Thorn Park was a true competitor right up till the day he died, says Windsor Park Stud’s Rodney Schick.
The 2004 Gr I Stradbroke Handicap winner and 2010-11 champion New Zealand sire was put down at the Cambridge studfarm on Saturday after a long battle with laminitis. His fight against the debilitating hoof disease ended after an infection in the navicular bone of his near hind hoof spread to his tendon sheath.
The 13-year-old Spinning World stallion was at the peak of his powers in his stud career, having enjoyed a stellar past couple of years through multiple Gr I winners Jimmy Choux, this year’s Cox Plate winner Ocean Park and Veyron and the likes of other top-level performers including Flight Stakes winner Norzita and New Zealand Stakes winner The Party Stand.
But apart from his remarkable achievements as a racehorse and as a stallion, it was the character Thorn Park showed in his fight against laminitis that continued to endear him to all those close to him.
‘‘He was fantastic. He never lost his will to live. He always wanted to stay in the game,’’ said Schick, the stud manager.
‘‘We never did anything he couldn’t handle. Right the way through, he took it all in his stride. He had great skin, ate like a trooper, always wanted to be there.
‘‘He was a valuable horse so we did some quite extreme things, but we never had to push him. I said to the boys right at the start ‘the day he doesn’t want to be here, he won’t be here - the day he doesn’t want to be here, we’ll pull the pin’ - and we did.
‘‘Right up to the day before, we thought we were in with a fighting chance. We didn’t prolong something we didn’t see a good end to.
‘‘What a trooper - he was an unbelievable horse. At the end it was a pretty emotional time with all the staff and the vets because he really wanted to be here - he still wanted to take the fight on.’’
Schick yesterday paid credit to his staff, Windsor Park Stud’s resident vet Patrick Sells, Cambridge vets Paul Fraser, Barny Fraser, Matamata’s Andrea Ritmeester and American laminitis authority Ric Redden.
‘‘It was a huge effort from all the vet people. We’d got on top of the laminitic foot but his navicular bone got infected in the end. His original problem is what killed him,’’ Schick said.
‘‘Without the infection, I really believe he would have still been in with a good chance. He’d taken some nasty turns but he’d always stuck in there with a fighting chance.’’
Laminitis is the disease that claimed champion mare Sunline and last year led to the demise of Gr I-producing Cambridge stallion Shinko King.
Thorn Park’s death follows that of fellow champion Windsor Park Stud stallion Volksraad, who broke his shoulder in December last year.
‘‘He’s buried alongside his old mate Volksraad. Two champions side by side. It’s been a hard 12 months,’’ Schick said.
‘‘We’ve had an amazing amount of support from New Zealand and Australia. The response to his death has been massive in Australia because he was a very good racehorse over there and he’d become a bit of a favourite because of what he’s done there since with the likes of Ocean Park, Jimmy Choux and Norzita in the last 12 months.
‘‘He’s such a big loss for us, but also for the New Zealand breeding industry. It’s sad that’s happened but we’ve just got to deal with it, move on and find one to replace him.
‘‘I’ve struggled with it personally. It’s a financial blow to the farm but emotionally, he was a great character and it’s been hard. Monday morning will be different because he’s occupied a fair bit of our time over the last three months and he won’t be here.’’
- © Fairfax NZ News