MICHAEL WILLIAM BASS, otherwise known as Mike Bass is a legend of South African racing, having won the country’s two most prestigious races, the July and the Metropolitan on 3 and 5 occasions, respectively. He has won close on 50 Grade 1 races around the country. His amazing feat of winning the country’s premier mile race, the Queen’s Plate on four consecutive occasions as well as the Metropolitan three times in as many years with the great Pocket Power may never be matched. Bass, ably assisted by his daughter, Candice (operations), and son Mark (website) continue to achieve success with Bass racing. The characteristic he likes most about himself is his honesty and integrity and that has ensured a strong team of prominent owners within the yard. Bass racing sends out ten runners for this Saturday’s racemeeting at Kenilworth, of which the yard will be represented by half that number in the two listed features. When asked for a comment on each runner, we found that Mike showed confidence in the chances of NIGHT TRIP, TEMPESTUOUS, DAILY FLIGHT and SEASON PASS, so a possible Bass yankee may be on the cards.
What is your name? Michael William Bass.
What is your star sign and birthdate? 2nd February 1945. I am an Aquarian.
Where were you born? Leicester, England.
Where do you live? Sunset Links, Milnerton.
Tell us about your family? Wife Carol, 2 children Mark and Candice and 3 grandchildren.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? I used to be Mickey at school.
Favourite food? Mixed seafood.
Favourite drink? Good red wine.
Favourite music? All the classic hits over the years.
Favourite sport? Golf.
Who is your favourite author? I don’t have one.
What are you reading at the moment? Sporting Post.
Which characteristic about yourself do you like the most? My honesty and integrity.
Which characteristic about yourself do you like the least? My social skills leave a lot to be desired.
Is there anything the public don’t know about Michael Bass that they would be interested to know? I have a National Diploma in Agriculture and I used to be a landscape gardener.
Are you interested in soccer and, if so, which is your favourite soccer team? I watch occasionally when Lionel Messi plays.
Favourite holiday destination? Sun City.
You became a trainer in 1979. There must have been many changes to training since then. What do you think are the most important changes that have assisted trainers in recent times? The Veterinary advances that have been made.
You seem to be getting better and better with each passing year. Apart from the experience of working with horses do you think modern horse science has played any part in your success? No, not really, I’m probably just training better horses.
Pocket Power played a major role in your life. How difficult was it for you to see him leave your yard? I changed my mind a good few times before I actually sent him away because he could still have won races.
Is there any up and coming horse in your yard which has any chance of emulating him? Probably not, but What A Winter comes quite close.
Despite the really top horses you have had in your yard, you have never taken a horse to Dubai, where the stakes are really impressive. Why is it that you have not done so? I have preferred to send them to Mike de Kock as he has the infrastructure and the experience.
On Met day, 2007, you had 5 winners including Pocket Power (winning the prestigious Metropolitan) and Sun Classique (the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes). Has that been your most memorable day in racing? Tell us about the day? It certainly was one of the best days. The Rippons were down from Jo’burg and our suite was packed. We rocked late into the night and must have disposed of gallons of wine and champagne.
Which of your 3 year olds do you have high hopes for? All of Paterfamilias, Mussoorie, Tevez, Epic Tale, Ze Kaiser, Abercrombie, Night Trip, Global Express and Neartic Dancer will go on to be top horses.
At the moment you seem to have quite a few decent fillies. Which of them do you think will do best? Hammies Hooker is top class and Butterfly Girl is improving all the time.
Describe your routine on a typical raceday? Normal work for the horses in the morning. My team pack the colours and race bridles, prepare the horses and off to the course we go. I do much less work in the yard nowadays, I just, basically, give the horses their work in the morning.
What is the procedure when racing is abandoned on the day. What do you do with the horses which should have raced? We usually know in time to work them before everybody goes home.
You have gone the Gauteng route for a few of your runners in recent years. Have you earmarked anything to travel up North with during the autumn? I have been toying with the idea of splitting my team into two groups for Gauteng and Natal.
You usually bring a competitive string to KZN for the winter. Mention a few that are already on the shortlist? What A Winter, Hammies Hooker, Hammies Dynasty, Butterfly Girl and one or two 3yo colts.
After the winter you left a few horses in KZN. Tell us how many horses you currently have in the satellite yard? Where are they based and who is training them? 15 horses in Natal, at Clairwood, with our assistant Robert Fayd’Herbe.
Your daughter, Candice, is a great help to you in the stable. Is this the reason you don’t feel any real need to retire? Definitely, yes! It makes it easier for me to take time off.
What are her functions in the yard? She is involved in all the aspects of the operation i.e. office and track work.
How involved are you in the daily training of the horses? I have 120 horses and I work them all personally every day.
Who maps out the races for your runners, especially those horses that are handicappers rather than feature material? Myself, in discussion with Candice.
Your website has become a hit with avid racegoers. Whose idea was it and who runs mikebassracing.com? It was my son Mark’s idea and he does the day to day running of the site along with his very popular, and successful, tipping service.
Apart from racing news on the website, what other features does it contain? Horses for sale, comments on runners, blast from the past, descriptions of all our horses in training and anything else of interest.
At last year’s Cape Premier Yearling Sales, you purchased many of the top priced entries. Mention a few of them and how are they doing? We bought 2 expensive Captain Al fillies and both are showing a lot of potential. 2 top Jet Master colts that have developed extremely well and the reports from the jockeys are that they are both top class. We look forward to their racing careers going forward.
Can we expect Mike Bass racing to steal the show again at this year’s sale? We are very fortunate to have a strong team of owners and we are keen to try and buy what we think is the best stock available.
Your grandson, Nicholas, is getting big now. How keen is he to be with you and follow you around the stables? Yes.He is 5 years old, and a very bright little boy. He has no real interest in the horses at this stage but he has other interests.
On a general note one of the sensations of 2012 was Frankel. Did you watch him in his races and what were your feelings when watching him make hacks of his top class opposition? Horses like him come along once in a blue moon and having had a horse like Pocket Power, recently, I know how his trainer must have felt every time he ran him. He was absolutely awesome to watch in all his races. He is definitely the best horse I have ever seen.
The stallion fee for Frankel is absolutely staggering but if you had a mare, which you thought could be a top broodmare, would you advise any of your patrons to send her to Frankel? Sure, because I believe a stallion must, first and foremost, have good racing ability.
Of our current crop of sires, Var is really making a name for himself. Do you have any young horses by Var who show a lot of promise? I only have one 2 year old filly, who looks to be quite promising.
Which of the other young stallions do you think will be successful? Trippi and Dynasty look to be the 2 main contenders at the moment.
You still visit stud farms to see the ‘babies’ before they come up for sale. How helpful do you find this to be? Yes, definitely, whenever we can. I still feel we don’t get to see them often enough.
The jockeys you still use a lot are Karl Neisius and Bernard Fayd’Herbe. You have seen the best during your time. Can you mention a couple that have really impressed you around the country? Anton Marcus is one of the strongest riders. SA jockeys become extremely competent after racing here a few years and can hold their own anywhere in the world.
Is Mike Bass still loving his racing after all these years? Yes, I am still enjoying it and we have lots of fun.
What is the secret to a successful training career for any young aspirant trainer? Hard work and attention to detail are good work ethics to have as a trainer, besides having to be a good judge and horseman.
What has been your most memorable moment in horseracing? There have been many over the years and each one gets better as you get older. Some of Pocket Power’s great wins come to mind.
In your opinion, which race between the Met and the July do you feel is the most prestigious to win? They are both great races but as the July is a handicap I would perhaps slightly favour the Met.
How many of them have you won? I have won five Met’s and three July’s.
You have three horses nominated for this year’s J&B Met. Which of them do you give the best chance? Unfortunately, their preparations haven’t gone according to plan and there is the likely possibility that I may not have a runner this year. However, I will be back next year as I have a quality bunch of three-year olds.
How many Grade 1 winners have you had in your illustrious career? I am not hundred percent sure but it should be close to 50.
You have a busy day at Kenilworth on Saturday. Please give us a guide as to your horses chances on the day?
Race 3: TEMPESTUOUS: The bookmakers over rated her chances when she finished 2nd last time out to a better filly. If the field is not too strong she should go close again.
Race 5: NIGHT TRIP: Always difficult to assess 3 year olds in open handicap’s against the older horses. He is an improving horse who will get better all the time. He was touched off last time over 1600m. He should enjoy this trip and will have a good chance. I make him my best of the day.
Race 6: MARGARET COURT: Hopeless draw, which will make it very difficult for her.
Race 6: BELLA NERO: Also not drawn well, so will be hard for her.
Race 6: PAN AMM: She is doing well and, at the weights, she could have a money chance if she gets a bit of luck from her draw.
Race 7: DAILY FLIGHT: She is in good shape and tries the 2400m but should get the trip as she has won over 2000m. She will have a good each/way chance here.
Race 7: STRAWBERRY LINE: She is a little under sufferance here so her chances are difficult to assess.
Race 9: CAPTAIN SIDERIUS: He may have needed his last run so should improve on that but has a tough task at the weights.
Race 10: IMPRESSEF: Was a little disappointing last time. May need a bit further to be effective.
Race 10: SEASON PASS: Improved in her last start and should be capable of winning a maiden soon.
You always come across as cool, calm and calculated. Do the big races change this in any way? Maybe on the outside, but I still get butterflies for the big ones, especially if they are expected to win.
The old maxim is, “Behind every great man is an equally successful woman.” Does this apply to Mike Bass? Most definitely, yes! It doubly applies to me with my wife Carol who has been behind me my whole career and my daughter Candice too.