The first time the late Wayne Francis laid eyes on Falcon Seelster, the fire-eater knocked him to the ground.
But yesterday, when Nevele R Stud put the old horse down at the age of 30, it was with plenty of sadness and memories of one of New Zealand's greatest sires.
"He was a real character, but not a friendly horse," said Nevele R general manager Peter O'Rourke of the sire whose progeny earned more than $100 million on the racetrack, leaving champions like Elsu, McArdle and Shady Daisy, once the richest earning mare of all time.
O'Rourke recalled how the stud bought Falcon Seelster from the United States in 1995 when Castleton Farms closed down and when Francis travelled over to see their prize, the horse decked him.
"He put a few people in hospital in his career but not when we had him, we always treated him as if he was dangerous.
"We'd always have to use a pole on him," O'Rourke said. "If you tried to lead him around, he'd let you know."
Falcon Seelster still managed to get 32 foals from the 53 mares served in the 2009-10 season, but last winter was hard on him.
"He really struggled in the last few weeks – wanted to lie down for a rest – but it got to the stage where he couldn't get up and he started to lose condition."
O'Rourke said Falcon Seelster had been a dream servant – shuttling between here and the States before he became an EVA shedder in 1999 and was not allowed back until 2003.
"He was earning us a million dollars a year at that stage so that was pretty painful.
"But he was Nevele R's greatest horse on earnings. Only Holmes Hanover left more individual winners."
For the last month the stud had been home to three generations of the sireline with Falcon, his son McArdle and grandson Tintin In America the newest recruit.
- Sunday Star Times