Trevor McKee and Sunline

Trevor McKee with Sunline and one of her foals (Image: Trish Dunell)

Sunline's trainer Trevor McKee dies

Sunline's co-trainer Trevor McKee has passed away on the eve of one of his former great racehorse's favourite days of racing.

McKee, 81, suffered a stroke late last year and has been battling ill health for some time.

McKee's son Stephen joined the renowned horseman in a training partnership as Sunline was taking all before her 20 years ago. When she retired in 2002 with 32 wins from 48 starts, she was the leading prizemoney winner in Australasia with some $11.35 million in earnings.

McKee was known to be a seller of horses earlier in his career and said he was lucky that Sunline came along later in life.

"Selling horses was just the way it had to be at that stage," McKee told reporters in 2006.

"To make a living you had to end up selling them off. Most of them were sold as two-year-olds and therefore you often had very few decent ones coming through.

"It was a case of how I survived. There wasn't enough in training fees when you had a wife and three kids."

In addition to Sunline, other top stable performers include Solveig, Royal Tiara, Flying Luskin, Moonshine and Super Fiesta and McKee regularly campaigned horses in Australia with success.

McKee retired from training in 2006 but continued to help Stephen and was a regular fixture at racecourses throughout New Zealand until suffering the stroke.

McKee is survived by wife Noeleen and children Suzanne, Stephen and Donna.

Sunline is probably best remembered for her two Cox Plate wins and her three Australasian Champion Racehorse gongs but she was also a major player in the Doncaster Handicaps at the turn of last century.

The Desert Sun mare won the Doncaster as a three-year-old in 1999 before a three-year-old Over knocked her off the following year. In 2002, Sunline was handicapped at a whopping 58 kilograms, but managed to fight off the late challenge from Shogun Lodge.

Laminitis claimed Sunline in 2009 at the age of 13.