Charles LairdCharles LairdThere’s an old saying in the horse business that “there’s no manure like the boss’ footsteps”, and that saying was never truer than it is in the Laird family, whose history in the horse game goes back almost to Methuselah. One of the training legends of the early half of the 20th century, Syd Garrett signalled the first signs that this was a family whose connectivity to racing was going to be etched in stone (nay, in granite they say) when he sent forth the gigantic likes of Pamphlet, Straight Play, Left Wing, and to win the Durban July, among many other great races that fell to his credit.

He was a giant of the Metropolitan in Cape Town as well, winning an almost unbelievable eleven renewals, (which will never be equalled, though “never” is a long time, we all know” and it seems his family passed on the rich embellishment of their genetic history with horses to the Lairds, whose male forebears married into the Garrett family. Sydney Laird for one, trained more July winners than anyone else, including his illustrious relative, Sid Garrett, as well as Terrance Millard. His tally of July winners (seven) eclipsed by one those of the man (Millard) who earned the title of “Maestro” during his own lifetime, while Syd’s son Alec also delivered the goods in 1996 with the great London News.

Another famous branch of the family accrues through one of the game’s most lovable and certainly most enigmatic characters, Russell Laird, an exceptionally gifted horseman who not only trained a stream of grand animals, but left an indelible equine imprint on the soul of his now-famous son, Charles Laird.

It seems however that this family has horses in their blood from their toes to the top of their heads, and it was never more apparent than in a recent speech by Charles and Nordean’s young son, Liam, when he delivered his maiden speech at Crawford Junior School the other day, aged 10. He starts; “My father is a racehorse trainer. The best horses he ever trained were National Emblem, Nhlavini, Pick Six, Hunting Tower and Amphitheatre” (all Summerhill-connected by the way, with the exception of Hunting Tower).

“My mother is a racehorse owner, and she owns Pick Six, a winner of a race worth millions of Rands.”

“My dad was also a good cricketer, and played for South African Schools”. “Well, that’s my dad, and I love him”.

The reassuring thing about this young man, is that there may just be hope for those of us whose grandchildren might want to have horses in training in the new South Africa, some generations down the line. There’s no doubt: he’s got it on his shoes, like the rest of them!

Posted by Mick Goss

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