On Wednesday, Mick Goss wasn’t taking calls, even from old friends. We hope he’s well.
Mick Goss. Picture: Supplied
One of the best things in horse racing over the past 40 years has been a man called Mick Goss.
The phrase “force of nature” has been used for lesser mortals than the boss of Summerhill Stud, but it’s a description that suits him perfectly. Champion breeder Goss – with his enviable optimism, ambition and energy – seemed like an ever-present force for good in racing. As long as Mick was around, we’d all be OK.
That’s no longer the case. On Tuesday came shock news that Goss’s Summerhill Stud near Mooi River is selling the bulk of its bloodstock in a one-off sale.
Coronavirus and a cancerous lockdown are eviscerating us.
Racing is suspended by a government that doesn’t seem to know what it is doing, operator Phumelela is in business rescue, increasing numbers of racehorses are being euthanised as there’s no money to feed them, the Oppenheimer family is propping up the game financially in the short-term – and now Mr Racing is forced out.
Racing’s Resuscitation Task Team of five intrepid individuals have an almighty task on their hands. But they know that.
Goss suffered serious illness in 2016 and sold his farms late last year. However, in inimitable style, he vowed to remain on the land he loved, by arrangement with the new owner, and to continue producing winning horses for as long as he could.
Along comes a nasty disease to kill people and economies and, for those who survive, extinguish the lights in their lives. For millions of people, racing is such a light and Goss a long-time principal bearer of the torch.
The dispersal is described as “the deepest online sale of thoroughbreds ever”.
There are 180 lots for sale on the online auction, which will run for 10 days from Wednesday 13 May. You just have to go to www.summerhill.co.za to check out the horses and email an offer.
There is no reserve, so every offer, even if it is just a good home, will be considered.
The first 63 lots are broodmares that have been the backbone of Summerhill, with daughters of international sires Galileo, Kingmambo, Giant’s Causeway and Fusaichi Pegasus among them – not to mention local champions such as Jet Master, National Emblem and Northern Guest. The latter was the horse on which much of Summerhill’s legend was built.
Most of these proven mares are in foal to an array of top stallions. The rest of the 180 lots are foals yet to be raced.
Marketing the sale, Goss writes: “Those who’ve known Summerhill for the past 40 years, will know how painful it is to be parting with our horses.
“They have been the mainstay of our lives and the farm was built on their backs. But the time has come, and the timing couldn’t have been less opportune.
“That said, one man’s adversity is always another’s opportunity, and so the complete dispersal of our stock will undoubtedly be characterised by some of the game’s greatest bargains.
“These are the families that delivered up a modern-day record of 10 breeders’ championships in the face of the most formidable competition of our time.”
Another cliché often applied to Goss is “gift of the gab”. It, too, is apt. Anyone who had the pleasure of attending a post-Durban July Summerhill stallion day will have marvelled at the man’s capacity for spinning a colourful yarn.
Give him half a chance and he will conjure up the ghosts of Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Louis Botha and Nelson Mandela, all of whom played leading parts in the history of the Drakensberg foothills in which Summerhill and Hartford nestle. He’ll chill the blood of overseas visitors with a forceful rendition of the Zulu war cry at Isandlwana and tell you how those warriors’ descendants are the finest horsemen in the world and made him what he is.
He will mesmerise with encyclopaedic knowledge of thoroughbred pedigrees and weave in the names of equine heroes that rose from this beloved land of his – Preston Pan, Panjandrum, Mowgli, Cape Heath, Sentinel and Magic Mirror in the old days; Igugu, Imbongi, Spook And Diesel, Nlavini, Pierre Jourdan, Angus, National Emblem and scores more in more recent times.
To learn that this pantheon of greatness has come to a sudden end is bewildering and heart-breaking to those who love horse racing and its history.
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