Dave Mollett
As a lawyer in his younger days, breeder Mick Goss will be familiar with the Latin phrase, “annus horribilis.” The words (“horrible year”) were famously used by Queen Elizabeth in a speech at the Guildhall in 1992, but fast forward 24 years and they certainly apply to the Summerhill Stud supremo.
— Dave Mollett / The Citizen

In January this year, Mick Goss attended the Asian Racing Conference in India and returned to South Africa gravely ill. He was hospitalised on a number of occasions and the running of the stud placed in the hands of his capable wife, Cheryl, and their long-serving staff.

Exactly a year ago also wasn't a great period for Mick and his Mooi River operation with Klawervlei Stud taking the breeders championship - a bit similar to Tiger Woods' situation of being the top guy in golf for many years and then losing his crown.

Well, Tiger might not be back, but Summerhill certainly are. They went into Sunday's Gold Cup meeting with a lead of R600,000 over Klawervlei in this year's breeders championship and sustained their lead. It was Summerhill's 10th championship - some way to go to Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors - but Mick will take it.

“I doubt too many of us here ever believed we'd top the table again - there is so much money in the game these days that it's more competitive than ever,” said Mick when I caught up with him on Monday.

“I guess it's a tribute to getting up earlier, working a bit harder, heads down, keeping our eyes shut and praying a lot! In these trying times, it is a tonic to everyone here and waking up at Summerhill on this Monday morning was one of our sweetest moments in almost four decades,” he added.

Act Of War - Son of Dynasty

Despite the snakes-and-ladders health issue, Summerhill has kept in the bloodstock news like one of the Premier League clubs in the UK. They've been in the transfer market selling the stallion, Visionaire, to Lammerskraal and welcoming Act Of War and Willow Magic to the Summerhill stallions barn.

Champion trainer, Sean Tarry, has praised Willow Magic saying: “His time coincided with a golden era in my yard, yet no older horse could go with him. The perfect prototype for sire success in South Africa.”

Willow Magic - Son of Dubawi

Now Sean and Mick, who will hopefully be fit enough to make the trip, will be taking the walk to the winner's podium at the Equus Awards at Emperors Palace on 16 August.

Sean's tally of over R28million in stakes is simply mind-boggling when you consider the country's three big races - the July, Met and Summer Cup - weren't won by inmates of his stable.

A year ago I said “Enjoy it, Sean. Your total (for the 2014/15 season) of R25,9million might stand for years.” He simply proved that he doesn't intend being knocked off his top perch any time soon.

Mick made the right decision to give last year's Equus Awards a miss. He wouldn't have enjoyed the lengthy, but well-researched speech, of Klawervlei's John Koster. Nevertheless, the Cape stud had earned their time in the spotlight and will be keen to win back the title in the new campaign.

Perhaps Mick and his team deserve a standing ovation at Emperors for simply braving adversity which life can throw at you. Their tenth championship is probably their most memorable.