Waikato Stud founder Nelson Bunker Hunt died on Tuesday in an aged-care facility in Dallas. The Texan oilman was 88 and had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for several years.
Hunt was a brash headline in financial circles during the 1980s. He tried to corner the silver market but was bankrupted forcing the liquidation of his thoroughbred assets.
A 1988 dispersal sale of 580 horses at Keeneland brought $47 million, at that time the highest amount in the history of thoroughbred auctions.
Hunt was a major player in the thoroughbred world and did race champion mare Dahlia. A darling of Europe and North America, she won the 1973 Irish Oaks and doubled up in the King George at Ascot before finishing the year with another Group 1 in the Washington D.C. International.
Trained by legends Maurice Zilber and Charlie Whittingham, she won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Benson and Hedges Gold Cup in 1974 before crossing the Atlantic again for the Man O’ War Stakes and Canadian International.
The last of her 11 Group 1 victories was in the 1976 Hollywood Invitational. Dahlia was by Vaguely Noble (GB) who had won the 1968 Arc de Triomphe for Hunt defeating champion colt Sir Ivor.
Overall, Hunt bred or raced 158 stakes winners and among them were 1976 English Derby winner Empery (Vaguely Noble) and USA Hall Of Fame mare Glorious Song (Halo).
He also owned Bluegrass Farm in Kentucky amid vast acreages of oil and ranch land around the globe. In 1967, he founded Waikato Stud which is now one New Zealand’s industry leaders under the Chittick family.
Hunt returned to the racing fold in 1999 buying 50 two year-olds and yearlings. “I just want to have some fun and try to get lucky racing,” he commented. “A billion dollars ain’t what it used to be.”
NELSON BUNKER HUNT
Texan oilman bred or raced over 150 stakes winners around the world