Robin Scott would have been among the favourites if a survey was conducted to establish the most well-liked industryman in South African racing and tributes poured in after his passing last week.
Trainer Doug Campbell was a close friend of the great owner-breeder and summed it up, “He was a real gentleman, there was never a person who had a bad word to say about him, he was straight down the middle.”
Robin and Doug spent many an evening chin-wagging around the fireside on Campbell’s Richmond-based farm over Robin’s favourite tipple, whisky and soda, and the dominant topic of conversation was always racing such was Robin’s passion for the sport and deep knowledge of breeding.
Lockdown was frustrating for Robin as his panoramic views on the Scott Brothers’ Highdown Stud Farm in the KZN Midlands had by then been substituted by Durban rooftops.
Doug said, “Our fireside conversations were replaced by long phone-calls and he always started by asking, ‘Is Jock Scott having a whisky with you?’ (Jock is the name of Doug’s Scottish terrier).”
Doug trained a few horses for Scott Brothers over the years but none more memorable than the Only A Pound filly Sea Mint.
Doug recalled, “Michaelhouse had been raising funds for their pending centenary in 1996 and Robin (typically generously) said he would donate a racehorse to a Michaelhouse Old Boys (MHSOB) syndicate which would be trained for free by a MHSOB and all of the stakes would go into the centenary fund. (Robin’s sons Russell and Stuart went to MHS).”
Doug was the trainer Robin had in mind.
Doug recalled being disappointed when he discovered the horse was by Only A Pound and not Jungle Cove (Scott Brothers’ five-time SA champion sire) and his first impressions of her were just as disappointing.
He said, “But Robin was such a good judge and he said to me ‘Don’t worry she will be alright.’”
MHSOB and Pietermartzburg Turf Club steward Bill Lambert hired a box for her debut and among the attendees was MHS board member Bill Dixon-Smith, brother of Robin’s beloved wife Joyce and a celebrated old boy due to his sporting and singing prowess, so there was a lot of pressure on Doug.
However, the little filly scooted in by 4.5 lengths with jockey Peter Dillon clad in Lambert’s red-and-white hooped silks, the same colours as the Michaelhouse first team rugby jersey. She went on to win three more races and finished a head second in a lucrative Listed event at Gosforth Park in Johannesburg, ironically behind the red-and-white silks-runner Fragrant Lady, who was owned by Michaelhouse Old Boy Mike Rattray.
Lambert was one of Robin’s longest standing close friends and said, “If you mentioned the name Scott it was immediately associated with everything that was good about racing. The three Scott brothers Robin, Des and Neville were icons and bred and owned some great racehorses like the July winners Politician (bred by Scotts Brothers), Devon Air (owned by Scott Brothers and ran in Robin’s brother Des’s colours) and Illustrador (part-owned by Des). Robin was a steward at Clairwood for many years. His opinions were always highly regarded. His passing was untimely and very sad.”
The Lambert and Scott family association goes back to the 1950s when the former had a holiday cottage at Isipingo where the Scotts lived. Two other great KZN racing families, the Rowles’ and the Jonssons, were part of the regular Isipingo holiday gatherings.
Hall Of Fame jockey and now trainer Michael Roberts rode for Herman Brown Snr as an apprentice and the latter-trained a lot of Scott Brothers fillies. Roberts thus paid many visits to Highdown and recalled admiring Jungle Cove and another good sire, Ambiopoise, and also recalled Robin and Joyce’s famous hospitality. Des Scott landed Roberts his first job in the UK by introducing him to trainer Gavin Hunter, so it was somewhat ironic that Highdown Stud’s greatest stallion, Foveros, was later bought out of the Newmarket UK yard of Clive Brittain, to whom Roberts was stable jockey. Roberts recalled Robin and Joyce hosting himself and Clive Brittain when the latter came out to visit the eight-times SA Champion Sire and the couple had done the same when Lester Piggott and others came over to ride out here.
Roberts said, “Robin was one of the old school of much respected industrymen and is going to be sadly missed. Scott Brothers hospitality was always great at the Sales and I also used to bump into Robin at the Newmarket Sales. He was always great fun and I always had a good laugh when seeing him.”
Robin kept a breeding interest after his recent retirement with a couple of mares at Bruce Le Roux’s Spring Valley Stud.
Le Roux said, “On his visits here when looking out from the verandah he would say, ‘This is what I miss, just watching the horses.’ He was as solid a rock, a true man of his word and he believed in KZN Breeders supporting each other. He always took an interest in the smaller farms.”
Tragically Robin passed away a day or two short of the announcement of his niece-in-law Belinda Scott to position of Chairperson of Gold Circle. Belinda said, “The loss of Robin has left a huge void in the Scott family. He was our mentor, with his sage voice of reason and deep integrity. He guided the family through difficult periods and provided comfort and support whenever it was needed. He was an incredible man whose vision and commitment to the thoroughbred horse racing industry in South Africa can not be measured. Personally I am deeply saddened that I was unable to share the news of my appointment as Chairman of the Gold Circle Board. I can only strive to carry out this important task with the decorum and dedication that would have been expected from Robin. It is a honour for me to continue the Scott legacy in his wake.”
A memorial was held for Robin in the Hollywoodbets Greyville parade ring on Saturday and it was clear during the moving tributes by his sons Russell and Stuart, with his daughters Genevieve and Nolwazi present, he was indeed a genuine gentleman and a great family man.