VETERAN trainer George Scott has died, aged 84. The popular Turffontein trainer had been battling illness for the last several months. He passed away peacefully at 21.30 on Tuesday night, 14 June, exactly 11 years to the day he lost his beloved wife, Hettie.
Scott took out his trainers’ licence in 1973, is estimated to have trained over 600 career winners and was Champion Trainer in Bloemfontein several times. He stabled dozens of good handicappers, enjoyed a challenge and was particularly good at nursing injured horses back to good health.
Scott’s most outstanding runners were 12-time winner Deep Blue Sea, a top sprinter in the early 1980s, Mr Peerson, a Listed winner in 1989, Sweet Season, Jamaican Beau, Fair Brutus, who won the 2007 Gr2 Senor Santa Sprint and the Listed Man O’War Stakes, and more recently multiple winning fillies Stormy Coast and Catch A Thief.
“Uncle George” was a competitive and enthusiastic horseman who loved what he did, despite a lack of opportunities and a few setbacks.
In 2004, when his stable was at the peak of its powers, six of his horses died under mysterious circumstances and he was quoted as saying: “It is a tragedy. It feels as if my entire life’s work disappeared before my eyes. One moment there was nothing wrong with the horses and the next moment they collapsed. Minutes later they were dead. I stood by helplessly.”
At the time there were suspicions that the horses’ feed could have been responsible for the deaths. Scott had received a new delivery of feed a few hours before his horses ate and died. His colleagues at Turffontein, including Ormond Ferraris and Chris Erasmus, rushed to his aid with fresh feed and support and comforted the trainer, who took a long time to put the tragedy behind him. He was hugely distraught when his wife died just a year after that and reports started surfacing that the good man was going backwards.
Scott fought on, however, prepared his cracking sprinter Mr Brutus (owned in partnership with Mark Whyte) and won eight races in the twilight of his career with the blazed son of Muhtafal and National Gypsy.
“He was a true soldier,” commented both Scott’s cousins Rob (Tellytrack CEO) and Colin (KZN trainer). “Uncle George wasn’t diagnosed with a disease, he was just of bad health the last six months or so and gave up his stables two months ago. He wasn’t steady on his feet, he started tripping over things, once fell in the grass and it took 45 minutes before somebody found him. He was bed-ridden recently and died of illness and old age,” said Rob on Wednesday.
Colleagues and friends will remember “Uncle George” as a kind, friendly and approachable man. He always had a joke handy and loved nothing more than discussing the ins and outs of the horses in his care. They were like his own children. He got emotional, especially in his later years, and his eyes would well up with tears not only about horses, but about humans too. He was ready with advice and support when called upon, and loved the companionship of his fellow-trainers.
George Balcomb Scott is survived by his brothers Tommy and Trevor, son Peter, daughters Colleen, Sandy and Sharon, several grandchildren and great grandchildren. Funeral arrangements will be advised.
The best among us are only really missed when they are gone. Rest in peace, Uncle George.