriptions on the trophy suggest that Sir Johne Hamilton of Trabovn was one of the first winners, in 1628, to have their name engraved on such a prestigious prize. Where the trophy was prior to this date is not known. Each year, the winner of the race would be awarded a replica of the original Bell. On occasion, for example the winner being a noted dignitary, the authentic trophy would be awarded for the period of that year.
The opening meeting at the ‘new’ racecourse in 1909 once again ran The Silver Bell, which was duly won by Lord Rosebery’s Dandyprat who was trained by Sam Darling and ridden by Freddy Fox. The last ever running of the Lanark Silver Bell was in 1977. The winner, Border River was owned and trained by Clifford Watts and ridden by David Nicholls. Mr Nicholls was also the last jockey to ride a double on Lanark racecourse after beating the field in the final race on board Mrs Bee for Eric Collingwood.
In 2008, the William Haggas trained Tifernati became the first winner of the Silver Bell for 31 years. This was followed by the aptly named Record Breaker, trained by Mark Johnston, who broke the course record when winning the race in 2009. 2019 saw trainer Michael Easterby win the Silver Bell with Elysian Flame, piloted to
victory by jockey Nathan Evans.
In 2012, the racecourse unveiled a new Silver Bell Trophy to complement the original piece, handcrafted by Edinburgh jewellers and warrant holders to Her Majesty the Queen, Hamilton & Inches. Completed after a detailed six-month design process, the 100% sterling silver trophy reflects many of the hallmarks of the original artefact, which has now become too valuable to be presented to winners. After teaming up with Ladbrokes as sponsors of the fixture in a long term deal, the Hamilton Park team decided to make a new trophy with a refreshed contemporary feel, to sit alongside the ancient relic.
The Lanark Silver Bell Handicap Winners (2008 onwards)
2008 – Tifernati - William Haggas/Liam Jones
2009 – Record Breaker - Mark Johnston/Royston Ffrench
2010 – Just Lille - Ann Duffield/Barry McHugh
2011 – Shernando - Mark Johnston /Silvestre De Sousa
2012 – Edmaaj - David O’Meara/Daniel Tudhope
2013 – Special Meaning - Mark Johnston/Franny Norton
2014 – Swivel - Mark Johnston/Kevin Stott
2015 – Polarisation - Mark Johnston/Joe Fanning
2016 – Multellie - Tim Easterby/Cam Hardie
2017 – Sepal - Iain Jardine/Jamie Gormley
2018 – Archi’s Affaire - Michael Dods/Callum Rodriguez
2019 - Elysian Flame - Michael Easterby/Nathan Evans