California breeder/owner Robert H. Walter, who nearly won the 1996 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with homebred Cavonnier, died last night at his home after a short illness.
Owner of Vine Hill Ranch near Sebastopol, Calif., Walter and his wife, Barbara, bred and raced numerous stakes winners and earned a 1996 Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association award in the category of outstanding owner/breeder for California. Cavonnier, who raced for the Walter Family Trust, came about as close to winning the Run for the Roses as a horse can without winning it, being nipped at the wire. Cavonnier, who earlier won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), was California Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male that year. He also was a state champion as a 2-year-old.
The Walters, either in their name or the trust, campaigned homebred grade I winner Tout Charmant and bred other grade I winner Lazy Slusan.