Kelly Thompson left his mark on South Island thoroughbred racing
Racehorse trainer Kelly Thompson prepared many winners but his skills as a fencing contractor were just as impressive, his son-in-law, Jim Curran, says.
Thompson, who suffered deteriorating health in recent years, died in Invercargill on Monday. He was 79.
"Fencing and [employment at] the freezing works helped him to buy his first farm," Curran said of Thompson.
"He was also a pilot in his younger years...he used to buzz around in a two-seater."
Thompson became involved in training after discussions with his stock agent Peter Smellie in the 1970s. They trained in partnership before Thompson began working his own team in the late 1970s.
Curran said Thompson's biggest thrill in racing was his win with Old Thymer in the 1996 New Zealand Cup at Christchurch. His best horse, Judge Obadiah, won 16 races, while Thompson's most satisfying achievement was winning five consecutive races in eight days (three in Christchurch and two in Wellington) in 1999.
Thompson's other big race wins were in the Grand National Hurdles (Jack Dugan), Grand National Steeplechase (Black Rhythm) and Stewards Stakes (Ima Royal).
The horseman prepared six winners of Riverton's famous jumping race, the Great Western Steeplechase. Some of the steeplechase jumps there were built by Thompson.
Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew said Thompson's knowledge of land and stock was invaluable.
"Kelly was hard working and his work ethic was second to none.
"He was unselfish, honest and loyal."
Waikato trainer Steven Ramsay worked seven or eight years for Thompson in the late 1980s to mid 1990s and did his jockey's apprenticeship under the horseman's tuition.
"I never heard anyone say a bad word about Kelly. He was well respected and liked," Ramsay said.
"He was a very good conditioner of a horse. He fed them well and gave them a good preparation [before they raced]."
Christchurch jockey Terry Moseley said when he rode Thompson's horses they were always fit and ready to race.
"He was a gentleman and a pleasure to ride for."
Thompson's funeral will be at the Ascot Park racecourse on Thursday at 1.30pm.