Former Hong Kong racehorse trainer Bruce Hutchison died suddenly in Macau yesterday morning of a suspected heart attack. He was 63.
Hutchison trained in Hong Kong for 23 seasons until June 2001. He enjoyed a two-year break from the rigours of the game but took out a licence with the Macau Jockey Club this season and had prepared two winners there.
A family spokesman confirmed that Hutchison had attended trackwork to supervise the training of his team of horses at the Taipa racecourse on Friday morning, but 'had a turn' later in the morning and was taken to hospital.
Hutchison's wife, Lana, notified their daughter Alix and son-in-law Caspar Fownes, who rushed to Macau to see the popular horseman on Friday afternoon. It is believed Hutchison died around 3am yesterday.
Before moving to Hong Kong in 1978, Hutchison trained at Caulfield racecourse in Melbourne.
Hutchison trained over 300 winners in Hong Kong, with his best season being 25 winners in 1984-85. However, his biggest win came in the previous season when Silver Surf won the Classic Trial, a race now known as the Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile and bearing Group One status.
Hutchison had a great attitude to life that met its biggest test when he became one of the first trainers - along with Wylie Wong Wai-lit and Chris Cheung Ting-pong - to fall foul of the Jockey Club's performance criteria for trainers. He was unsuccessful at a 'show cause' hearing in June, 2001, after training 10 winners - two short of the club's minimum benchmark.
In his final season, he was widely considered unlucky because he met the Jockey Club's other criteria for prize money won (more than $6 million) and stable numbers, and although he was two winners short of the dozen, he had also endured a horror run of 20 second placings. His appeal against the Licensing Committee's decision was dismissed.
In some ways, Hutchison was gifted an extra nine years of life, having gone within an ace of being killed in September, 1996, when his gold Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL mounted the pavement on Princess Margaret Road, near Pui Ching Road, and crashed into a bus stop. A steel railing pierced the radiator, came through the bonnet and windscreen and tore off part of Hutchison's cheek and jaw.
He also lost an eye in the accident and was in intensive care for five days.
Bruce and Lana Hutchison had two children, the elder sibling his son Clint, who had been working with his father in the Macau stables recently and doing trackwork reports for the South China Morning Post and the Jockey Club's Racing To Win television preview. Clint is currently in Australia.
Hutchison also had two grandchildren - Caspar and Alix Fownes' sons Ryan, seven, and Ronan, four.