Craig Thornton received a great welcome home gift at Ellerslie on Saturday when Lacustre took out the CLC Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4900m) for trainer Samantha Logan.
Thornton has recently returned from a seven month training stint in China and he was pleased to be trackside on Saturday to watch the horse he formerly trained, and still part-owns, take out the time-honoured race. “To get home and have him back at Ellerslie and to get the job done it was a pretty special occasion,” he said.
Thornton initially trained the son of Postponed for Westbury Stud Principal Gerry Harvey and pulled together a syndicate to purchase the horse when Harvey indicated he no longer wanted to persevere with Lacustre. “He was a horse I originally had for Gerry Harvey and Russell Warwick and we won a race with him on the flat over 1900m at Rotorua,” Thornton said. “He is a horse we have always liked, although he didn’t go as far as we thought he would on the flat. “They decided they weren’t going to continue with him, so I had a bunch of guys I thought would be suitable owners.
“We put a syndicate together and purchased the horse. He wasn’t a natural jumper and we have had to play around with his jumping a lot and last year we just ran him over hurdles to get his confidence up. “It has been a long-term project, but he always showed he had the stamina that we were looking for.”
Thornton was full of praise for trainer Samantha Logan after Saturday’s win. “She has done an incredible job with this horse,” he said. “He is not the easiest to train. He has a few muscle enzyme problems and she does a fantastic job keeping him fit and sound.”
Thornton, a former jumps jockey, has a strong association with the Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) and he said he would dearly love to win the Network Visuals-sponsored race at Ellerslie next month with Lacustre. “It is a race dear to my heart,” Thornton said. “When I was 14-years-old I led in Bean’s Beau and Bryce Waters after they won the Great Northern in 1981. “That’s when they had the white coats and I was so tiny I had to roll the sleeves up because the coat was too big for me. “I have been successful in it twice (as a jockey). I won on Brother Bart in 1991 and Amanood Lad in 2014.”
Thornton said he was pleased to return home after a recent training stint in China and is looking forward to starting a new challenge as travelling foreman for Te Akau. “It was going well up in China, I was there for seven months,” he said. “I didn’t complete the whole 12 month contract, it’s a very difficult lifestyle living up there, but I had initial success. “I had four winners in the first month I was there and I had a number of placings. It tapered off a little bit and we came to a mutual agreement that I would return to New Zealand and they had an assistant that took over from me.
“I am off to Melbourne on Wednesday. I am going to look after the UK import Caliburn for Te Akau. I was quite fortunate to fall into that position. “I spent a week in Singapore with Donna (Logan, trainer) when I left China and Mark Walker (Te Akau’s Singapore trainer) mentioned it to me.”