Alan ‘Snowy Reid’ - last teenager and apprentice to win the July
Alan "Snowy" Reid's Durban July win of 1969 aboard the Fred Rickaby-trained and Chris Saunders-owned Naval Escort will be one of the talking points of this year's Vodacom sponsored event as Luke Ferraris, incumbent rider of dual Met winner Rainbow Bridge, will be attempting to become the first teenager since Reid to win the country's biggest race.
Snowy, who acquired his nickname through his white blonde hair, recalled the 1969 renewal being "quite a rough" race and added, "I will never forget trying to sneak through on the inside of Duncan Alexander's horse Coast Guard somewhere between the 1400m and 1600m mark. Duncan bashed me into the rail to just let me know I shouldn't be going there, so I thought I had better stay behind this guy!"
Reid remembered turning for home in about eighth place and seeing the favourite Home Guard about three lengths in front of him.
However, he could feel he had a lot of horse beneath him.
He said, "I gave him one or two backhanders and he took off."
In those days there was no buffer zone between the course and the crowd and spectators were packed like sardines up against both the inside and outside rails in the straight.
Snowy also recalled the golf course being choc-a-block with tents and picnic sites
The atmosphere was electric and he said during the charge for home "you could certainly hear the roar of the crowd!" He recalled, "I could see I was going to catch Home Guard. I reached him at about the 100m mark and then knew I had the race won. He won going away." He described those few moments as surreal.
The July contending jockeys and trainers were viewed almost on the same level as movie stars back then. The extent of his achievement hit home during the victory canter past, with the winner's sash adorned around Naval Escort's neck, as the crowd cheered and applauded their approval.
The runner up Home Guard has been talked about a lot this season as Summer Pudding had been chasing his eleven-race undefeated record. The 1969 July was in fact Home Guard's first defeat, although he was giving fellow three-year-old and second favourite Naval Escort eleven pounds, and was beaten just 0,75 length. The 19-year-old Snowy was in the last year of his apprenticeship at the time, so is also the last apprentice to have won the July. Aubrey Roberts was another apprentice to have won it in the 1960s, aboard Diza in 1962.
Luke Ferraris will also be 19 on July day. However, he won't be threatening the record for youngest July-winning jockey. Fred McGrath was just twelve-years-old when winning aboard Collet, who carried 41.5kg to victory in 1922.
Reid was unbeaten on Naval Escort. He partnered him to victory in both the King's Cup Trial and the King's Cup in the build up to the July. He was given the ride in the big race because Rickaby's stable jockey John Gorton had left for the U.K. and Dennis Durrant, who rode Navel Escort to second behind Home Guard in the SA Guineas, could not make the weight of 105 pounds (47.5kg).
Gorton had won the July two years earlier on the Rickaby-trained lightweight Jollify, who dead-heated with the immortal Sea Cottage.
Ironically, Naval Escort, by Escort II (GB ), was a half-brother to Sea Cottage. However, Snowy recalls them being two completely different horses.
He said, "Sea Cottage was cool, calm and collected but Naval Escort was a fiery bugger, he used to rear up and was a real man's man."
There were some anxious moments in the week of the July as Naval Escort's blood count was all wrong. However, legendary veterinarian Brian Baker came to the rescue.
Snowy recalled, "Dr Baker ordered us to give him a flat out 800m grass gallop on the Thursday two days before the race. I sprinted him as fast as I could and that brought his blood right. On the day he came into the parade ring looking magnificent and felt fantastic going down to the start."
He said "the butterflies" in the build up were a natural part of a sportsman's preparation for an event and lasted all the way until the gates crashed open.
He continued, "The nerves then disappear because the race is on."
Snowy finished sixth in the 1970 July on Sky Line and then in 1971 left to ride in Germany for two years with trainer Arthur Schlaefke.
John Gorton, who won the 1969 Epsom Oaks aboard Sleeping Partner, used to go and ride in Germany on Sundays and recommended Snowy.
Upon Reid's return to South Africa he became partnered with the top Eileen Bestel-trained George Rowles-owned colt Sabre, a classic winner of 12 races. Among Reid's victories on Sabre was the Clairwood Winter handicap of 1974 in which he established an 1800m world record of 106 seconds flat.
Snowy had a bad fall in about 1981 and even after successful surgery the chief Stipendiary Steward Jock Sprowell ruled it would not be in his best interests to renew his license.
Snowy then spent five years as assistant to Johnny McCreedy before taking out his own training license. His chief client was the mayor of Kokstad, Alan Barber, for whom he trained many winners.
He later went into business with Barber and did not ever return to racing. However, he is part of an institution in Hillcrest, the gathering every Friday afternoon of a group of friends at the racingfriendly Lazy Lizard pub. The pub neighbours the Hillcrest Tote and a flutter on the horses is part of the entertainment. He said strangers were always amazed to learn he had won "The July", the one horse race everybody in the country knows about.
Snowy Reid is humble and down to earth by nature but confirmed being a July winner would always be the source of tremendous pride and was something which could never be taken away from him.