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Posted 2018-03-14 17:45:43  
Racing Legend Buckham Passes

Colin Buckham, handicapper, long-time racecourse judge and avid golfer, succumbed to a long battle with cancer on Tuesday at the age of 78.
Buckham was a legend in racing, and one of the true characters of a sport that was his all-consuming passion and if he wasn’t talking racing it was golf.
Colin started his working career as a bank clerk before becoming an assistant handicapper at the then Durban Turf Club (DTC) at Greyville Racecourse under Gerald Lee. He had a strong racing pedigree as both his father and grandfather were trainers. His father Jimmy started out as a jockey and was ignominiously dumped at the start of his one and only ride in the July when he got caught up in the starting tapes.
His cousin Cyril Buckham, later head riding master at the South African Jockey Academy, was the first South African jockey to win 100 races in a season and won two Julys with Monesteraven in 1948 and later Spey Bridge in 1956.
Buckham recalled, “I’ve been racing since 1954. When I was 10-years-old I used to sit in my father’s car next to the track and watch the races. Children were not allowed on course in those days.”
Later, Buckham joined Harvey Topham and Warren Eisele in the judge’s box; 1975 to be exact. Colin was still assistant handicapper at the DTC and having to watch every race as a judge was of great benefit when it came to handicapping as in those days there was no Tellytrack or YouTube to watch replays.
After spending 40 years in the Judges Box at the three KwaZulu-Natal race courses, Buckham and Eisele were pushed into retirement at the end of July 2015, both over 65. The two were the longest serving judges in the history of South African racing.
When Gerald Lee retired, Buckham became chief handicapper for the DTC before all handicapping was put under the umbrella of the National Horseracing Authority where he worked until retirement.
He recalled a time when he was assistant handicapper. “There was a race called the Sires Produce Stakes, restricted to two-year-olds who had been sired by stallions that had won over 1900m or more. There were not enough acceptors and it was decided to scrap the race. (Trainer) John Breval had a horse in the race called Free Style who later ran second and third in the Gold Cup. I was looking out of the window the next day when a big car pulled up outside the offices and Bridget Oppenheimer got out. I knew what was coming and like a good coward ducked out of the office leaving Lee to take the ear-bashing while I chuckled, listening from around the corner.”
Buckham had a reputation of being absolutely meticulous and there were no mistakes in the judges box, but he did have his moments as a handicapper. “There were times that I was not very proud off. Once I was forced to re-do the July weights after threats of being taken to court. I was ready to hand in my resignation but three stewards, also members of the Jockey Club, stood by me and said that under no circumstances was I to resign and it would never happen again.”
“There was also a time when we had too many horses entered for a feature race and I had to eliminate. Instead of working through the form I put all the names of the horses on the borderline into a hat and drew a winner. I was then taken to court by one of the owners and the judge ruled against me. I had the last laugh though. Their horse never won another race.”
Colin is survived by his wife Annabel and daughters Leigh-Ann and Anthea. There will be no memorial service but a small gathering of family and close friends at his house at noon tomorrow.
By Andrew Harrison Gold Circle

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