Goodbye Bob, a humble hero to so many

Bob catching up with friends Don Sellwood and Royce Dowling at his home earlier this year. (Photo: Brian de Lore).

It’ll never be the same on Cambridge Jockey Club race days, or other racing and sales occasions, with the recent death of Robert Lloyd (‘’Bob’’) Morris.

So integral, not only the success of the CJC but also a great contributor to the racing and breeding industry over his lifetime, Bob died at his home on October 17, one month short of his 92nd birthday.

Bob was without doubt a highly respected horseman, a great stockman and a very successful owner, trainer and breeder, but, above all, he was also a true gentleman.

In a sincere written tribute to a long-time friend and adviser since the late 1970s, Brian de Lore beautifully summed him up: ‘’Bob proved a great mentor to so many successful people in horses, and was man who commanded unending respect from all who knew him.

‘’He was a man of the land who had an extraordinary knowledge of farming stock and thoroughbred horses. A quiet achiever, he avoided taking credit for anything, or for helping anyone who needed help. He often shared his vast knowledge to the thoroughbred fraternity. He was a man of decisive action who didn’t suffer fools, but equally was kind of heart, a loyal friend.’’

Bob was born in 1927 in Cambridge, were he lived there almost his entire life. He served on the Cambridge Jockey Club committee for an amazing 44 years, from 1951 to 1995, and he was President from 1976 to 1981 and Life Member from 1995.  He was the CJC Patron at the time of his death.

‘’Bob guided the Club through all the trials and tribulations of converting a rundown dairy farm of 100 acres purchased in July 1977 and a further 50 acres purchased afterwards and transforming it into the magnificent facility we have today,”’ said Gayle Barkla, Secretary of the Cambridge Jockey Club and associated with the CJC for 32 years.

‘’His contribution to this Club could not have been any greater.

‘’Bob very rarely ever missed a CJC race day.  He was at our most recent race day, Travis Stakes day in April.  He regularly popped into the office to say hi and ask how the CJC was going and always took a very keen interest in everything CJC.’’

Bob was recognised for his outstanding contribution to Cambridge racing at the 2004 Awards evening, a well-deserved honour for such a humble contributor to the club and everything racing.

Bob bred and raced several top horses over many years with his most notable success as a breeder  with Abdul in the 1970 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) Trained by Geoff Murphy, Abdul (by Sovereign Edition) also included in his 17 wins, the Gr.1 All Aged Stakes (1600m), the Gr.2 Sandown Guineas (1600m) and the Gr.2 Orr Stakes (1400m).

Bob also bought and raced Savoir (also by Sovereign Edition), who won the 1976 Gr.1 VATC 1000 Guineas (1600m), the Gr.2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) and was runner-up in both the Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2500m) and the Gr.2 Moonee Valley Stakes (1600m).

As de Lore recalled, ‘’Bob’s best friend was the late Maurice Paykel of Fisher & Paykel fame. They were very similar characters, completely devoid of ego, but relists, intelligent, and they shared a great sense of humour and a passion for horses. Bob was a practical horseman and Maurice was the enthusiast and together they bred and raced many horses over many years.’’

The winners includes the Hermes mare Sequitur and her daughter, Sequita (by Sovereign Edition) who were both were multiple black-type winners.’’

Sequitur left six winners with the best being Ideal Centreman (13 wins; Gr.1 Adelaide Cup,3200m and seven others black-type races) and Sequita, whose 10 wins included the Gr.2 Great Britain – New Zealand Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie, the Gr.3 Lady Norrie Stakes (1600m) and Ellerslie’s Listed Alison Stakes (2000m).

Sequita went on to be a highly successful broodmare, leaving nine winners from 10 raced progeny, including Never Quit (Gr.2 AJC Frank Packer Plate, 2000m, the Gr.2 Prime Ministers Cup, 2015m, and Gr.3 STC Shannon Handicap,1500m, twice) and (Super) Sequel (Gr.2 VRC Hardy Brothers Classic Stakes, 1600m, Listed Tauranga Classic, 1400m). It’s a family which has produced a host of black type winners and placegetters.

Bob was a big help to Sir Patrick Hogan in getting Cambridge Stud established, having a significant influence on the preparation of yearlings, and his experience went much beyond New Zealand.

Bob Morris and the mighty galloper El Khobar, pictured at Hollywood Park, California in the 1956.

As a 29-year-old in 1956, Bob took Sir Woolf Fisher’s outstanding sprinter, El Khobar, by ship to America after the horse had a series of victories in both New Zealand and Australia. El Khobar (by Gabador) had won the Gr.1 BATC Doomben Ten Thousand Handicap (1500m), the Listed QTC Ascot Stakes (1400m), and the Gr.2 AJC Warwick Stakes (1400m).

El Khobar also won a match race over 1700m with the mighty Syntax in Brisbane in September, 1956 by eight lengths and was the best sprinter in Australia that year. Later after displaying his talent in the United States, he retired to stud in America before returning to Sir Woolf’s Ra Ora Stud.

Bob never married and is survived by his older sister Grace and his nieces and nephews, while another older sister Margaret passed always three years ago aged 94.

Until her death, Margaret lived with Bob and Carol Marshall, who worked for Bob and was with him for 47 years.

Carol was a close and constant companion, so often taking Bob to the race meetings and functions and it was a delight to see Bob making the long trip from Cambridge to Hastings to watch Lily D’Or, a mare Carol bred and races in partnership with him, win on September 21.

The photo of Bob and Denny Moroney (father and long-time stable helper of co-trainer Mike Moroney), both aged 91, at the winner’s stall to greet  Lily D’Or and rider Donovan Mansour that day will long be cherished. The smile on Bob’s face was heart-felt for his love of racing and the horses and, although enjoying his moment of success quietly himself, true to character, he no doubt was more pleased to see Carol getting another win.

Racing has lost a true, honourable member of New Zealand racing with the death of Bob Morris, a person who touched so many hearts and asked nothing in return.

The Cambridge Jockey Club will forever be in Bob’s debt for all his help and guidance over the years. He is sadly missed, but rest assured Bob,  your memory will live on.

  • By Wally O’Hearn