N is for Negus
Who doesn’t love the story of an underdog achieving amazing things with a horse that truly captured the hearts of the racing public and beyond?
Bruce Negus is one of those characters. And Courage Under Fire was one of those horses.
The “Burnham Battler” as he was called and the horse they dubbed “Mighty Mouse” were an unbeatable combination.
Undefeated in his first 24 starts for regular driver Colin de Filippi, Courage Under Fire won a record six derbies as a 3-year-old.
One night at Moonee Valley in 1999 he beat hotshot Shakamaker in a world record 1:56.5 mile rate for 2560 metres. It remains one of his best ever wins.
Negus had been associated with horses all his life. Among his dad Bob’s feats was winning the New Zealand Cup – Free-For-All double with Armalight in 1981.
Negus junior had waited all his life for a horse like Courage Under Fire. Their run of success made headline news everywhere they went, the tale of a country trainer in Canterbury with a horse that was barely 14 hands high was a compelling one.
Their first defeat was in the 2000 Interdominions, after which the horse was transferred to Darren Hancock’s Sydney stable. After that Courage had the odd success but against the Grand Circuit horses he would never repeat his astonishing efforts he did in his two and three-year-old days.
He was retired from racing in March 2002 with 41 wins from 56 starts and $1.5m in stakes.
From boom sire In the Pocket, Courage under Fire was equally successful in the breeding barn, siring more than 700 horses in Australia and New Zealand, with the best known being 2016 Interdominion champion Smolda.
Courage Under Fire died aged 21 at Yirribee Stud in New South Wales in 2017.
Negus’ best year training numbers-wise was 2008 with 44 wins though nothing can upstage those days in 1998 and 99 when racing’s unlikely couple made history.