It may well be a question that the current chairman of the Racing Association (“RA”) - Bruce Gardner - ponders at times, but just how would have his involvement in racing been different if he hadn’t gone jogging with his brother-in-law Mick Goss on that fateful day back in 1982?
You see, 22 years ago, as Mick Goss and Bruce ran side by side during a post-dawn fitness regime at Greyville, Mick suggested Bruce take a 20% share in a UK filly he had just bought - MISTY FOR ME.
Whilst some people may choose to couch that offer as a life changing event, others might just hesitate to suggest that from Bruce’s perspective it proved a somewhat expensive 3 kilometre workout!
Still, fate works in mysterious ways. Besides, it wasn’t the start of Bruce’s connection with the thoroughbred industry. He had, after all, been fascinated by the game since the age of 11. The self confessed “breeder, punter, steward and director” says he “has always had the bug” and “I’ve pretty much been involved with everything to do with thoroughbreds except ride and train them.”
Nevertheless, from that initial 20% share that Mick persuaded Bruce to take in the UK-bred mare MISTY FOR ME Bruce ended up graduating to his existing thoroughbred holding of 11 broodmares and 12 horses in training.
Bruce has owned a number of winners over the years but from that initial 20% share in MISTY FOR ME he kept an 80% share in one of her daughters - VALLEY MIST - a 2-time winning daughter of Mount Hagen. VALLEY MIST went on to produce the Equus Champion Sprinter NHLAVINI (by National Emblem) who Charles Laird has trained to 13 wins and 22 places including one Gr 1 and 5 Gr 2 wins and 6 Gr 1 seconds. VALLEY MIST also sold a half-brother (by Muhtafal) at this year’s National Sale for R300k to Gary Alexander.
A number of Bruce’s mares will visit Summerhill stallions this year and when asked who had taken his fancy he didn’t pause for an instant.
And why Kahal?
“He just blew me away today,” he says. ‘I was so taken with him - he just looks so regal. I also loved NATIONAL EMBLEM who used to stand here. I loved him as a racehorse and I sent mares to him first season.”
At the sales Bruce’s preference is to buy with future breeding prospects in mind which means he tends to steer clear of the colts. Having said that he admits that his long term goal is “to breed to sell and also to keep some to race with my mates” so that means a mix of horses form part of the plan.
When asked what initiatives the Racing Association currently has underway he mentions the new Syndicate that were purchased and are now being marketed to attract new owners to the sport. The RA selected 3 trainers - Alec Laird, Terry Lowe and Mike Azzie - from a list that took into account the percentage win and place success over the last season. The RA then purchased 3 well bred horses at this years National Yearling Sales and divided the 3 horses into a total package of 20 shares. Shares include keep until the end of the 3 year old careers.
The RA also had the news this week of the closure of Newmarket and the introduction of the new night racing venue at Turffontein. Turffontein will be the beneficiary of a R40-million settlement to be paid by the new owners of Newmarket Racecourse to terminate Phumelela’s Use Agreement at the racecourse. The money will see Turffontein become a luxurious racing venue with about 70 weekend and night race meetings being held there annually. Additional race meetings may also be held at Randjesfontein, creating new marketing opportunities for horseracing in the north of Johannesburg. Major races run at Turffontein include the R3-million Gommagomma Challenge, Africa’s richest race, the R1,5-million Steinhoff International Summer Cup and the R1-million SA Classic and SA Derby, Africa’s richest events for three-year-olds.
From February next year, additional race meetings will be programmed at Turffontein, the Vaal and possibly Randjesfontein to accommodate the closure of Newmarket.
The sustainable quality of racing surfaces is obviously of paramount importance to both Phumelela and the Racing Association, and a project to enable the two racetracks at Turffontein to sustain additional fixtures will commence within weeks. The existing common back straight will be widened and separated into two distinct tracks in order to facilitate maintenance of both racing surfaces.
All-weather racing surfaces such as poly track are also being investigated. Poly tracks are gaining popularity world wide due to the kindness of the surface to horses.