LIFE Is Good – another decent horse bred by Robin Bruss – took his bankroll over R750,000 when placed at the Vaal last Thursday, writes DAVID MOLLETT.
So does Robin – once described by American expert Barry Irwin as “the very heart and soul of the sport of horseracing” – believe life is, indeed, good? One fancies his answer would be “sometimes”.
The month of August has been seen a wonderful high and a dreadful low for a guy whose knowledge of thoroughbred racing and the breeding industry was once described as “encyclopaedic”.
Robin, who won the Equus “Outstanding Breeder” award in 2018, was once quoted as saying that “I believe the purpose of horseracing is to make your mark in history”. He’s certainly done that.
From a select band of mares, he’s bred eight Gr 1 winners – Do It Again, Zebra Crossing (trained by Neil), Circle Of Life, Deo Juvente, Will Pays, African Lion, August Rush and Basic Instinct.
He bred his first thoroughbred in 1975 and today the Bruss colours are the longest running in SA racing after the Oppenheimers.
Do It Again is out of his mare, Sweet Virginia, and, while racing has had precious little to laugh about in recent months, one had to giggle about what Robin told me amidst the Equus celebrations.
He said that recently – over breakfast – his son, Greg, had said: “Hey Dad, if you’re such a racing genius, how come you sold Do It Again as a yearling?”
But sell Do It Again he did for R1,1 million in a foal share deal with Drakenstein Stud. One would have to say his buyers secured a bargain as the son of Twice Over has earned in excess of R5 million.
In another deal, Robin sold his mare, Sweet Virginia, to Lammerskraal for R300,000 and that’s the stud where Neil’s wife, Sally, is manager. She is a lady with her finger firmly on the pulse of the bloodstock world.
The Bruss dynasty hails from Rhodesia and – in many respects – there’s a parallel with the famous TV series, “Dallas”, which older Turf Talk readers will remember as being hugely popular. From memory, it was aired on a Tuesday night and my children were forbidden to speak while it was on!
The Patriarch in the Dallas series – set in the oil-rich state of Texas – was Jock Ewing and the stars in the series were his sons, “JR” and “Bobby”, who got into more scrapes than a stunt artist.
In Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – Les Bruss had the role of Jock Ewing. He was the Patriarch of the family and he raised four fine sons in Ashley, Gareth, Robin and Neil. He was co-founder of Borrowdale Park racecourse in 1957.
No doubt Les would be proud of the achievements of all four sons and it was clear at Neil’s funeral that his brothers were deeply saddened by the passing of Neil who certainly left his mark in horseracing history.
Neil’s career had as many highs as Robin in the bloodstock world – seven Rhodesian trainers championships, horses placed third and fourth in the Dubai World Cup and my favourite moment (I was able to buy a new car!) his success with Zebra Crossing in the 2006 rewewal of J&B Met. It was Jeff Lloyd at his supreme best as he brought the Bruss colours first past the post.
Sally says that Neil was considering a return to Saudi Arabia and you can be certain he would have targeted that country’s new race next February in which winning connections will pick up a cool $10 million.
Neil touched many people’s lives and that was evident by the turnout at his memorial service – many had made the journey from other provinces.
Those present included jockeys Bernard Fayd’Herbe, whom Neil took from Madagascar to SA stardom, and currently sidelined, Gavin Lerena. The trainers included Paul Matchett, Geoff Woodruff, Kevin and Alyson Wright and Gavin van Zyl.
Other racing folk present included John Bescoby, who gave an outstanding address, attorney Bruce Armstrong, SABC legend Martin Locke, the Mordt Bros (Ray is the famous rugby Springbok winger), Sharon and Peter Patterson, Sarah and Andrew Bon, Zimbabwean-born Nico Kritsiotis and Greg Springer, a guy I used to party with in “JR” Ewing style some four decades ago.
So – if Les Bruss is looking down from the “big racecourse in the sky” – he can only feel proud with what his sons have achieved since opening those Borrowdale gates 62 years ago.
If – as Robin believes – the purpose of horseracing is to make your mark in history, the Bruss family has done just that.
Pic: Sporting Post/Hamish Niven.