Victorian racing has lost a character – and one of its finest horsemen – following the death of Ross McDonald.

The popular trainer, who had been battling ill health for many months, died on Tuesday at 6.00am. He was 69.

McDonald’s son Clinton, who trained alongside his father at Caulfield, revealed the news via twitter.

“Sad to say my father/mentor/mate passed away this morning at 6.00am. At peace now, fought so hard so proud of him. We will (miss) u big man,” Clinton tweeted.

McDonald spent much of the second half of the year in hospital after suffering complications following heart surgery in June.

Recent fans to racing would remember McDonald through the deeds of Weekend Hussler, the gelding won six Group 1s, including the Caulfield Guineas and Newmarket Handicap, during his three-year-old season.

Weekend Hussler added a seventh Group 1 to his resume when he won the Underwood Stakes as a four-year-old.

He was the last superstar for McDonald, who celebrated great success in the 1980s.

McDonald, who was one of Australia’s most respected horses breakers early in his career, had experience with a champion as the strapper for Hall of Fame sprinter Manikato and had a star of his own less than a decade later when Tristarc won several Group 1 races, including the 1985 Caulfield Cup.

McDonald won another Caulfield Cup just three years later, with Imposera, and later that season won the Blue Diamond/Golden Slipper double with Courtza.