• Remembering racing figures who died this week
Laurie Laxon, 75 Nine-time Singapore champion trainer
New Zealand: Laurie Laxon, who died in his sleep on Thursday [July 15] at home in New Zealand, was a Melbourne Cup-winning trainer who went on to become a legendary figure in Singapore. He was also a member of the NZ Hall of Fame.
Having started out in NZ in the mid-1970s, Laxon trained the mare Empire Rose to win the Melbourne Cup in 1988. Another notable success came via Romanee Conti, who won the Hong Kong Cup in 1993 before Laxon embarked on a 17-year career in Singapore where he was to become known as the ‘King of Kranji’ owing to his feats at the island racetrack.
Singapore’s champion trainer nine times, he was responsible for 1,263 winners at the Singapore Turf Club, among them 79 domestic Group winners including 17 at G1 level. These included two Singapore Derbies (Dreyfuss 2004, Top Spin 2008) and two Singapore Gold Cups (Raul 2004, Recast 2007).
Laxon, whose second wife Sheila also won the Melbourne Cup with Ethereal in 2001, was the first Singapore-based trainer to register 100 wins in a season, and remains the only one to have reached 1,000 wins at Kranji.
Bert Firestone, 89 Prominent transatlantic owner-breeder
USA: Bert Firestone, who died on July 12 in hospital in Florida, was a leading owner-breeder on both sides of the Atlantic with major bases in both the US and Ireland during his racing pomp in the 1970s and 1980s.
In partnership with his wife Diana, Firestone won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Owner in 1980 when he won the Kentucky Derby with Genuine Risk, the first filly to win America’s most celebrated race since Regret in 1915.
Real-estate magnate Firestone also campaigned champion turf performer Theatrical, whose six G1 successes included the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1989 after he left Dermot Weld for Bill Mott. The Firestones also owned dual Oaks heroine Blue Wind and April Run, trained by Francois Boutin for a series of major US victories including the Washington DC International.
John Rotz, 86 Hall of Fame jockey
USA: ‘Gentleman John’ Rotz, who died on July 12 at home in Illinois aged 86, was a leading jockey from the late 1950s to early 1970s and regular rider of champions Gallant Bloom and Ta Wee.
After a 20-year career, he retired in 1973 with a total of 2,907 winners, among them a pair of Triple Crown races with Greek Money (1962 Preakness) and High Echelon (1970 Belmont). Rotz was leading rider in New York in both 1961 and 1962; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Powerscourt, 21 Arlington Million winner
Turkey: Dual G1 winner Powerscourt, who has died at the Jockey Club of Turkey after suffering a heart attack, was best known for his exploits in the Arlington Million, where he was disqualified in 2014 before returning 12 months later to claim the Chicago prize.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Sadler’s Wells also won the Tattersalls Gold Cup (2004) and was placed in several more top-level contests in a four-year racing career for the Coolmore team. After being retired to stud, he moved to Turkey in 2010.