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Hot prospect Chocante has a big summer ahead

Chocante wins the Gp.3 Ssyangyong Counties Cup - Pic. Trish Dunell

Chocante wins the Gp.3 Ssyangyong Counties Cup - Pic. Trish Dunell
Racing over the summer months just got a whole lot more exciting for Wellington friends Mark Freeman and David Price, thanks to the deeds of a lightly raced gelding called Chocante (Shocking[AUS]-Strictly Maternal).

Chocante – Spanish for shocking – recently won the Group Three Ssyangyong Counties Cup and his trainer Stephen Marsh has a big summer of cups planned for him, culminating in the Auckland Cup in March.

"It was a huge thrill, a bit unbelievable really," enthused Freeman when discussing the win, "it was a bit like having a throw at the stumps and seeing what happened".

"It was testament to a pretty good tough horse that he could race three wide throughout and still be running away at the end. I can't give enough credit to Stephen for what he has done. He had this race in mind right from when he resumed this time in".

Chocante was having his 10 th race day start when he won the Counties Cup with a rating of 74. He ran second in a rating 75 at his previous start after having won his first two starts in this preparation. He only commenced racing in January and broke his maiden at his fifth start in April after running three placings.

"It's such a huge thrill when you have been involved with the grandmother and the mother and it was the first horse that David has raced that has won more than three races, and he has had a few. It was great thrill to have it all come together".

"David and I bought the grandmother Take Silk (Star Way[GB]- Red Chiffon). I had a couple of horses with Paddy Busuttin and the owner of the mare was wanting to get rid of some horses and she was one of them. I liked the fact she was out of the good mare Paddy trained in Red Chiffon (Sovereign Red-Lady Hialeah[AUS]) who won 11 races including the Group Three Churchill Stakes and the Listed Queen Elizabeth Handicap in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 at Ellerslie".

"I didn't know David that well, we used to bet in the same TAB and see each other at the races, so I asked him if he was interested in taking a share. We had a third partner Stephen Penney who was secretary of the Avondale Jockey Club at the time, and we raced her unsuccessfully. She ran a couple of placings but that was it".

"At that stage Stephen opted out and David and I sent her to stud. She went to O'Reilly when he first went to stud and had a mare called What's The Craic which was no good and we moved her on, then she had a Jetball(AUS)colt that went to Australia, then Strictly Maternal".

"She was in work with Bruce Marsh but hurt herself and he said he she had ability and would be worth breeding from , and that was how she got her name, as she was 'Strictly Maternal'!

"The first foal by Danske had bad legs, the second one by Howbaddoyouwantit(USA) didn't make it either, then she went to Danroad a couple of times and left a couple of colts. We managed to get them away to Hong Kong. Then we went to Shocking twice, and bred Chocante, and his younger brother that we still own. He is going to take more time as he is slow maturing".

"It took three generations and we finally bred a good one."

Strictly Maternal now has a colt foal at foot by Darci Brahma and has been served by Shocking again.

According to Freeman he doesn't really have a strict breeding philosophy, but sometimes relies on the advice of pedigree analyst Philip Jeffreys, however he wasn't involved in the planning of the mating of Chocante.

"Every year David and I sit down with a bottle or two of red wine and the stallion register and work our way through our list and our wine until we find something we agree on".

"We knew that the Machiavellian(USA) cross worked with O'Reilly through the deeds of No Excuse Needed(GB), so that was a good starting point in Shocking's favour. Shocking's sire Street Cry(IRE) is by Machiavellian, I liked him as a racehorse, and there was something else on paper that nicked really well but I just can't remember what it was now! But we both managed to convince ourselves that this was the way to go and so it has turned out."

Freeman was born into racing, growing up in Palmerston North where his father Bill Freeman was the Chief Executive of the Manawatu Racing Club for 27 years, after 12 years as a stipendiary steward. However he wasn't tempted to enter racing administration himself.

"I wanted to get as far away from Palmerston North as I could. I started a law degree at Uni, I didn't really have any intention of becoming a lawyer at that stage, but all of a sudden I had a degree and couldn't remain a student and had to get a job," added Freeman who is now a partner in the Wellington law firm Bell Gully.

"I have avoided racing administration to date, with the exception of the Pattern Committee. I started out on the Pattern Review Committee with John Wheeler, Garry Chittick and Noel McAlister and ended up going on the current Pattern Committee, so I do have an advisory role. However I quite enjoy just going to the races, and enjoying the races rather than getting involved in the politics of the industry".

In fact when Freeman began his working life, his father tried to dissuade him away from the industry.

"My mother Jane raced a mare called Curiosity, trained by Dick Bothwell. Dad gave me a share in it when I was about 22 thinking it would put me off for life, but it won its first start and I was hooked after that. She won seven races, and left a reasonable horse called Rebellion who won four and was a full-brother to the mother of Boycott(Top Innings)who was probably the best horse I have bred before Chocante".

Boycott was bred and raced by Freeman with his parents and won eight races and approximately $170,000. He won the Wairarapa Cup as a nine-year-old, and practically won a race a year after commencing racing at three. He was by Top Innings(AUS) out of Obsessive and was named after the controversial cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.

Freeman's passion for the industry hasn't waned over the years, and he was also involved in the ownership of Highflying (Entrepreneur-Crystal Brook) who won seven races including the City of Auckland Cup. She was trained by Dick and Chris Bothwell and Freeman still has an interest in a couple of horses in his stable.

Another successful mare trained by the Bothwells was Blinding (Black Minnaloushe[USA]-Dazzling Walk). She was raced by Freeman and is one of a number of mares based at Highden Stud in the Manawatu that he owns in partnership. A Group One placed winner she is a descendant of the Group One winning mare Boardwalk Angel, and has a Reliable Man(GB) yearling colt in the Premier Sale this summer. She is back in foal to Reliable Man who Freeman has a share in with David Price.

The other two are Liberating (Iffraai[IRE]-Dina) a Group Two placed winner of four from the family of Raw Instinct, and Prospect (Falkirk-Kristique[USa]) a half-sister to War Affair.

"I also have an interest in a breeding partnership that Bruce Perry established and we have our first yearlings - four nice colts, going to the sales this year. Bruce bought four mares in foal in Australia to give the syndicate a head start, as well as some maiden mares. When I list them all like that I think I have too many, but then one comes along like Chocante," he concluded, "and that helps pay for the rest of them." – Michelle Saba