‘It’s like losing a member of the family’ – David Menuisier on the tragic loss of Thundering Blue

Horse Racing Thundering Blue and David Menuisier
Happier times: Thundering Blue (Fran Berry) with (l-r) trainer David Menuisier, Kim Johnstone and owner Clive Washbourn after the Stockholm Cup. Photo: Elina Björklund/Svensk Galopp
Horse Racing David Menuisier trainer

Hugely popular grey Thundering Blue suffered a fatal injury this week. Trainer DAVID MENUISIER, in his own words, describes how much his stable stalwart meant to him.

Thundering Blue won six of his 23 starts and over £460,000 in prize-money for owner Clive Washbourn. During a highly rewarding 2018 he won the G2 Sky Bet York Stakes and G3 Stockholm Cup International as well as finishing third in the Juddmonte International and second in the Canadian International. The seven-year-old was due to retire after contesting the Foundation Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday but suffered a fatal injury and had to be put down.

There is so much to say about Thundering Blue. First of all he was born on the day I met Kim, my life partner, and she was the morning rider of Thundering Blue and looked after him all the way through.

He always showed an awful lot of talent. He was bought at the breeze-ups but couldn’t race as a two-year-old because he was backward and had a niggling thing or two. We gave him time to come to himself.

At three he showed bags of ability. I ran him in the Wood Ditton at Newmarket. I was confident he would run a massive race and we were a bit disappointed by his run. He ran fifth but he came out lame, having broken his tibia in the race and he lost his confidence with that fracture.

When the fracture healed we couldn’t win a race with him. He clearly wasn’t putting his best foot forward and we nearly sold him for next to nothing at the end of the year. Instead of selling him we decided to geld him and turn him out.

He came back in training as a four-year-old and that’s when Kim started to look after him. Straight away you could see they had a real bond together and through that he began to believe in himself.

The potential was fully unlocked when he won at Epsom in July. From there he won a Class 2 handicap at Newmarket and then the Sandown race, where he went from last to first within half a furlong. I don’t think anyone will forget that, and then he went on to even better things.

He was a warrior. He didn’t know what defeat meant. Even in the Juddmonte he was by far the lowest rated horse but ran third because he wanted it more than anybody else. 

That was Thundering Blue. He went from having no confidence to oozing confidence and achieving things that on genuine ability he should not have achieved. That’s where the legend started. People followed him because he over-achieved, being the underdog and winning. That’s what he was and what we were.

I’ve trained for six years and he’s been with me for five. That’s why it was so emotional because everything I can look at I see him in it. He was part of the landscape, part of our lives, part of our family. I’ve lost so much.

An owner rang me yesterday and said: “Thundering Blue was an angel. He was sent to you to put you on the map and launch your business. But like an angel, once their mission is accomplished they have to leave and go and help somebody else out.”

Looking at it that way maybe this is the real story of Thundering Blue. He was respected by everybody, everywhere. I have received emails, text messages, flowers from all around the world. From California, Kentucky, Florida, Canada, the whole of Europe, Japan, Australia, the Middle East. This is so overwhelming. Somehow it does make you feel better to know that he was loved so much.

We know he wasn’t the best horse that ever lived but he generated more sentiments and feelings than any champion. That makes me proud because we are not the only ones to have been blessed by him. I feel I have been extremely lucky to have been part of his life.

As a character he was amazing. Lucie, my four-year-old, could muck him out. He was the sweetest horse. She could do anything with him. 

The really gutting thing was the horse was feeling so well, working so well and I felt he could have gone back to form. We decided to run him at Goodwood down the road, have a last performance and then retire him after the race.

Clive gave the horse to us so he could spend the rest of his life in our back garden. When I am watching this race and I see what I saw there was a sense of guilt that you can’t help. He looked an absolute picture and even won the best turned out. There is nothing different I could have done. It was a freak accident. 

He will be remembered forever, and not just by us. I’ve been blessed to have a friend like him. We might train better horses in the future but he will remain unique, a legend, and the others may not. It comforts me and makes me proud to think so.
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