By Hans Ebert
The recent passing of a friend to many of us- Nick Columb, below with friend and HKJC colleague Mark Richards- was a very loud wake up call to the horse racing industry. It signalled the end of an era.
Nick and I came from wildly different backgrounds. We became friends fairly recently and very immediately. Only now am I learning exactly what he meant to especially horse racing in Australia when Nick was flying high and changing the racing landscape forever.
When we finally met over a dinner, neither of us needed to trot out our curriculum vitae. We both knew what each other had achieved. Though not knowing specifically what these were, it didn’t matter. Nick was always about the Now. The past was the past. At 72-73, he was timeless and ageless with an inquisitive mind which could bring all the pieces to the table and make them fit. He made things happen.
A few days before hearing about Nick deciding to see what else was around the corner and look in from time to time on how we were doing, I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with a pretty famous singer-songwriter. 77 years young. He didn’t talk about his past. Gawd knows he could have. He was talking about creating new art and movies and short movies and short form musical stories.
Like Nick Columb did, he has a zest for living. His work ain’t finished. He’s searching out those to be part of something bigger. He’s living to inspire a new generation.
I wish Nick could have met him. They would have clicked. There was a great deal of passion for music in Nick. There was a great deal of passion for everything in Nick.
Nick Columb made much of what has made Australian racing great. He spoke his mind and dared to go where no one had the gonads to go before.
Sometimes, like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun. Not being a racing person, I’m only absorbing and educating myself about all this now.
The big question-and Nick was a very big man in many ways- is, And now what?
Even in passing, Nick Columb has thrown out a very important challenge to the world of horse racing: Who’s going to take up that baton of Change?
The new era of horse racing is here. On a global scale. It’s good to reminisce. It’s far more satisfying to meet that paradigm shift head on.
Nick and I might have been extremely different individuals, but we were the same when it came to a personal commitment to keeping things evolving.
Nick could run rings around me regarding every single aspect of horse racing. But he knew I was a quick learner and could bring something new to the table.
He knew all too well my respect and loyalty to Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the HKJC, and how much I have learned and am still learning from him about horse racing. And the giant and intricate organisation that is the HKJC.
He also knew when the learning had to stop and there was the need to bring my own experience in the advertising and the music industries to create something new, and if it challenged me enough, to horse racing.
What is it? Right now, the pieces are there. It’s about making them fit. And probably having to go out on a limb to try. If that limb breaks, it’s not the end of the world.
I learned that from Nick. Never give up trying. I learned much from him without knowing I was being taught.
O Captain, My Captain…