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Mr George Watson

1829 – 1906

George John Watson (1829–1906), racing entrepreneur, was born at Ballydarton in Co. Carlow, Ireland, the son of a hunt master ‘who in his day earned an enviable reputation as a country gentleman.’ Watson arrived in Victoria in 1850 having consolidated his penchant for gentlemanly pursuits and the following year became the lessee of Kirk’s Bazaar, a leading horse-sale yard. During the 1850s, Watson and his business partner Cyrus Hewitt, an American, acquired Cobb & Co coaches and secured the lucrative contracts for mail services connecting Melbourne with Bendigo, Ballarat and Beechworth. At the same time, he became involved in the colonial horseracing industry, establishing training ventures in the Riverina and West Gippsland. A fine rider himself, Watson’s horses won a number of significant fixtures: Flying Colours was victorious in the Derby in 1860, for instance, and Palestine took out the inaugural Oak Stakes at Flemington in 1861. A committee member of the Victoria Racing Club for many years, Watson was also a world-renowned race starter, carrying out this role for the Melbourne Cup on several occasions. In addition, he founded the Melbourne Hunt Club in 1853. His obituary in The Age stated that ‘as a gentleman rider, cross country, over hurdles, or on the flat, the master of the MHC has had few equals, and as master of hounds he has gained the cordial esteem and sincere respect of all true sportsmen.’

Updated 2018