Fond mem­o­ries of the great Sea Cot­tage

The Star Early Edition - - RACING - DAVID THISELTON

JULY Fever is well and truly kick­ing in and the pub­lic will start fi­nal­is­ing their se­lec­tions af­ter the Vo­da­com Dur­ban July gal­lops to­day. How­ever, ex­actly fifty years ago one horse was dom­i­nat­ing the head­lines as well as the fam­ily thoughts in the house­hold of record break­ing trainer Syd Laird.

Syd’s son Alec does not have many rec­ol­lec­tions of Sea Cot­tage’s fa­mous dead-heat with Jol­lify in 1967, but does re­call his father be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to live with in the two or three weeks ap­proach­ing any July day.

Only the race could re­lieve the ten­sion, but in 1967 the agony was pro­longed as the judges at­tempted to sep­a­rate Sea Cot­tage and Jol­lify.

In the race Jol­lify, car­ry­ing 100lbs (45.3kg), had sat be­hind the leader Bala­clava and com­ing off the nar­row false rail jockey John Gor­ton shot him into the lead. Sea Cot­tage, car­ry­ing 127 lbs (57.6kg), had been hooked to­wards the out­side for his run by Rob­bie Sivewright and still had a moun­tain to climb.

Crowd

How­ever, the idol of the pub­lic had his eyes on the leader, who was to­wards the inside, and the crowd roared as he wound up into his fa­mous fin­ish­ing run.

It is the nat­u­ral ten­dency of a race­horse to hang to­wards the horse he is chas­ing, but Sea Cot­tage first had to get around King Wil­low and Red Sands who were mak­ing their runs down the cen­tre.

Af­ter he had com­pleted that task there was less than 200 me­tres left and Sea Cot­tage be­gan eat­ing up the ground with his enor­mous stride.

How­ever, the dis­ap­point­ment could be heard in com­men­ta­tor Ernie Duffield’s voice when he said, “I think Jol­lify has held on.” How­ever, the muted crowd were soon rap­tur­ous when a dead-heat was an­nounced.

The great horse had done it. Sea Cot­tage still had a bul­let lodged in his hindquar­ters.

He had been shot three weeks be­fore the pre­vi­ous year’s July, but still ran in that race and fin­ished a gal­lant fourth.

Six-year-old Alec was ac­tu­ally on course for the 1967 Ju­lye and as there was no room in the own­ers and train­ers en­clo­sure dur­ing the race, he had to stand on an ad­join­ing wall.

Sea Cot­tage was the first Sum­merveld­trained horse to win the July.

The train­ing cen­tre had been opened at the be­gin­ning of that same sea­son. Alec re­mem­bers Summw­erveld be­ing bar­ren back in those days.

Trees

His mother Mar­lene planted the trees which now tower over Syd Laird’s for­mer yard, which is now used by Alis­tair Gor­don.

Alec also re­mem­bers vis­i­tors al­ways want­ing to see one par­tic­u­lar horse, Sea Cot­tage.

Alec has bet­ter mem­o­ries of Syd’s 1971 July win­ner Mazarin.

His father of­ten said, “Sea Cot­tage was the best I trained but Mazarin was the best three-year-old.”

Mazarin’s own­ers Eric and Fane Ten­derini were so con­fi­dent of vic­tory in 1971 they had booked out a venue in the Ed­ward Hotel for a cel­e­bra­tory party and a mas­sive cake made in Mazarin’s red and white colours awaited the guests.

He duly won by a com­fort­able 3,25 lengths in record time.

Mazarin had a down­turn in form as a four-year-old, but the Ten­derini’s re­fused Syd per­mis­sion to ap­ply blink­ers.

Their rea­son­ing was that in the UK at the time horses who wore blink­ers were con­sid­ered “rogues”, so any po­ten­tial stal­lion would never be seen in them.

Syd’s record-break­ing sev­enth July vic­tory was with the great Politi­cian in 1978. Alec’s out­stand­ing me­mory of that year was when an an­nounce­ment was made shortly be­fore the start that Wel­come Boy had re­placed Politi­cian as favourite. Syd nudged Alec and said, “I will have to do some­thing about that” and walked over to put more money on Politi­cian.

Goal

The July was a huge part of the Laird house­hold’s lives. Alec viewed win­ning it as his most im­por­tant goal af­ter he had taken over the yard when Syd passed away sud­denly in 1988.

He only had to wait un­til 1996, when Lon­don News won for own­ers Lau­rie and Jean Jaf­fee.

History re­peated it­self as the Jaf­fees has also booked out The Ed­ward for a cel­e­bra­tory party.

The Jaf­fees also booked a venue in one of Hong Kong’s lead­ing ho­tels, The Penin­sula, be­fore Lon­don News won the Gr 1 QE II Cup the fol­low­ing year, al­though Alec be­lieves they likely had a can­cel­la­tion clause.

Alec’s best chance of win­ning the July re­cently has been with last year’s run­away J&B Met win­ner Smart Call, but she headed over­seas in­stead.

How­ever, he still has his eyes very much set on a sec­ond July win in the fu­ture.

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