A champion bloke, who was always fun to be around that is how many people describe Brian Arthur Collins or Bee Cee as he was known, and indeed he was.
Bee Cee passed away suddenly last Sunday at home on the Delph Common property he shared with his partner Sandra Townsend, following a successful day playing golf.
Horses and golf were two of his favourite pass times, and he loved any opportunity to get involved and enjoy both. He will be a notable absence at the Karaka sales next week, sitting in his usual position in the auditorium beside the ring to the left of where the horses enter, happy to sit all day and have a chat with whoever stopped to say gidday.
He grew up in Manurewa and attended Manurewa High School before embarking on a career in sales and worked for the electrical supply company PDL for many years before establishing Collins Equine Air Transport in 1999.
It was during an away competition in 1966 with the Manurewa Athletics Club that Bee Cee was introduced to the world of racing. Along with fellow runner and good mate Des Coppins they were on a bus trip to Rotorua to compete in a road race when Coppins asked a senior club member to put a 5-shilling double on for him.
Bee Cee expressed an interest in doing the same and according to Coppins the double came in and they each pocketed seven pounds. Bee Cee was hooked.
Following that Bee Cee and Coppins started working weekends with legendary trainer Colin Jillings at Takanini and his passion for horses and having a punt grew from there.
By the early eighties he was becoming fully immersed in the racing world, developing a passion for not only punting but pedigrees as well. He joined the Counties Racing Club where he served as both a steward, committee man and Chairman from 2009 to 2011.
Always a team player and happy to help he joined the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and served on their committee for many years including a stint as President as well.
Within both organisations Bee Cee was known for his generosity, hospitality skills and making people feel welcome and that they had the best time.
Murray Gilmore served on both the Racing Club and Breeders’ Association committee with Bee Cee and also did all his veterinary work. Gilmore remembers him as being fun. Fun to work with and fun to socialise with.
It was during the eighties that he began racing a few horses and breeding a few as well, and eventually a move to rural South Auckland so he could once again become hands on.
He just loved horses and being around them. Anyone who visited Bee Cee in his office could attest to that as it was almost a shrine to racing with a big TV on the wall so he wouldn’t miss a race.
He raced a few good ones, including Nahayan who was probably most famous for running off in the straight when looking like a winning chance in the 1998 New Zealand Derby, she eventually ran third.
The Moe Cup winner Gascoigne was bred and raced by Bee Cee, but there was one horse that gave him a lot of joy and that was Cabella. He raced the Senor Pete mare out of the stable of his good mate Kevin Hughes, in a fun syndicate that included some stable clients and family friend Corrine Smith.
Cabella won seven races and was stakes placed a number of times including a second in the New Zealand Cup. As a broodmare she left nine foals for six winners of 26 races.
Bee Cee was awaiting foals from mares descended from the families of both Nahayan and Cabella this spring and was also still racing progeny from these families.
It was during his time on the Auckland branch committee that the successful ‘Breeders Day’ Golf Tournament’ on the eve of the Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes was established. This popular tournament will be held next week with a full field of 30 teams, and no doubt there will be many a toast to an absent friend, who’s larger than life’s presence will be missed.
Bee Cee was the much-loved partner of Sandra, and adored dad and father-in-law of Belinda and Alisdair. He also had two wonderful grandsons he adored Finn and Maxwell. There will be a private family funeral next week, and a celebration of Bee Cee’s life will be held in December.
Rest In Peace old friend.