charles laird national yearling sale 2010
charles laird national yearling sale 2010

Charles Laird at Block A - 2010 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale

(Photo : Jean Stanley / Bloodstock South Africa)



It’s busy at the sales. But then you’d expect that at the top of Block “A”, home-away-from-home to the nation’s Champion Breeders.

At one time this morning, there were no few than five Emperors Palace Ready To Run panelists on the yard. You have to understand, its no ordinary job this panel, and while you should take this from whence it comes, selection to the status of “panelist” is a matter of some prestige.

You need only look at the names of the five; Jehan Malherbe, Dean Kannemeyer, Mike de Kock, Joey RamsdenandMichael Azzie. That sort of company alone would bestow on the holders of the title panelists, something in the nature of a doctorate in the judgement of horseflesh. And there was Charles Laird, Chris Snaith, Gavin Hunter, Dennis Drier, you can go on. And on.

Two of these panelists “antagonists” and Charles Laird are engaged against Pierre Jourdan in Saturday’s epic, the SA Derby, and the question on the minds of just about every man in the complex, is whether our fellow will stay. The 1800 metres of the SA Classic was no problem for him, but he has to find the stamina for another 650 metres here, and the lung-busting straight at Turffontein, all 800 metres from the Jockey Club to the post, is the most torturous in the world. If you’re one for conjecture, there are only two elements you can look at on his exposed form, which might provide a clue. The one is his pedigree, the other is the way he’s made and his manner of racing.

On the latter score, he’s always looked like a stayer, and he has the fluidity of movement to suggest he should stay. Yet he had the speed to win at 1200 metres, again at 1400 and 1450, and then at 1600 as well as the Classic. Only really good horses, (and we mean really good ones,) can stretch such speed to the “mile” and a half (as they called it in the old days) of a Derby. And to have to do it at 6000 feet, and at Turffontein, you’re speaking of Superman.

His pedigree sends mixed signals. On the sire’s side, there’s enough stamina to get the job done, Kingmambo’s got the class, and Parade Leader’s from a granddaughter of the immortal Ribot, who won both a “King George” and an “Arc” at 2400 metres. His mother never won beyond 1400 metres but there’s not much of her in “PJ”. The next two dams, however, might just hold the key. The first is by Darshaan, winner for the Aga Khan of the French Derby, and the next is by Troy, famous winner of the English version. These two could seal the case.

On the side, there’s always a story behind the acquisition of a good horse. Look at any decent runner, and you’ll find romance, intrigue, or drama. Our man “PJ”, was bought a month after the collapse of Lehmann Bros. That triggered the greatest recession since the 1930’s, and some of the most austere times in living memory.

But for Team Alexander, it signalled an opportunity. Long time punters of the Ready To Run, they’d had a Champion, Icy Air, on their books. With the world facing ruin, horses would be cheap or relatively so.

“I don’t know about anybody else, but we don’t like recessions, and we saw horses as the only sensible form of combat. Between ourselves and our patrons, we put our hands up for no fewer than fifteen head at that sale”. The rest is history.

Will Pierre Jourdan get the journey? The man who knows him best says, “careful, this isn’t his best trip”. All you need do to find out, is put on your best and we’ll meet you at Turffontein Saturday.


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