“The Rebel goes to Pasture”

A chat with a wise man of Charles Laird’s ilk is as worthwhile an exercise as anything you can do in racing. Here is a professional whose family association with Summerhill goes back decades, and he’s not leading the Trainers’ Log by R4 million for nothing. The latest conversation with him was a “bitter-sweet” affair, as it involved some promising young horses, and the departure of the stalwart, Summerhill-bred Rebel King, who’s just left the yard to take up stud duties at Klawervlei Stud in the Western Cape.

Rebel King was a genuine Charles Laird affair, his father National Emblem having been one of the very best horses ever to pass through the Laird stable in either his father Russell’s or his own time, out of a mare trained by Charles, Cousin Linda. Rebel King was an admirable performer, unfortunate to be born in the era of four of South Africa’s best exponents of the art of speed, starting off with National Colour, Mythical Flight, War Artist and latterly JJ The Jet Plane. That he was always seen as the arch opponent by any one of the handlers of these horses, is a compliment enough to this grand animal.

Yet he finally got his moment of glory in the Cape Flying Championship (Gr.1) in January of this year, followed by a weight-defying knockout punch in the Senor Santa (Gr.2), and was just denied by a diminishing nose in last month’s Computaform Sprint (Gr.1). He’ll be hard to oppose for the title of Champion Sprinter of the 2009 Season, yet he seemed to have at his mercy a race of the ilk of the Mercury Sprint (Gr.1) in which he previously finished second to War Artist, having disposed of his nemesis Mythical Flight, on the way.

Of course, Kahal’s yearling half-brother to Rebel King was the subject last month of a protracted bidding duel between two intimately connected fellows at the National Yearling Sale, in which Uncle Tommy (as he was named) turned out the top priced horse of the entire auction. The protagonists ? Breeder of his mother (Graham Beck, who prevailed in the end), and the previous owner of his mother, Markus Jooste, the two“El Padrinos” of the game.

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