California-based horseman Donald "Thunder" Valentine has died at the age of 61, and on Friday morning he will be laid to rest at the Lind Brothers Funeral Home in Carmichael, Cal.
Thunder lived life on his own terms. Never more than a few strides away from a track or training center, he enjoyed training in California during the 2000s and most recently worked for longtime friend Lou Pena on a private farm in northwestern Pennsylvania. His equine pride and joy was a horse named Bomb Breeze who won his share of Invitational Paces at Cal Expo in the mid-2000s.
He is survived by his wife, daughter and a host of horsemen and women that were touched by his smile and laughter, and sense of optimism. He had been battling heart issues for the last five years and had a short hospital stay before succumbing to heart failure.
It was hard to tell if Thunder was winning races or hitting a rough patch as the man was one that loved life, lived it to its fullest, and exuded an aura of optimism.
As a tall and strong man, his stature was always diminutive when compared to the ear-to-ear smile he so often sported. In an industry where competitors often speak harsh words about one another, Thunder was the type that saw glasses being half full, even if they were 90 percent empty. He had a disposition that uplifted you and made you smile, no matter the circumstances.
Anyone wishing to send condolences may do so to his family to 4559 Bomark Way, Sacramento, Cal. 95814. Plans are in the works for a fund-raiser and scholarship trust to be set up for his daughter, age 13, this fall once Thunder's home track of Cal-Expo begins racing again.