Knee injury claims Alta Maestro

By Jonny Turner

One of saddest tales around this year’s New Zealand Cup has played out more than two months before the running of the country’s greatest race.

Ashburton owners Stuart and Liz Leadley will not be represented in the event after their top class pacer Alta Maestro had to be euthanised, recently.

The Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old was struck down with a crippling knee injury over winter.

Vets told his connections their only realistic option was to put Alta Maestro down.

“He was diagnosed with real bad arthritis – it was so bad they said you’ve got no option but to put him down,” Stuart Leadley said.

“They said he would never make any kind of trekking horse or riding horse.”

“There was no option, he was going to be a cripple.”

Alta Maestro won nine of his 32 starts and banked over $195,000 in stakes.

The Art Major pacer holds the New Zealand 2yr-old male pacers record for 1700m with his 1-59.7 win in March of 2017.

Alta Maestro began his career and a head strong and free rolling front runner.

Most recently, the Dunn stable transformed the horse in to a relaxed staying type and it was paying dividends.

Alta Maestro raced admirably in open class last season and scored his best win in the group 3 Teltrac Communications Ltd Free-For-All at Addington in March.

This year’s New Zealand Cup was to be on the horse’s agenda before tragedy struck.

“We had some pretty big and realistic plans this year,” Leadley said.

“We genuinely thought he was good enough to be doing some pretty good things and it was a dreadful shock.”

Leadley rated Alta Maestro as the best horse among the smart types he has raced.

Good performers, Alta Las Vegas and Franco Cristiano, are also among his winners.  

“We have owned 19 in total over about the last 16 years, he has certainly won us the most money.”

“We have had a total of 53 wins, so we have done pretty well with the horses we have had.”

The Leadleys are no strangers to tragically losing horses.

The couple raced talented pacer Welsey Silcox, who won eight of his 12 starts in 2014 and 2015.

The Courage Under Fire pacer died as the result of a freak accident.

“Lightening hit a tree and crushed him.”

“You wouldn’t believe some of the problems we have had with horses,” Leadley said.

Alta Maestro’s demise comes at a time when the Canterbury couple’s time as owners is nearing its end.

Leadley is unable to attend racemeetings due to a lung illness.

“I am on oxygen tubes and morphine now and it is a problem to get to the races.”

“Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with serious breathing issues and they said it will only every get worse.”

“Nowadays I am confined to a wheelchair.”

The owner reflects fondly on his 16-year involvement in horse ownership.

“The real thing about the races was the people that we met,” Leadley said.

“There are some really great people there and if we didn’t have those horses we never would have met them.”

Leadley remains in the ownership of three horses in the Dunn stable.

They include the unbeaten 3yr-old Down To The Bone.



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