mick goss champion thoroughbred breederMick Goss
(SA Travel Academy / Summerhill)

The following article, written by Dave Mollet for Mollet’s World, was published in The Citizen on Wednesday 13 August 2008.

Mick Goss is not a man to wear his emotions on his sleeve. But the Summerhill Stud boss will feel a special sense of achievement when he leads his team to the podium to collect the Champion Breeder prize at tomorrow night’s Equus awards banquet at Emperors Palace.

Summerhill has again beaten its own record. Last year it had earnings of R14.2million. This time the total is R15.8million.

“What is particularly encouraging is that we’ve broken a previous record each year since 2005,” said Mick, who retains the same enthusiasm and forward-thinking that has proved his forte throughout his career.

He is also a realist and added: “It’s impossible to maintain this momentum and it won’t be long before it is someone else’s turn. We also face the prospect of losing three of our top just-turned four-year-olds in Imbongi, Galant Gagnant and Art of War to Dubai. That will obviously have an impact going forward.

“We’ve always felt the current crop of two-year-olds – 65% of which were fillies – were vulnerable and there could well be holes in our armour in 2008/9.

“That said it feels as good winning the championship again as it did the first time. The day it doesn’t feel like that will be the time to bow out.

“It is particularly gratifying for a team that took almost 30 years to assemble and who made big sacrifices in order to get there. There was no inheritance here – nor is there a major enterprise behind us – and we’ve faced some testing times in the industry’s financial history, as well as the usual issues faced by the horse business in that time.

“With limited resources, this team was faced with the need to change the way we conducted our business and we’ve had to give attention to a variety of facets in order to position ourselves for a crack at the championship.

“These included a radical change in our agricultural practices, the way we fed our horses, our mating practices, the education and training of our staff which has included some 30 international scholarships and surrounding ourselves with people who had the resources to fill the holes.

“We needed to develop an alternate market in the Ready-To-Run – of course Chris Smith’s pioneering role in the early days was all important – so we could present our horses in a different form at the sales. The benefit from the added value that came that way was the result of surrounding ourselves with a spectacularly loyal and warmly supportive clientele.

Imbongi was Summerhill’s biggest earner last term – who was that racing correspondent who said Mick was carrying his BEE commitment too far?

“The biggest surprise was that we still owned a piece of him when he came well!” said Mick. “We took him to the Ready-To-Run knowing he had a bit of class about him, but also knowing that as a son of Russian Revival he was unlikely to realize – given the market at the time – his proper value. Despite a relatively modest reserve he never attracted a bid in the ring so we were saddled with him.

“Within a month or two of returning to the farm, he began to show us some really decent work – not so much in the speed he delivered but in the way he went about it.

“It was this which caught the attention of Ronnie Napier on one of his visits and he and a few pals bought half of the horse there and then.

“After gelding, Imbongi’s transformation was instant and – while it took some time for the public to develop their respect – we weren’t entirely surprised to see him come through.

“Interestingly his sister, Spring Garland, became a graded stakes winner within weeks of him doing so, which says something for his pedigree. He’s out of a sister to the dam of Victory Moon; his grand-dam was a graded stakes winner while his dam is a daughter of Foveros.”

Mick will have been sad to learn of the death of fellow breeder Wilfred Koster – something he is likely to mention if he gets a chance to address the audience tomorrow night – and stresses that “nothing in this game is permanent”.

He concluded: “We hope that our class can keep us in the shake-up for a few years to come, but face the inevitability that we won’t always be the champions. Nevertheless, we’re genuinely delighted with what has happened and we often have to pinch ourselves that we live in the real world.”