charles laird racehorse trainer
charles laird racehorse trainer

Charles Laird

(Photos : Summerhill Stud Archive)



A name like Charles Sydney Laird suggests he could be descended from the English gentry. He isn’t. He is, in fact a racehorse trainer, a third generation “victim” of an incurable disease connected with horses. And at the close of the 2008 racing season, measured by prize money, he was Africa’s best.

For the past five years, he’s been the dominant force at South African bloodstock sales, wherever they happen. He doesn’t want much, just perfection. Not necessarily the breeder’s idea of perfection either, which is to say the yearlings by the hot sire from a Group One winning mare. Laird, by and large, is a conformation man. He buys chassis, rather than from a catalogue page. He cares little for fashions, crosses, dosages or astrology. He does have a reverence though, for events that remind him of greatness.

Like families that have served him well, or horses that were capable of defeating his own Champions, if only occasionally. If they score well as types, he’s happy to pay a tad over the odds. He has some eye. Most years, despite the prices, his charges end in the black. And then you have to bring to account the residual value, when the animal goes to stud. The stallion landscape is dotted with ex Laird initiates.

Buying a yearling, anywhere, is like being shown a sleek car. You get to inspect the chassis, but the problem is the engine is in a second compartment. You can only guess whether it has two rubber bands or a V8.

In the end, the more successful “pickers” rely on two things. The ability to divine big motors, number one. And relationships. These grown out of a familiarity with the “suppliers”, the stud farms, and the regularity with which they churn out the big race winners. Some call it “trust”. Others would say “upbringing”. If you go to the Breeders’ Log on the left of this page, you can see how ours have been brought up!

summerhill stud genuine article
summerhill stud genuine article

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