So sorry to learn that Victorian trainer Bruce Morgan is a patient in the Royal Melbourne Hospital, after suffering a stroke at his Bendigo stables last week.
The esteem in which this man is held by all sections of the Victorian harness racing industry, was acknowledged in the most fitting way in 2015. He was awarded the Gordon Rothacker Medal, named after a doyen of the sport, and a role model to a young Bruce Morgan in the 60’s and 70’s.
Bruce was just fifteen years old when he worked his first horse on a sand track inside the Swan Hill racecourse.Intent on a professional career in the sport, he moved to Bendigo in 1973, and has enjoyed a very rewarding forty five years as a trainer/driver.
His first win as a reinsman came in the late 1950’s behind a pacer called Pronto Redmond on the old Mildura track, but that’s not the only reason he has clear recollections of the meeting. On the very same card,a future superstar won a minor race by the length of the straight. It was none other than James Scott, who went to win all three heats and the Grand Final of the 1962 Inter Dominion Championship, in the hands of the legendary Percy Hall.
Bruce Morgan has trained a host of nice horses, but there are two for whom he has special affection. The first is Denver Gift, a marvellous campaigner who won a whopping thirty seven races in the ownership of Bruce and his devoted wife Val.
B.L.Morgan was still race driving when Denver Gift began his career, and handled the chestnut horse in his first eight wins. Gavin Lang took over in March 1996, and won at his first four drives on “Denver” culminating in the NSW Pacers Derby at Harold Park.
The next few sentences should improve Bruce’s health dramatically.
In the Autumn of 1998 he produced a Stoneridge Scooter filly, who was destined for dizzy heights. As Mother Courage she was one of the very best fillies of her generation.
As a two year old she won a Vic Bred Super Sires Final, and the Youthful Stakes.
At three she won the Victoria Oaks, the El Dorado Final and the Silver Chalice.
At four she was beaten a nose by Oh Carolina in the Group 1 Ladyship Mile at Harold Park.
Bruce got a big kick in 2002 when she won the Bendigo Pacing Cup, just across the road from the Morgan stables, and just a few weeks later she added the Ladyship Cup to her brilliant record.
The mare was retired at the end of 2002, leaving her owners with a healthy $462,000, and the Morgans with a million indelible memories.
Mother Courage put together a remarkable record of 30 wins and 28 placings from 81 starts.
She was driven in 27 of those wins by John Caldow, and by Brian Gath in the other three.
Mother Courage’s stellar career was expertly guided all the way through, by a very skilful trainer.
If there is one thing frustrating Bruce Morgan at the moment, it’s the fact that he’s not at Denver Lodge looking after the horse he declares is the best he has trained in recent years.
The horse is a three year old gelding called Bonus Play. He’s a huge animal by Shadow Play out of Lucky Bonus. The dam was previously owned by Bruce’s great mate and neighbour, the late Ron Pocock.
Bonus Play went to Kilmore for his first start, and “went to pieces” with nerves. He galloped soon after the start, and finished distanced. You wouldn’t believe it was the same horse when he went to Ballarat almost a month later. He came off the second row and raced well back in the field to the bell. John Caldow started to creep up turning to the back straight, before putting the foot down at the quarter. Bonus Play did what horses of his size rarely do. He fairly exploded away and won by 27.4 metres in 1.56.1, looking every inch a top horse in the making.
Unfortunately he contracted a “bug” soon after Ballarat, and had to be turned out.
Never mind there’s plenty of time for Bonus Play, and there’s plenty of time for Bruce Morgan to guide his destiny with the support of his amazing wife.
Bruce get well soon, and whatever Val tells you to do. Just do it!