Life without Linda

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Some racing people outside of Southern California may never have heard of Linda Laird, who died Monday after a brief illness. But Linda and her husband, Richard, who bought their first racehorse in Northern California in 1966, exemplify the small stables on which this game depends. They were not the leading buyers at select yearling sales and never won a Triple Crown race, but no one enjoyed a day at the races – and especially watching one of their own horses run – more than Dick and Linda Laird.

They had some success with several horses, including an Irish-bred named Shamoan, who won the 2005 Iowa Derby and finished fifth in the Godolphin Mile in Dubai. But it wasn’t just about winning. In a Del Mar Times article written by Julie Sarno, Linda Laird talked about what made racing so special.  “There’s something about people involved in horse racing that just glues you together,” Linda said. “We all speak the same language — have the same interests.”

Kathy Harty is the wife of trainer Eoin Harty and has partnered on many horses with the Lairds. She shares her personal story of their friendship. – Ray Paulick

The last time I saw Linda Laird was at Del Mar on Sept. 1 and she had never looked better, with not even a hint of the cancers that were ravaging her body. We had all been given the bad news about her health, but it was difficult to pair that news with the beautiful, vibrant woman who sat in her usual box seat enjoying a full card with her husband Dick, as they did every race day at Del Mar. On this day, the horse we own in partnership was running. Linda had her Daily Racing Form on her lap and Dick was buried in his own Form. They did not share the Racing Form.

Dick and Linda have been one of racing’s special couples who shared the passion of our sport together and were never seen apart. Their retirement years have centered around racing as a pastime and an investment. They have been among our many smaller owners with one or two horses at a time, often in partnerships, and yet their adventures in racing have taken them to so many exciting places, including Dubai. The Lairds embody the true spirit of horseracing that puts us all on the edge of our seats for the thrilling moments of a stretch run, not the moments of sales receipts or paymaster checks or cashed tote tickets.

My husband, Eoin, and I have been racing with the Lairds for 20 years and they have watched our son Eddie grow up. Our box at Santa Anita has been their box and their box at Del Mar has been ours. They are in dozens of our win photos regardless of the horses’ ownerships, as they have been my seat mates for every race in which we are all in attendance. Linda has been my paddock company when I am alone, and I have watched more races with the Lairds than anyone else including my husband, since he sits with me for all of two minutes while his own race is run and must then attend to business.

At the close of Del Mar this past summer, we knew Linda was to begin her grueling treatments to try to stave off the cancers. I did not see her at all during the month of September but hoped that after her rounds of chemo, she might be able to make it to a few more races at Santa Anita, and that is what the Lairds had also hoped.

But at eight o’clock on Sunday morning I received an email message from Linda to her friends and family that she had entered a hospice and the time was near. I was shocked at the sudden news but still did not absorb how short her time was. Linda’s family all visited on Sunday and Dick had given me permission to come visit with her on Monday morning, but I was too late. I did not get to say goodbye or tell her how important she has been to me all these years. I had not even realized myself how very special Dick and Linda have been to me, as I had never contemplated either of them not being there.

We could not win the race that last day at Del Mar for Linda, but her horse runs back this Thursday at Santa Anita and for the first time, Dick will not be able to attend. He has had the wind taken out of his sails and finds it hard to feel the same passion for racing without his precious wife with whom he shared this joy. He gave up his Breeders’ Cup tickets this year.

It will take time to adjust to life without Linda, his right arm, but Dick chose a fortunate sport to love, as the racing community is uniquely close and will pull together in support for him. This special couple has many friends at racetracks around the country, and although racing will never be the same again for Dick, we will help him enjoy his passion again.

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  • Kaynhuey

    A beautiful tribute from a loving friend. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this glimpse of Linda Laird.

  • Kaynhuey

    A beautiful tribute from a loving friend. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this glimpse of Linda Laird.

  • Margaret Smith731

    Cancer just sucks. RIP Linda. Enjoy the TBs in Heaven.

  • Margaret Smith731

    Cancer just sucks. RIP Linda. Enjoy the TBs in Heaven.

  • Leialoha55

    Really nice Kathy. Even though one of her final wishes was that there be no memorial service, I’m glad that you were able to offer this heartfelt tribute via the PR and, let people know, if they didn’t already, what a wonderful lady Linda was. She will be greatly missed by her many loved ones and friends.

  • Leialoha55

    Really nice Kathy. Even though one of her final wishes was that there be no memorial service, I’m glad that you were able to offer this heartfelt tribute via the PR and, let people know, if they didn’t already, what a wonderful lady Linda was. She will be greatly missed by her many loved ones and friends.

  • Sally in Indy

    What a beautiful tribute. Sincere condolences to Linda’s family and friends. She was a very special lady

  • Sally in Indy

    What a beautiful tribute. Sincere condolences to Linda’s family and friends. She was a very special lady

  • Gfpowell

    This story touches on something SO important in our business – the smalltime owners who purchase a couple each year and have an unwavering passion for the business. Small outfits (including trainers) are an important backbone of our industry and often get shutout from large corporate stables and trainers which is ruining the business. Small outfit trainers deserve stalls and a chance which they never seem to get while large outfits get preference resulting in an unfair balance.

    • Concerned Observer

      Amen!

    • Yovankajojo

      So so true,MAY GOD hold all who knew her close and comfort them in thier time of need

  • Gfpowell

    This story touches on something SO important in our business – the smalltime owners who purchase a couple each year and have an unwavering passion for the business. Small outfits (including trainers) are an important backbone of our industry and often get shutout from large corporate stables and trainers which is ruining the business. Small outfit trainers deserve stalls and a chance which they never seem to get while large outfits get preference resulting in an unfair balance.

  • Gene Williams

    What a lovely tribute, Kathy, and Ray. Linda was something very special to all of us who knew and loved her, always alongside her life’s love husband Dick. How said it was when Dick called me on Sunday with the news. It’s been my pleasure, as well as that of my lovely, late wife, Kathy, to be friends of Dick and Linda and recall the many lovely times together at the races and at countless dinners. My Kathy awaits Linda. Gene Williams.

  • Gene Williams

    What a lovely tribute, Kathy, and Ray. Linda was something very special to all of us who knew and loved her, always alongside her life’s love husband Dick. How said it was when Dick called me on Sunday with the news. It’s been my pleasure, as well as that of my lovely, late wife, Kathy, to be friends of Dick and Linda and recall the many lovely times together at the races and at countless dinners. My Kathy awaits Linda. Gene Williams.

  • Helendmar

    Thank you Kathy for the lovely words so fittingly describing Linda.  There are a group of us who are regular members of the Saddle Club at the Del Mar satellite, of which Dick and Linda were a large part.  All of us will be missing Linda greatly but we will welcome Dick back with open arms to again enjoy this sport which, as Linda said, “binds us all together.”

  • Helendmar

    Thank you Kathy for the lovely words so fittingly describing Linda.  There are a group of us who are regular members of the Saddle Club at the Del Mar satellite, of which Dick and Linda were a large part.  All of us will be missing Linda greatly but we will welcome Dick back with open arms to again enjoy this sport which, as Linda said, “binds us all together.”

  • Concerned Observer

    Amen!

  • Lorenpr

    Thank you Kathy.  Thank you PR.  Linda you will be missed and never forgotten.

  • Lorenpr

    Thank you Kathy.  Thank you PR.  Linda you will be missed and never forgotten.

  • Yovankajojo

    So so true,MAY GOD hold all who knew her close and comfort them in thier time of need

  • La Rae Edwards

    Beautiful, both of you…

  • La Rae Edwards

    Beautiful, both of you…

  • Sheider

    Linda was a classy lady that always had a smile on her face. She and Dick were a perfect match. God bless you, Linda.

  • Sheider

    Linda was a classy lady that always had a smile on her face. She and Dick were a perfect match. God bless you, Linda.

  • Wcf

    We, in horse racing, all travel in different circles and many times never meet or hear of
    certain people but after reading Kathy’s tribute to the Lairds especially Linda I feel
    like I know them.  We do all hold a common bond in this game and this game will be a little more blue with the passing of a member of such a great team.

  • Wcf

    We, in horse racing, all travel in different circles and many times never meet or hear of
    certain people but after reading Kathy’s tribute to the Lairds especially Linda I feel
    like I know them.  We do all hold a common bond in this game and this game will be a little more blue with the passing of a member of such a great team.

  • Bill Casner

    A beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady–Susan and I had the privilege of meeting Dick and Linda several years ago at Del Mar. They are two of the most gracious people that I have ever met. I know Dick is lost without Linda but I know in my heart that they will be together again. God Bless..

  • Bill Casner

    A beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady–Susan and I had the privilege of meeting Dick and Linda several years ago at Del Mar. They are two of the most gracious people that I have ever met. I know Dick is lost without Linda but I know in my heart that they will be together again. God Bless..

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