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Plate

(A). A race in which a prize is given out of the race fund, or from some other source, without any stakes being made by the owners of the horses engaged. Usually entrance money is required. (See Sweepstakes, Handicap, Plate, Selling Race, Weight-For-Age Race.)

Plate, meaning silver, in the Spanish plata.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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