(Photo : Summerhill Stud Archives)
1928 - 2010
Mick GossPort Elizabeth lost two of its most venerated sons on the same day. No sooner had we posted a piece on Nic Claassen, when the news had broken that the elder statesman of Port Elizabeth trainers, Stanley Greeff had gone to greener pastures. That’s only an assumption of course. These two were capable of some extraordinary pranks and they may not have made the cut for the Elysian Fields; i.e. they could be burning firebreaks!
For us though, when we think of racing in Port Elizabeth, we immediately think of Uncle Stan. Put another way, you can scarcely think of East Cape racing without him, not only for the time he’s been around, but for what he’s contributed to the game.
Very few trainers in history can claim to have had so long an unbroken stint of more than a 100 winners a season, and to put that into context, we need to remember that East Cape racing is a once-a-week affair, unlike many other centres. Joined at the hip with his talented son, Alan, the old boy presided over a seamless transition when it was time to hand over the reins, but that diminished his interest and enthusiasm not one iota. To this day, his influence and his hand in the affairs of Pine Lodge Stables is as evident as ever.
Stanley of course, was a “dyed-in-the-wool” horseman, if ever there was one, having served his time with the legendary likes of Terrance Millard, Ralph Rixon and Peter Kannemeyer, as an amateur rider in the early days of the Cape Hunt And Polo Club. Some years back, I saw a photograph of Stan in his jockey days at the guest cottage once occupied by Loskie Cohen (yes, the founder almost a century ago, of the famous Odessa Stud,) and while I always knew him as quite a bulky fellow, Stan was a mere reed in those days.
Fond of the most amusing fables of our sport, he was racing’s unofficial custodian of the anecdotes of his era. Not once, but many times, I urged him to let me bring a dictaphone to his home so that we could record these tales for posterity; sadly, like so many good intentions, it never happened. I know of numerous others who urged him to commit his memories to writing, because it was the affection so many held for him and the respect he attracted, that placed him at the centre of most of the escapades that made East Cape racing the colourful place it’s always been.
That legacy endures at Pine Lodge with Alan, as does the proud history this stable carries in the names of some of the finest broodmares this country has known. The likes of Sun Lass, Polly Bisqui, Soho Secret and Halo are as solidly represented in the main pages of our catalogues today as ever, and they will serve as a lasting memorial to this extraordinary man for decades to come.
As we’ve been reminding his family for the past few weeks, when death stared our old friend in the face, the memories are what will sustain us on from here. He bore his illness manfully, and he told me himself a fortnight ago that he’d had a wonderful innings, and had no regrets.
Rest well, old pal, custodian of our stories.