Nick Columb, 1946-2018
Journalist, racehorse owner, football club president
By Peter McCullough
SPORTING identity Nick Columb died on Friday 10 August while holidaying in Spain. He was 72.
For many Mornington residents he will be remembered as the former owner of Morning Star Farm (originally ‘Sunnyside’) just off Nepean Highway between Mornington and Mt Eliza.
Built for the Gillett family in 1867, the property lay vacant for some years after the departure of the Franciscans who had converted it into a “training farm for boys”. On 4 November, 1986 The Age reported the change of ownership: “Nick Columb, 41, former journalist, now racehorse owner and winner of numerous races, including last year’s Caulfield Cup with his mare, Tristarc, lives with (his family) on their brood mare stud farm, Morning Star Farm. The house, which was dilapidated when they bought it in 1981, has been extensively renovated … After a spectacular run of failures he is now home and hosed.” Within a year or two of that report the Columb family had moved on.
Although he may have experienced a setback or two, Nick Columb managed to capture the attention of journalists at regular intervals.
In 2003 he was managing singer Peter Brocklehurst. In 2006 a newspaper reported that Columb agreed to “…generously accept the role of defining the path forward…” for the Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners’ Association which had just dismissed its executive and members. Columb was described as a “long term friend and life member”.
He was chairman of the association for close to 20 years.
In 2008, Nick Columb ran unsuccessfully for the position of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor against Robert Doyle. Two years later he was axed from his regular Sport 927 segment, describing it as “censorship” following his on-air comments about talks between TVN and Queensland racing.
In 2013, The South China Morning Post reported Columb filling a role created by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to “guide and assist mainland owners”. Apparently he was still a “respected bloodstock consultant” to the Jockey Club and living in Asia at the time of his death.
Whenever Columb’s name has appeared in the newspapers it has invariably been accompanied by the word “colourful”. While at times controversial, he has also been described as “the most successful Group 1 winning horse owner of the 1980s”, with two Caulfield Cups, two Golden Slippers, two Oaks and a Derby to his credit.
Although his relationship with Caulfield trainer Ross McDonald was sometimes volatile, together they won 22 Group 1 races.
Less successful was his venture into the management of Australian rules football: in 1989 he was president of Footscray Football Club and favoured the then-proposed merger with Fitzroy. The off-field controversy was something that Bulldog fans have never forgotten.