Jack Bruce has accomplished much in racing in a short period; having spent several years working for some of the best stables in Australia, Bruce took a leap of faith and started Jack Bruce Racing in May 2022. TTR AusNZ touched base with Bruce to talk about the sensational start the stable has had.

The New Zealand-born Jack Bruce, 33, has had nearly a lifetime of experience with thoroughbred racing globally. 

In May 2022, Bruce felt the time was now to venture out in his own right, obtaining his license; Bruce packed his bags for the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to launch his stable under Jack Bruce Racing at Deagon. 

Before opening his stable, Bruce gained a spot on the prestigious Godolphin Flying Start program and graduated in 2015. Learning from the best in the business and giving Bruce a taste of the international industry, he spent a racing season with champion trainer Mick de Kock in Dubai.

Upon returning to Sydney, Australia, Bruce landed a role with the trainer and fellow Kiwi Bjorn Baker at his Warwick Farm stables. Bruce worked closely across all aspects of Baker’s business, including training, communications, bloodstock and sales.

Bruce then spent time under the tenure of Champion Trainer Chris Waller. Bruce was employed as Waller’s racing manager and saw first-hand how the trainer operates such a successful business. 

The subsequent development in Bruce’s career came courtesy of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, who elected Bruce to head their Sydney satellite stable at Warwick Farm. Bruce took responsibility for managing the Sydney-based gallopers like a duck to water, citing that he really enjoyed this aspect. 

In addition to his racing experience, Bruce has obtained two degrees, a double in accounting and finance and a bachelor of arts in economics. He is well-rounded, and taking out his license seemed the natural step.

Stable progress

Fast forward to just over a year; it should not surprise that Bruce is succeeding in his new endeavour. The laid-back Kiwi, not one to overcomplicate things, is letting his horses do the talking. 

Bruce credits his early success to the foundations he learnt with his previous employers.

“Training in my own right has been awesome for a start. I’ve really enjoyed it, and obviously, it’s very satisfying; if you’re lucky enough to train a winner,” Bruce told TTR AusNZ. 

“I think the most significant difference so far is you always have the safety net of your employers when you work for someone else. Whereas when you train on your own, I suppose the buck stops with you. 

“There’s a lot more responsibility, but simultaneously, it’s gratifying.”

Bruce has been active in the tried-horse market and spoke about how the tried-horse market has been the bedrock of his business. 

“Basically, all my winners are actually tried horses. I only ever had one or two yearlings my first year, and one of those has raced, and the other has had a barrier trial, so I don’t have a large volume of horses. I have been establishing myself with horses that are up and running, and I suppose I will attempt to try and turn their form around. 

“If you can show that you can win races with those types of horses who are either long in the tooth or have had problems previously, then it’s a good way of showcasing what you can do,” Bruce explained to TTR AusNZ.

“I’ve built my operation on tried horses, and to a certain extent, it probably always will be the bread and butter of my stable.

“As time goes on, I want to get into buying more quality tried horses, whether that’s a horse from Europe, so I can target some of those better-staying races up here (Queensland), or simply buying quality yearlings and have some 2-year-olds, which is obviously something I haven’t been able to do simply given the fact I haven’t been training those horses.”

Among Bruce’s tried-horse purchases was Axe (Written Tycoon), which Bruce bought for $55,000 from the 2022 Inglis Digital March Sale.

Axe provides Bruce a thrill

The rising 7-year-old gelding has been a standout horse in Bruce’s very short career to date when he provided Bruce with his first stakes success in the Listed Weetwood H. in 2022.

“Axe was my first stakes winner and my 42nd runner, which was awesome. I paid $55,000 for him online. My old boss Bjorn Baker trained him in Sydney, then he was with Michael Costa on the Gold Coast, and when he left for Dubai, Michael and Bjorn told me that I should be buying and training Axe,” Bruce said.

“He came to my place in good nick, and I was able to win a Listed race with him. Axe obviously isn’t getting any younger, but he was a $55,000 purchase who’s won over $150,000. 

“Axe has been a good horse for those that got involved, and he’s certainly been a good horse for me. I suppose you are always on the lookout for the next Axe or horses that can be bought and are capable of racing at that level because people have a lot of fun if they can have a runner in those types of races.”

Incredibly, Bruce started with seven horses in work, which has since grown to 44, but nevertheless boutique numbers, yet he has accomplished the outstanding achievement of being within the top 20 trainers on the Queensland Trainers’ Premiership.

Bruce currently sits in 12th and, for a period, held the ninth spot. He saddled up 296 runners for 49 winners of 53 races with a strike rate of 16.60 per cent. Only Waller, above Bruce in the premiership, has had fewer runners. 

“I am currently 12th on the metro list. At some stage, I was ninth. I held a top 10 spot for like two weeks, and then I got leapt as the carnival started heating up, and I didn’t have any runners,” Bruce told TTR AusNZ.

“I’ve had 49 winners this season, but I’m hoping I’ll go to 50 by August 1; I think that’d be a good solid achievement for my first year anyway. 

“On my first day of training, I had seven horses and have grown that to 44 in full work, so very happy.”

Sunshine State on the rise

Bruce explained why he chose Queensland as the starting point for his career. 

“I felt Queensland was a growing industry, and I thought the prizemoney was on the up here. The winter carnival is getting more and more support. I think we’ve seen that this year, it has been the strongest winter carnival; I mean, at some stage, I think there were 13 Group 1 winners that raced in a day.

“It’s been hugely popular, and with the carnival getting stronger and stronger and the prizemoney getting more, it was a place I felt I could become established and hopefully pay dividends in five to 10 years,” Bruce told TTR AusNZ.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge. And I also was keen to work the tried-horse angle, and those horses are effectively placed in Queensland, so that played a big part in coming up.”

Bruce started with 24 boxes at Deagon, but in November last year, Bruce announced he had also obtained 20 stables at the Sunshine Coast’s Corbould Park. Bruce explained the advantages and differences to his training having dual locations has had on his approach to training. 

“I’ve got 24 boxes at Deagon and 20 at the Sunshine Coast. Deagon is a lovely quiet place. It only has about 100 horses in work, so it’s good for those older horses who have been in those busy environments. It’s a place to clear their heads.

“Deagon has the advantage of being so close to the beach. I used the beach a lot, and the facility as a whole has served me well; that’s where I started with my seven horses. I opened the Sunshine Coast stable in November, which gives me different options and access to tracks and facilities,” Bruce explained to TTR AusNZ.

“The Sunshine Coast has jumped over the back. The tracks are different, and they also work horses reverse three days a week so that you can change things up for them. I’ve had a little bit of success swapping horses between the two bases or horses that initially couldn’t get going at another facility; changing their scenery has brought change and got the best out of horses.

“Having two stables was something I was initially apprehensive about, but it has worked for me. I think Ciaron Maher is a trainer who has showcased how multiple facilities can really get the best out of your horses if you use them properly. That’s probably a big learning experience I’ve taken from Ciaron,” Bruce said.

“Ideally, people would want all your horses in one spot, but it hasn’t been negative at all two bases; it’s been very much a positive thing that has helped a lot of horses.”

Horses to follow

Bruce identified some gallopers he is looking forward to hitting the track in the coming months; among them is the rising 3-year-old More Trouble (NZ) (Charm Spirit {Ire}), who was placed at Eagle Farm at his only start. 

Bruce purchased the son of Charm Spirit (Ire) after he was passed in short of his NZ$40,000 reserve when Windsor Park Stud offered him at the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale.

The other galloper highlighted by Bruce was The Catch (Medaglia D’Oro {USA}), formerly trained by Michael Costa, the 5-year-old gelding was a $32,500 purchase by Jack Bruce Racing from the Inglis Digital August Sale and is yet to run for Bruce. 

“I have a 2-year-old named More Trouble who ran third at Eagle Farm a couple of weeks ago and is now out spelling. He’s one of my first yearling purchases, and I think he’s probably a horse who will get out a little bit further and be effective as a 3-year-old,” Bruce said.

“A tried horse I bought a while ago called The Catch, he’s had injury problems, but he showed a lot of form for Michael Costa, and when he went to Dubai, I bought him online.

“The Catch had a paddock accident and was injured, and it’s taken a little while for him to come back, but he’s only just come back into work now. So he’s untried for me and off a big spell, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do and More Trouble.”

Open book

TTR AusNZ asked Bruce about his business philosophy and why people looking to invest or become involved in horse ownership should consider Jack Bruce Racing.

“I’m an open book, and I’m just honest about where the horses are at. I love racing, and I want people to share that with me, so I try to keep things simple and professional,” Bruce shared.

“I just like to make sure that everyone can enjoy racing as much as me. Communication is integral to what I do so that everyone can share the journey with me. I’m lucky to do what I do, and I hope everyone has a similar experience and enjoys racing horses with Jack Bruce Racing. 

“Whether it’s a tired horse or a young horse, we want to get the best out of them and also be open and honest about where its level of ability lies and where we can place the horse and how they can win a race.”

Eyes on the future

Bruce outlined his ambitions for Jack Bruce Racing going forward.

“I suppose one thing is to be a top 10 metro trainer in Brisbane; whether that’s this coming season we’re about to have, or the next one, I suppose I originally wanted to achieve that within five years,” Bruce told TTR AusNZ. 

“I’ll stick to that goal. There’s no point in being too lofty. It’s a good game played slowly, and you have to get the basics right, and you have to perform with the horses you get given in order to get more. So, without wanting to conquer the world, I want to do things properly and get a result for everyone who supported me and has supported me.

“I’ll do the best with what I got, and yeah, my biggest ambition is to be in the top 10 in Brisbane in five years; if we can achieve that, we can plan something else.

“I’m very proud of what Jack Bruce Racing has achieved, but I’ve got a lot of good support behind me. I’ve had support from good owners, and I have a great team from my staff and not to mention good support from the guys I’ve previously worked for and have maintained those key relationships.”

Article published in The Thoroughbred Report on Tuesday July 11 2023 – https://www.ttrausnz.com.au/edition/2023-07-11/jack-bruce-rising-talent-in-queensland