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The thoroughbred industry lost a Group One performer this week with the passing of Steve Brem

Brem at the young age of 69, died in Sydney after tenaciously battling cancer for a number of years. Throughout that time he never wavered from his love of the thoroughbred industry, and we were still blessed with his acerbic wit, incredible pedigree knowledge, excellent copy, and his eye for a good yearling.

Personally I have known Brem since the mid 1970’s when as a rookie working on the INL Print stable of publications the Friday Flash, Racing Calendar and Turf Digest, I would often phone through results and copy from the various press rooms in the Central Districts, for publication in the Sunday News the next day. I can even recall his telex address from the days when we used those machines to communicate before fax machines and much later the internet.

He often critiqued my work in those early days, and more recently pulled me up on an error I made in an article about his beloved Reliable Man. But he never failed to give good sound advice when I needed it, whether it was to do with stories I was writing or horses I was breeding, and for that I had the utmost respect for him, and I will dearly miss having a yarn with him.

I am sure I am not alone in having him as a mentor and there will be a lot of people reading this who will have similar memories and tales to tell.

Born in Auckland, Brem grew up in Herne Bay and attended Mount Albert Grammar. As a young man he began his career in the industry in the late 1960’s. As an 18-year-old leaving school he had no capacity for university and took a job in an advertising agency writing copy. However he spent most of his time studying form, and one of the account executives at the agency organised for him to meet the Racing Editor at News Media, then publisher of the Sunday News and Best Bets.

He was offered a job writing form on the cards used to compile the race fields for Best Bets in 1968, and was employed by them in Wellington for a brief time before taking a job as an Editor in Waikato. It was during that time, that the printing industry in New Zealand was transitioning from hot type to cold type, and the actively strong printers union was not happy about the changes and often disrupted publications. In an effort to ensure his readers didn’t miss out, Brem became a card carrying member of the printers union to make the publications happen. He left his role in media in 1976.

While in the Waikato he became involved with the Waikato Branch of the NZTBA and was soon appointed to the role of Secretary. It was while in that role that he was shoulder tapped to become the first full-time National Secretary of the NZTBA based in Wellington, where he spent a couple of years.

A move back to the Waikato followed when he was appointed the Managing Director at Waikato Stud when they went public, and it was while he was there that he planned the mating of Courtza(Pompeii Court[USA] – Hunza) the stakes winning mare and the dam of the champion stallion O’Reilly.

Brem had a love affair with O’Reilly especially his mares, and was the proud part-owner with Philip Brown, of Midnight Dip the dam of the recently retired dual stakes winner Underthemoonlight.  

“Steve was a great family friend to Mum and Dad, myself and Catherine, and I loved his very forthright manner punctuated with a lot of humour,” Brown said of his friend.

“We have a lovely colt by Pins out of Midnight Dip in Book One at Karaka this summer and I am very sorry he’s not going to be with me when we sell him. We’ve lost a good friend.”

Brem was only at Waikato Stud for three years before it was purchased by the Chittick family, but it introduced him to the practical side of breeding, and was a time that his son David remembers with fondness.

“It’s a time we all recall well,” said David, of the time he and brother Anthony lived at Waikato Stud, “we were only kids, around five and eight respectively, but it has always remained a highlight, and a bit of a benchmark. I think it was the first role that Dad got his teeth stuck into on the breeding side of the industry. “

From Waikato Stud, Brem moved to Haunui Farm in Auckland where he stayed for 10 years, and once again became active in the NZTBA, serving on the Auckland Branch.

It was from Haunui Farm that he was head hunted by the Australian Breeders Association to head up their organisation and he left New Zealand in 1997 for that role. It was shortly after that that his health took a turn for the worse the first time, and he had to give up work for 18 months, before being employed by Gai Waterhouse.

In 2005 he decided to become an independent bloodstock consultant and worked very closely with Denise Martin of Star Thoroughbreds, both inspecting and selecting yearlings and writing columns on her website.  They had a wonderful partnership together and this weekend at Randwick two of Star Thoroughbred’s stakes winners selected by him, Fiesta and D’argento will line up in group one races, Fiesta in the Flight Stakes and D’argento in the Epsom.

Fellow bloodstock agent Michael Stedman spent some time with Brem over the last few weeks while he was in hospital receiving treatment.

“He was a bit of an icon,” he recalled, “and I enjoyed reminiscing with him, talking pedigrees and watching races on his phone. He had had a fantastic run with Star Thoroughbreds and each time I would leave the hospital he would say, make sure you back D’Argento in the Epsom.”

Brem is survived by his sons Anthony (Melbourne) and David (Auckland), and four grandchildren; Mathilda, Jude, Archer and Monty. – Michelle Saba



 

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