An Adelaide father shares with his young son the laborious task of laying concrete down a driveway. To make the time pass more quickly, he has the radio on. As an avid sports fan and keen owner of a couple of thoroughbreds the racing station is his entertainment of choice.
He gets his son to make some selections, offering as reward a pound for each winner found.
Simon Vivian admits that his seven-year-old self “didn’t have a clue” but with a South Australian bred and trained horse taking his place in the big race that day, Yangtze (who was backing up from a Caulfield Guineas-Gr.1, 1600m victory the week before) seemed a good choice.
And it was that horse’s memorable Caulfield Cup-Gr.1, 2400m victory (he was the first all the way winner of this historic handicap) on October 17, 1964 that became a pivotal life moment, one that set Simon on the path of a racing career.
Simon was taken by Yangtze’s jockey John Stocker (who had won the Caulfield Cup at just 19) and other early memories of his racing passion include cheering his racing hero on to win, at the 1967 Oakbank carnival, the Onkaparinga Cup aboard High Desire.
She was a prolific winner who would go on to produce the multiple Group One winning sprinter Desirable, John Stocker’s favourite filly.
“I fell in love with John Stocker even more than Yangtze!” Simon jokes, still a little in awe of the fact that he now works with John’s son Johnny (and his wife Nikki) and daughter Narelle; all part of the Inglis family of which Simon has been a happy member of since 2004.
The company’s Victorian Bloodstock Manager since 2016, Simon recently announced his retirement and was happy to share with Bluebloods just a few of his many great racing memories.
“Yangtze’s win was a kicking off point but when I look back it is all a tapestry, so many different pieces of the puzzle that have led to and then enhanced my love of racing.”
Moments such as watching Kingston Town win a third W.S Cox Plate or Dulcify racing away to a record breaking win in that same race. Or witnessing a horse like Northerly with his somewhat humble breeding origins proving himself to be a star of the turf.
“Anyone can breed or race a good horse, racing is such a great leveller.”
And then there are the people he has met along the way, the friendships he has forged. From embarking on his career working with the legendary David Coles to meeting such famous racing figures as Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and Tommy Smith and chatting with the likes of Robert Holmes à Court and Robert Sangster.
“As much as we say our sport is all about the horses, it is really a people industry with horses as the common denominator,” Simon said, always taken by how many different people’s lives are touched by racing.
“You meet an exceptionally diverse range of people,” he said, noting also that racing always gives friends so much to talk about.
“You can sit at the dining table and ask ‘who is the best horse, or the best trainer or jockey you have seen?’ and so many opinions, so much conversation stems from that.”
Simon’s lengthy career in the thoroughbred industry began when his father Peter (an accomplished sportsman and member of the South Australian Football Hall Of Fame) asked David Coles if there were any positions available for
a young man with a passion for horse racing.
Having spent a year of studying property valuation and deciding it was not really for him, Simon was delighted to start with Coles Brothers in late 1976. And he has great memories of those early days.
“Back then everything was done by hand. We’d sit there with turf registers and stud books and write it all out. Firstly it was an education, everything stuck in your head. And secondly it took ten people which provided a great start for many racing people.”
Such as fellow successful racing figures as Peter Heagney, Adrian Hancock, John Foote, Kevin Dagg, Denis Roberts, Neil Bowden, Duncan Grimley, David Bridgland, Alastair Pulford, David Jolly, Wayne Hawkes, Philippa Duncan, Adam White, Grant Burns, Mark Dodemaide and David Hall.
“David Coles was a phenomenal leader and mentor and a wonderful man,” Simon said of the man who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2013. “He ran a great agency and I was blessed to start off there.”
From Coles Brothers, Simon followed David Coles and others to ABCOS, also spending time gaining valuable experience in the United Kingdom (working at Tattersalls in Newmarket in the early 1980s) and in Western Australia, spending two years managing Goodwood Bloodstock.
Simon Vivian Bloodstock was another career move, sharing an office and working in conjunction with fellow bloodstock agent Denis Roberts who had been one of his first bosses at Coles Brothers. Enjoying success, he also began working as an auctioneer at what was then Dalgety’s, the company that would eventually be bought out by Inglis.
It was David Coles, himself an accomplished auctioneer, who first piqued Simon’s interest in the art of the selling call and in the decades since he has seen many a nice horse go through the ring in front of him.
Such as Don Eduardo in New Zealand in 2000.
“There was no reserve put on him and Sir Patrick Hogan left the rostrum when the bidding got to around $2 million, thinking that the colt was about to get knocked down. By the time he re-entered the auditorium the bidding had increased and I don’t think anyone could believe it. I think he was in the ring for over seven minutes!”
Knocked down to Gooree Stud for a record-breaking $3.6 million, Don Eduardo went on enjoy to considerable race track success. “I was delighted when he won a Group One (the 2002 AJC Derby-Gr.1, 2400m) under the care
of the Freedmans.”
“More recently, I auctioned Ole Kirk ($675,000 at the 2019 Inglis Melbourne Premier) but I only know that because I saw an ad on television!”
It is Ole Kirk’s “auntie” Black Caviar that really sticks in Simon’s mind when he thinks of his Inglis memories. “She was bred and sold in Victoria and every time she raced I was as nervous as the owners. She gave Victoria, Gilgai Farm and Inglis Premier a massive ride. We now have a bronze bust of her in the entry foyer at Oaklands.
One that has the title of “The Perfect One”.
Still passionate about racing as he heads towards retirement, Simon is especially excited by the current group of first season sires, enjoying watching the early progress of the likes of Flying Artie, Capitalist and Extreme Choice.
“I still enjoy looking at pedigrees of such horses and trying to figure out what it is that makes them successful. And just when you think you have something worked out a horse will come along who proves the exception, that
is one of the great things about racehorses!”
He is also excited about the 2021 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, a 466-strong catalogue that he describes as “outstanding.”
“It is a bit like the AFL draft when some years they are just stronger than others and I think the 2019 crop is a pretty good one. Sales around Australia having been going well this year which shows that the buying community are happy with the types being offered.”
Simon has always been part of the Bluebloods extended family and everyone here wishes him the best for his future.
“I would like to wish Simon a long and happy retirement,” Andrew Reichard said. “I have known him for longer than we both care to recall! He has always been a great supporter and good friend of our publications. Our industry could use more like him rather than less.”