Stolen Thunder; Legendary Racehorse and World Class Show Jumper

The incomparable Stolen Thunder performed well in whatever was asked of him, both on a racetrack and the very best of international show jump arenas.

Foaled in 1979, the ‘I’m Scarlet’ gelding won an impressive $169,000 in prizemoney over 80 starts, with 13 wins, 10 seconds and four thirds under legendary trainer the late Barry Curtis between December 1981 and December 1987 before retiring. Stolen Thunder had a number of impressive wins to his name including twice winning the Hannans Handicap, Kalgoorlie’s feature sprint race in 1984 and 1986, both with Jockey Laurie Millington aboard.

Stolen Thunders’ Hannans Handicap win in 1984, at a time of 1:22.2, set a record which was equalled by Solid Bond in 1988 and Savile Row in 1989 but not broken until 10 years later by Defensive Play who clocked in at 1:22.17.

After their win in 1984, Laurie took a nasty fall during the Kalgoorlie Cup, resulting in multiple injuries, including a broken pelvis. The incident nearly ended Laurie’s riding career. Against all odds he returned to the racetrack to win a follow up Hannans Handicap in 1986 on Stolen Thunder. This race, he says, is his most memorable.

“In a race at Belmont Park Racecourse in 1986, I had allowed Mint Julep to take the lead and he beat me. I didn’t let him do it again in the 1986 Hannans and that is now history; how we (Stolen Thunder and Laurie) lead and won.” Laurie said.

“Not only did he win for myself and the trainer, Barry Curtis, the owners believed he was a good thing that day.”

Laurie remembers Stolen Thunder as a professional, strong and easy to handle individual.

“He always did his best when fit a ready to go… He’d prance off the track in the morning.”

Retiring as a successful racehorse, Stolen Thunder joined the stables of Peter and Noelene Cooke to begin his next chapter as a show jumper.  This is where the legendary show jump rider Alison “Doog” Rowland began riding the seven-year-old gelding. Growing up in Northampton, a small town 500kms north-east of Perth, Western Australian, rider Doog rode the gelding for the Cookes, until they sold him to Peta Charlebois. Doog continued the ride on him and eventually bought a share.

From there the pair went from strength to strength, made easy by his beautiful, although eccentric, nature.

“Thunder was a quirky horse and we had to pander to his needs at times.” Doog recalls.

Doog travelled with Stolen Thunder to the eastern states where they placed second in the Australian Show Jump Championships at the Sydney Royal Show in 1992. They won four World Cup qualifiers and came second four to five times over courses between 150 and 160cms.

“I was very fortunate to ride such a talented horse. He taught me so much.” Says Doog.

Olympic and World Cup Show Jumper, Vicki Roycroft competed alongside Alison and Thunder and recalls admiring the gelding.

“He was all you could want in a Thoroughbred; light on his feet and an extraordinary athlete.” Vicki said.

Alison and Thunder qualified for the 1994 World Cup Final in S’Hertogenbosh, Holland. Making the journey to Europe, they placed an impressive seventh in the second leg.

Vicki travelled to Holland without a mount for the 1994 World Cup and remembers the off the track gelding from Australia not being out of place amongst the world’s best show jumpers.

It was during this campaign that Stolen Thunder’s talents were noticed by the European Show Jumping circuit and he was purchased by Rob Ehrens. Rob, now Dutch Chef D’Quippe, extensively competed across Europe with Stolen Thunder between 1994 and 1997. During this time they placed third at the 1995 Nations Cup in Aachen, and fourth in the World Cup in the same year. Rob and Stolen Thunder were nominated for the Olympics but sadly the gelding was found to be lame shortly before the start of competition and they were forced to withdraw.

Rob remembers the gelding fondly.

“He was a special horse, very sensitive. His canter was very good and he was careful.” He says.

In 1997 Stolen Thunder was sold to fellow Dutch showjumper, Eric van der Vleuten. At this time Stolen Thunder was 18 years old. He continued competing with Eric in speed classes, which Eric says were his strength. These classes were part of a competition over a whole season, which he won in 1998. After one year of competing and winning Eric retired the Stole Thunder due to health concerns in 1998, 17 years after his first race start.

“He was a super nice horse with a fantastic mentality and I’m happy that we had him.” Says Eric.

Stolen Thunder achieved notable success in two careers, with the very best jockeys along for the ride. He will not easily be forgotten by both those who rode him and those who watched the gelding make history, he was the epitome of an equine athlete on and off the track.

  • Stolen Thunder winning 1986 Hannans Handicap

  • Stolen Thunder and Laurie Millington after winning 1986 Hannans Handicap

  • Alison Rowland riding Stolen Thunder

  • Alison Rowland and Stolen Thunder at the 1994 World Cup Final Photo Credit: The Horse Magazine; Christine Johnson Photography

  • Alison Rowland on Stolen Thunder Photo Credit: The Horse Magazine; Christine Johnson Photography

  • Dutch Chef D’Quippe, Rob Ehrens riding Stole Thunder at CHIO Rotterdam