Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sea Cottage

Sea Cottage (SAF) 1962. Bay Colt.Rated 140 lb.
Owned by: SYD LAIRD
Trained by: SYD LAIRD
Of all the great horses which have thundered over the South African Turf during the past three decades, the reputation of one towers above the others. Some, a few, of those who saw him race say that his immediate predecessor, Colorado King, might be compared with him. Those who know only his reputation have challenged it with successive stars - Hawaii, In full Flight, Gatecrasher, Sledgehammer, Politician, Wolf Power and Fool's Holme - but Sea Cottage remains the standard by which we judge Thoroughbreds for class today. Syd Laird knows what great racehorses are all about. He played a vital role in the illustrious careers of seven of the 27 supreme champions remembered in this edition - Java Head, Colorado King, Sea Cottage, Mazarin, Yataghan, Archangel and Politician. Sea Cottage was his favourite. As Syd recalls. "Sea Cottage stood about 16 hands. He was an effeminate, light-framed horse who was extremely difficult to hold in condition. He lacked substance and he wasn't what I would describe as a quality individual. He was long in the cannon bones, a bit straight in front, slightly calf-kneed. But he did have extremely good length from hip to hock, and his action was quite unbelievable. He was a docile, even tempered horse, who would erupt occasionally, and he was probably the most intelligent horse I've known - maybe even more intelligent than his trainer! He barely resembled his sire Fairthorn, who was a big, fiery, extremely handsome horse". "His two performances which remain foremost in my mind were his victory in the Queen's Plate as a three-year-old and the very last race of his career. In the former he turned for home tailed off last and had to catch the likes of Gaskell, Renounce, Fair Mountain and Atty Persse. Horses don't run faster than he did in the final 2 furlongs". "His last race was in a handicap over 8½ furlongs at Germiston. He was set to concede 28 lb to his contemporary Magic Mirror, a brilliant sprinter-miler who 2 weeks earlier had won the Durban Merchants in impressive style. Another tough opponent was the top-class four-year-old Caradoc who carried 99 lb against Sea Cottage's 134 lb. I expected him to win, but thought he would have a hard race at the weights. He simply annihilated his opposition, beating Magic Mirror and Caradoc by 5½ lengths. One had to see it to believe it. I saw it and will never forget it". "To underline just how phenomenal the form was, Magic Mirror won 3 major WFA races from his next 4 starts - the Transvaal Spring Champion Stakes (7f) from Prize Bell, the Joseph Dorfman Memorial (5f) and the Drill Hall Stakes (7f) from Damask". "No other horse in the world could have done what Sea Cottage did at Germiston that day. I want to tell you. He was some horse". There is an eighteenth century proverb that goes - 'the greatest beauty hath its blemishes, and he's the best horse that stumbles least'. History records that Sea Cottage 'stumbled' only four times from 20 starts. He lost four races. Each counted a stunning upset, for he was never beaten by a better horse. His first defeat came in the Cape Guineas when he was left with too much to do in a false run race. His next defeat was suffered in the Rothmans July run 22 days after he was shot in the quarter with a .22 bullet, and he suffered a further setback when he was badly bumped int eh running. Two weeks after that debacle he gave King Willow a 13 lb WFA beating in the Clairwood Winter, only to suffer his third defeat at the hands of that colt a fortnight later when badly hampered in the Champion Stakes. Sea Cottage was again desperately unlucky to lose when he was nearly brought down 7 furlongs from home in the Metropolitan Stakes and then forced very wide on the turn. These four blemishes did nothing to detract from the greatness of Sea Cottage. He was a champion and Horse-Of-The-Year each of the four seasons he campaigned. Sea Cottage stepped onto the racecourse for the first time on 12 December 1964. Backed from 8/1 to 7/2 he finished like a train to outrun the odds-on favourite Zeus for an extending 1½ lengths victory over 5 furlongs at Milnerton. When next he ran, 2½ months later, the might of Sea Cottage was demonstrated for the first time. This was in the 5 furlong Festival Juvenile Handicap at Kenilworth. Twelve opponents included top-class juvenile winners Siaram, Peter Beware, Refinery, Kew and others. Bert Abercrombie, one of South Africa's greatest ever jockeys, deputised for and injured Robert Sivewright. His account from the saddle is well worth hearing. "I had never ridden the horse before, and had no specific instructions - just to win as far as I thought fit. He was 2/1 favourite, but no-one really knew what he was all about. As he jumped I eased him back and he suddenly dropped the bit. After half a furlong he was tailed off last and losing ground, so I decided to shake him up to get back into the race. I gave him one firm tap down the shoulder. His reaction was faster than anything I had ever experienced. In a matter of strides he streaked through the field to join the pacemaker Peter Beware. From then on the race was a walkover. I can honestly say that I have never ridden or seen a racehorse with greater acceleration. It was unbelievable". Following on this spectacular demolition job Sea Cottage started odds-on favourite for his last three starts as a two-year-old. After drubbing the country's best juveniles by 5½ lengths in the Cape of Good Hope Nursery, he hacked up by 2 lengths conceding weight all round in the African Breeders, and made a sorry exhibition of the 7 rivals who ventured to take him on in the Champion Nursery Stakes. Sea Cottage began at three where he had left off at two. Three highly meritorious wins included a 6 furlong B division at Milnerton, the Queen's Plate with a terrifying stretch run, and the Guineas Trial by 4 lengths after being 6 lengths last on the home turn. Come-from-last tactics resulted in defeat in the Cape Guineas, a setback soon made good by the sound thrashings he handed out to his rivals in the Cape Derby, Newbury Stakes ans S A Guineas. As already discussed, a bullet and a bump cost him his first attempt at the July, followed by a towering demonstrating of class when giving King Willow a stone beating in the Clairwood Winter. At four, despite losing the Champion Stakes and Metropolitan through interference, Sea Cottage was something apart. Most notable of his 6 graded stakes victories were a clear-cut 3 length win in the Queen's Plate, his dead-heat in the July on 20 lb worse terms than WFA with 3-year-old Jolify who had won the S A Guineas at his previous start, and a rare demonstration of superiority when giving 19 lb and more and a sensational beating to a strong field in the Clairwood Winter. Sea Cottage's first of two starts at five, the Gr. I Champion Stakes, was not a horse race really, for the great horse had already established his inordinate superiority over all his ravals. He was racing against memories of great horses in other years. After wresting the lead from Grade I winners on the turn he tore their hearts out in the straight to win under restraint by 9 lengths, the widest margin in the history of the race. After the grand finale at Germiston, Sea Cottage was retired to stud. Robert Sivewright, his partner at 23 of 24 starts, remembers him as "a horse with an unbelievable action and a devastating finish which he could sustain for 2½ furlongs. He was a horse the like of which is seen but rarely anywhere in the world". There never was, and never will be, a racehorse that will let us forget Sea Cottage. He was, and remains, a national hero.

Raced in South Africa from 2 to 5 years (1963-67). Won 20 races (1000-2400m.), R118 128.

2-Y-O: 5 starts; 5 wins; R13 320.
Won JUVENILE PLATE (1000m. Milnerton) by 1½ lengths from Zeus. R Sivewright up. 7/2.
12 December 1964.Won FESTIVAL JUVENILE HCP. (1000m. Kenilworth) by 6 lengths from Siaram (gave 10 lb). B Avercrombie up. 2/1.
20 February 1965.Won CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NURSERY Gr. I (1200m. Milnerton) by 5 lengths from Siaram. R Sivewright up 4/6
13 March.Won AFRICAN BREEDERS PLATE (1200m. Greyville) by 2 lengths from Glengyle (received 6 lb). R Sivewright up. 4/5 .
29 May.Won CHAMPION NURSERY STAKES Gr. I (1400m. Greyville) by 3¼ lengths from Heralds Choice. R Sivewright up. 1/2

3-Y-O: 9 starts; 7 wins; 2 fourths; R44 230.

Won B DIVISION HCP. (1200m. Milnerton) by a neck from 4-Y-O Cranford on 36 lb worse terms than WFA. Carried 131 lb. R Sivewright up. 2/5
11 December.Won QUEENS PLATE Gr. I (1600m. Kenilworth) by ¾ length from 5-Y-O Gaskell. R Sivewright up.1/2
1 January 1966.Won GUINEAS TRIAL (1400m. Kenilworth) by 4 lengths from Falstaff. R Sivewright up. 1/4
22 January.4th CAPE GUINEAS Gr. I (1600m. Milnerton) beaten 3¾ lengths by Savonarola.
Won CAPE DERBY Gr. I (2400m. Kenilworth) by 2 lengths from Courtly R Sivewright up. 5/4. 26 February.Won NEWBURY STAKES (1200m. Greyville) by 2½ lengths from 4-Y-oO William Penn. R Sivewright up. 9/2
28 May.Won S A GUINEAS Gr. I (1600m. Greyville) by 3½ lengths from Refinery. R. Sivewright up2/5
4 June.4th ROTHMANS JULY HCP. Gr. I (2100m. Greyville) beaten 4 lengths by 6-Y-O Java Head on 4 lb better terms than WFA. R Sivewright up. 2/1 July.
Won CLAIRWOOD WINTER HCP. Gr. III (1800m.) by ½ length from King Willow on 12 lb worse terms than WFA. R Sivewright up 4/7

4-Y-O: 8 starts; 6 wins; 1 third; 1 fourth; R48 828.

16 July.3rd CHAMPION STAKES Gr. I (2000m. Greyville) beaten 2½ lengths by 5-Y-O King Willow.
Won QUEENS PLATE Gr. I (1600m. Kenilworth) by 3 lengths from 5-Y-o Tuan. R Sivewright up 4/7
11 January1967.4th METROPOLITAN HCP. Gr. I (2000m. Kenilworth) beaten 3 lengths by Ding Dong (received 19 lb).
21 January.Won SOMERSET PLATE WFA Gr. I (1400m. Kenilworth) by 1½ lengths form Peter Beware. R Sivewright up 4/7
18 February.Won NEWBURY STAKES WFA (1200m. Greyville) by 2 lengths from Bad Penny. R Sivewright up 4/5
27 May.Won GORDONS HCP. Gr. III (1900m. Greyville) by 2 lengths form 5-Y-O Smash and Grab (received 7 lb). R Sivewright up 4/6
31 May.Won CLAIRWOOD WINTER HCP. Gr. II (1800m) by ½ length from 5-Y-O Atty Persse (received 26 lb). Carried 136 lb. R Sivewright up. 11/10.
1 July. Won ROTHMANS JULY HCP. Gr. I (2200m. Greyville) dead heat with 3-Y-O Jolify on 20 lb worse terms than WFA. Carried 127 lb. R Sivwright up. 11/10

5-Y-O: 2 starts; 2 wins; R11 750.

Won CHAMPION STAKES WFA Gr. I (2000m. Greyville) by 9 lengths form 6-Y-O Smash and Grab. 2/7 R Sivewright up
5 August.Won CUTTY SARK INVITAION HCP (1700m. Germiston) by 5½ lengths from Magic Mirror (received 28 lb). Carried 134 lb. R Sivewright up.1/2
This was to be his last run and he retired a true Champion.
The Big G

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