Spirit of Sea Cottage on the Highveld

Picture: iStock

The big race on Saturday 25 January is the Grade 3 Sea Cottage Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein.

Many old-time racing fans believe this event, in honour of one of South Africa’s champions of yore, should have Grade 1 status and, perhaps, be contested in Durban or Cape Town, where Sea Cottage carved out his legend.

The colt only appeared once on the Highveld, in his final race, which he won by 5.5 lengths in something of an exhibition gallop at Germiston’s Gosforth Park.

What is appropriate is that Saturday’s race is for top three-year-olds as the great horse became a public sensation during his classic year.

Sea Cottage won 20 times from 24 starts, with his biggest triumphs coming in the Durban July, the Queen’s Plate (twice), the Clairwood Winter (twice), the Champion Stakes and the Cape Derby.

Unbeaten and a hot favourite for the July as a three-year-old in 1966, Sea Cottage was shot in the rump by a bookmaker-hired gunman on the Blue Lagoon beach gallops. He recovered well enough to run in the race, but finished fourth.

Returning to Greyville the following year, he got redemption with a dead-heat victory alongside the younger Jollify. When the old champion finally died at the age of 25 – at his birthplace and stud home of Vogel Vlei in Eastern Cape, an autopsy extracted the infamous gangster’s bullet from his hindquarters.

Bred by the Birch Brothers, leased and trained by the great Syd Laird and ridden in most of his races by Robbie Sivewright, Sea Cottage was regarded in his time as the best horse to have raced in this country – and still is by many a veteran pundit.

Betting for the Sea Cottage Stakes:

12-10 Spero Optima

5-1 Snow Palace, Mohican

7-1 Green Lazer

8-1 Cornish Pomodoro

12-1 Virtuoso

14-1 Pax Romano

20-1 Tiger’s Rock

25-1 Imperial Ruby, Whiskytangofoxtrot

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