Bob Negus Obituary


Bob Negus, one of a rare group of harness drivers to win both the New Zealand Cup and the New Zealand Free-For-All, with champion mare Armalight in 1981, died from cancer on Saturday. He was 89.

Trainer son Bruce, also associated with a champion pacer, training Courage Under Fire in the late 1990s, said his father had still been driving a tractor until the final two weeks of his life.

‘’His mind was still pretty sharp,’’ Bruce said.

‘’He was good about it. He had all his affairs in order.’’

Bob Negus cleverly out-drove his rivals with Armalight to win the 1981 New Zealand Cup.

After being left parked out, he didn’t force the issue, knowing his main rivals were back in the field.

He utilised Armalight's speed inside the final 800m, leaving their rivals flat-footed. Armalight was in a class of her own, winning by seven lengths and paying $27.

Three days later, Armalight, trained by Brent Smith, made international headlines with a world record win in the New Zealand Free-For-All.

Bob Negus let her run freely in front over the mobile 2000m, winning as she liked by three lengths in an astonishing 2:23.5, at the time an unheard of mile rate of 1:55.4.

He had driven Armalight in her first four wins and was back at the helm when helping Smith with the mare's preparation during her stellar five-year-old season.

Even though he had often booked top drivers himself for his own horses in big races, Bob Negus showed his talents as a horseman driving Armalight.

He also drove her to win the 1982 Kaikoura Cup and run second, off a 10m handicap, to another top mare of the era in Bonnie's Chance in the 1982 New Zealand Cup.

Good friend, former Nevele R Stud founder and Bromac Lodge proprietor Bob McArdle, was saddened by his passing.

‘’He was one of the most talented New Zealand horsemen that has ever been,’’ said McArdle.

‘’The guy did amazing things without having the best bred horses. God knows what he would have done had he had the best ones.’’

A skilled trainer and driver with his own horses, Negus trained first at Springston and then at Broadfield.

His biggest win as an owner-trainer was with Willie Win in the 1972 New Zealand Derby at Addington, in the hands of NZ's champion driver of the time, in ‘’The Maestro’’, the late Maurice Holmes.

After breaking and losing 30m early, his performance to recover and win in a then NZ-record time for a three-year-old was sensational.

He won going away from Kotare Scott, with subsequent top pacer Young Quinn, who had beaten him into second in the NZ Sapling Stakes at two, finishing fifth.

Willie Win later ran second to Speedy Guest that season in the 1973 Great Northern Derby.

By Good Chase, Willie Win also won the 1972 Methven 2YO Stakes in the hands of the trainer and retired winning eight of 33 starts.

Negus also owned and trained Willie Win's younger half-sister Glint to win the 1955 New Zealand Oaks and the 1956 Ashburton Cup, both driven by Holmes. She won 10 of 38 starts.

Glint's first foal, Bruce (named after his son), won seven, while another of her foals in La Romola only won once, but left six winners including eight-race winners for other trainers in Bardolino and Winning Note, and Early Riser (four), the latter leaving a feature Victorian El Dorado winner of the 1980s, First Glimpse, for Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams.

Captain Jura, secured off Balclutha trainer Len Tilson, was another Ashburton Cup winner raced by Negus, and driven by the late Doody Townley in 1975. It was a Negus-trained quinella, with the trainer driving Willie Win to finish second.

Negus also trained the quinella in the 1972 NZ Welcome Stakes for two-year-olds at Addington with another smart youngster in Hardcraft, who beat close relative Willie Win.

Hardcraft, driven by the late Derek Jones in the Welcome Stakes, was also by Good Chase, but from Gleam, a one-win daughter of Willie Win's half-sister Glister (Whipster-Spangle), who won five.

Negus bred, owned and trained Hardcraft, who won five of only 16 starts and at three won the 1973 Queens Birthday Stakes at Ashburton, when driven by Maurice Holmes.

Negus also bred, owned, trained and drove Glint's son Patchy to win the 1962 NZ Golden Slipper Stakes, formerly a feature two-year-old event on the NZ harness calendar.

He had his share of success in country cups, being the owner and trainer of 1963 Waimate Cup winner Flynn, and 1967 Kurow Cup winner Bronze Lad, both in the hands of Maurice Holmes, and 1969 Geraldine Cup winner Kran, which Negus drove himself.

Legacy, who won four, was another useful pacer for him in the early 1970s, while he also won three with his namesake Robert Henry (Out To Win-Gilt), before the latter was exported to North America in 1982.

He also did a good job after securing one-win pacer Piper McCardy, converting him to trotting and winning seven races as an aged trotter before retiring him as an 11-year-old in 2001.

Bob Negus also had a support role in the career of subsequent world champion driver and now successful trainer Mark Jones. He employed him when Jones was on his way to becoming NZ's top junior driver.

‘’In his last week he had a session playing with a jazz player as it was always something he wanted to do, which was nice,’’ McArdle said.

Negus died 80 days after his daughter, Robyn Garrett, who also died from cancer.

He is survived by sons, Bruce and Keith, and daughters, Christine and Gail Dolamore.