I tuned in Aug. 8 to listen to Ralph Wilson give his acceptance speech when the longtime owner of the Buffalo Bills was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.
As the applause quieted, I dialed Bruce Hundley’s cell number to ask a question, the answer to which I already knew. Bruce raised and sold horses for Ralph for decades.
“What are you doing?”
“I just watched Ralph give his speech,” Hundley said. “What a guy. What a great guy.”
One day about 30 years earlier Bruce phoned Ralph and told him, “We have a great colt here. He will do well at the sale.”
“What do you mean ‘we?’ ” Wilson asked.
“Well, Mr. Wilson, you haven’t paid your bill in a while,” Bruce said, and a lifelong friendship was forged.
Bruce, who died Oct. 21 at age 67, forged many lifelong friendships.
I first met Bruce July 24, 1984, at the Keeneland summer yearling sale, but we didn’t become good friends until 20 years later. That day in 1984, as the bidding on a Northern Dancer colt Bruce was selling for Ralph reached $4.5 million, Bruce ran down the aisle of the pavilion to the auction stand. It had not been announced the colt, out of the group stakes-winning and classic-placed Le Fabuleux mare Fabuleux Jane, was a cribber.
It took a brave man to stop the bidding on a horse at $4.5 million.
The bidding began again, and the colt was sold to Sheikh Mohammed for $7.1 million.
Though that colt, named Jareer, didn’t amount to much, Bruce did raise four champions at his Saxony Farm—two for Wilson, one for himself and partner Wayne Garrison, and another for a breeding partnership he managed.
For Wilson, he raised and sold Ajdal, a Northern Dancer colt out of Fabuleux Jane’s dam, the Raise a Native mare Native Partner. Ajdal brought $7.5 million and was the champion sprinter in England in 1987. For his friend he also raised and sold Arazi, a son of Blushing Groom out of Fabuleux Jane’s daughter Danseur Fabuleux. Sold as a weanling for $350,000, Arazi won the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and was champion 2-year-old male in the U.S. and France.
Bruce told Ralph to sell colts and keep fillies to develop female families. Wilson had acquired Fabuleux Jane’s granddam, the Tom Fool mare Dinner Partner, as a yearling in 1960 for $20,000. Dinner Partner, Native Partner, and Fabuleux Jane all became stakes winners and stakes producers.
As a child growing up in Louisiana, all Bruce wanted to do was raise champion cattle and horses. During a trip to Kentucky in 1964 he met Doug Davis Jr., and the trainer and breeder became his mentor. One day while working for Davis at Oaklawn Park, Bruce met his wife, Susan. Not long after, they moved to Kentucky and bought the first parcel of what would become Saxony.
For 40 years Bruce raised and sold horses in Central Kentucky. He often said of selling yearlings: “You can’t hide a good one, and you can’t give away a bad one.”
Bruce’s son, Broussard, has learned his father’s lessons, and will keep the Saxony name alive and well.
Bruce liked good horses, but he also lived for good food, good wine, and good conversation. Not to mention good fly fishing and good hunting. He was an avid polo player. He served on the Kentucky Racing Commission and Equine Drug Council and was very active politically.
Visitors were always welcome at the gathering spot at Saxony, which Bruce called his cantina. The building was filled with saddles, spurs, photos, and hides he had collected over the years, and friends sat around a giant table made from a tree on the farm that had fallen during a storm.
Bruce was free with his thoughts, and he never, ever ran out of colorful stories.
He would say to me, “Here’s what I thought about your column,” and then would add, “That’s just my opinion.”
He was a friend to many. He was a man who wanted only what was best for the industry. And he was a hell of a horseman.
But that’s just my opinion.