Chris Saunders, former chairman of Gold Circle and the first chairman of the Tongaat Hulett Group, died on Saturday night after a lengthy illness.
Saunders was one of the first directors of Gold Circle and was elected chairman after the company’s first chairman, Roy Eckstein retired. Saunders retired as chairman in 2005 after steering Gold Circle back to profitability and weathering pressure to amalgamate with Phumelela.
Saunders was a staunch supporter of KwaZulu-Natal racing and his Invermooi Stud was one of the leading thoroughbred nurseries in the country.
Saunders’ white silks with red stars and cap were a familiar sight and he stood the stallion Rollins, the broodmare sire of champion racehorse and sire Jet Master. Saunders raced many of his home-breds, easily recognised by alliteration such as Raise A Raucus (Rollins) or Slew per Slipper, named after her sire, Slewpendous.
At the KZN Breeders awards in 2013 he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award where in his absence his good friend Bill Lambert gave a stirring speech on his behalf.
Bill Lambert, Gold Circle’s racing ambassador and a long-time friend of Chis Saunders, paid tribute to Saunders after his death on Saturday night.
“Chris was a special man. The members voted by particular resolution to install Chris Saunders as the chairman of Gold Circle. At that period the company was experiencing turbulent times following the merger of Greyville, Scottsville and Clairwood and then the addition of the Western Cape. In fact, the whole racing industry was its self experiencing difficulties as it is now.
He was chosen because of is illustrious business career as a captain of industry and also his undying passion for the sport of racing.
He brought the stability to the company that was required and proved to be an outstanding chairman. His contribution to the racing industry is inestimable and he will be fondly remembered by us all.”