Racing Victoria (RV) Chief Executive Bernard Saundry has paid tribute to astute Caulfield trainer Ross McDonald who passed away this morning following a battle with illness.

Saundry said McDonald was a gifted horseman who had built a lasting legacy in the Victorian racing industry during almost four decades as a successful trainer and mentor.

“The Victorian racing industry is deeply saddened at the passing of Ross McDonald who was a highly respected horseman and much loved character within our sport,” Saundry said.

“Ross’ training skills were highly regarded by his peers and he was instrumental in the racing careers of many stars, most notably seven-time Group 1 winner and Australian Racehorse of the Year Weekend Hussler.

“The Board and staff of Racing Victoria extend their sympathies to Ross’ wife Margaret, his son Clinton and the entire McDonald family on the passing of a popular member of the Victorian racing industry.”

McDonald, who was one of the nation’s most respected equestrian riders and horse educators prior to his involvement in racing, had early experience with a champion as the strapper for Hall of Fame sprinter Manikato.

He had a star of his own less than a decade later when Tristarc won several Group 1 races, including the 1985 Caulfield Cup.

McDonald won another Caulfield Cup just three years later, with Imposera, and later that season became just the third trainer to complete the coveted Blue Diamond Stakes/Golden Slipper double with his star juvenile Courtza.

But it was more recently, with 2007/08 Australian Racehorse of the Year Weekend Hussler, that McDonald’s training talents are best remembered.

The gelding won six Group 1 races as a three-year-old, including the Caulfield Guineas and Newmarket Handicap before adding a seventh Group 1 to his resume when he won the Underwood Stakes as a four-year-old.

McDonald spent considerable time in hospital during the latter half of this year following complications during heart surgery in June. He was 69 years old.