Thoroughbred industry stalwart Mick Preston has passed away, aged 90.
Preston was a member of one of New Zealand's best-known racing families, being a son of renowned owner-breeder Ted Preston.
He was sent to England, aged 18, in 1952 to study the breeding industry and thus fit himself for studmaster duties at the family's West Derby Stud, in Levin.
During his eight-month stay in England he worked for five months at Lord Derby's Stanley House Stud where the great sires Hyperion and Alycidon stood.
On his return he became studmaster at West Derby and also began training a few jumpers and also rode as an amateur rider.
His first success as a trainer was with Deep Gold in the 1954 Manawatu Hunt Cup and he continued training at Levin until 1958 when he moved to Otaki and set up West Derby Lodge.
The brilliant Knight's Romance filly High Delight would prove the best he trained from his Otaki establishment. She was the top-weighted filly in the Free Handicap as a two- and three-year-old and appeared destined to sweep all before her before a fall in the 1967 Manawatu Challenge Stakes put an end to her racing career. At her previous three starts, with Bill Skelton in the saddle, she had won the Churchill Stakes at Riccarton, the Stewards Handicap at Riccarton and the Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham. At two, she included among her wins the prestigious Wills Championship Stakes at Ellerslie.
His Grace, another by the West Derby sire Knight's Romance, was another flag-bearer for the stable. Among his wins was the 1964 Wellington Guineas which he won easily from Clipjoint with such classy types as Rio, Sobig and Trial Offer also in his wake.
Other good gallopers from the stable included Eugenie, Cavalier, Huka Falls, Harvest Moon, BIg Bill and Trial By Jury.
Preston trained a number of top-class jumpers over the years, including the dashing No Offence who won the 1963 Grand National Steeplechase, ridden by stable jockey Bren Langford. He also trained Linred to win the Grand National and other good jumpers included Orelino, Montgomery, Kindling, West Derby, Lord Erin and Gun.
Preston always had a soft spot for Orelino who raced for eight seasons and was still performing as an 11-year-old. He won the Egmont Steeples as a four-year-old and again as a 10-year-old, the Pakuranga Hunt Cup, and the Manawatu Steeples and also recorded seconds in the Great Northern, the Waikato Hunt Cup and the Wellington Steeples (twice). He covered more than 176 miles in jumping races.
Preston trained the 1985 Wellington Cup winner Imaprince and later that year lined the handsome chestnut up in the Melbourne Cup in which he finished seventh with Brent Thomson in the saddle.
Preston later moved back to Levin where he served on the committee of the Levin Racing Club for a number of years before taking up residence in Taupo.
He raced a number of horses in recent years, the best of them the Group One winner True Enough.
Preston was also a long-time and highly-respected bloodstock agent and in 2020 he became the first ever Life Member of the New Zealand Bloodstock Agents’ Federation.
Preston is survived by wife Valda, four sons and two daughters.