In 2019 Wellington branch members David Price and Mark Freeman happily retired their 18-year-old O’Reilly mare Strictly Maternal from broodmare duties.
Aptly named Strictly Maternal, as she couldn’t race due to injury, she had done the pair proud at that stage leaving the dual stakes winner and Group One performer Chocante and three other winners, all of whom they had raced.
Chocante had increased the mare’s commercial appeal so the self-declared hobby breeders had achieved a good result in the sales ring, selling a Darci Brahma colt out of the mare for $160,000 in 2018. At the time they had a yearling full brother to Chocante and a Darci Brahma colt foal to continue their racing interests.
Now however, due to a combination of events and the deeds of her aforementioned Darci Brahma colt now known as Sky Darci, the pair are nervously awaiting the arrival of another foal and hoping for a filly.
Four-year-old gelding Sky Darci is now the winner of seven races, including the recent Gr.3 HKJC Lion Rock Trophy (1600m) and the Listed Hong Kong Derby (2000m). He was also second in the Gr.3 HKJC Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m) earlier this year.
Price explained Strictly Maternal, who resides at Libby and Sam Bleakley’s Highden Park, wasn’t intended to be brought out of retirement but one thing led to another and her owners are hoping for a healthy filly as a result.
“She was at Libby’s and got brought up to the yard with another mare that was due to be scanned pre-service,” recalled Price.
“The vet said she’s looking pretty healthy and scanned her as well, she had a good follicle, and everything happened from there so now we are nervously awaiting a filly. She had one that we had to put down as a foal, and one that we gave away early on, we tried to find her after Chocante proved himself but couldn’t locate her anywhere.
“The mare looks stunning at the moment, she’s full of life and we are really excited.”
Price and Freeman’s journey with Strictly Maternal started in the early 90’s. The pair met at the races and used to see each other in their local TAB when they decided to go halves in a mare named Take Silk.
She happened to be the first foal of the talented race mare Red Chiffon (Red Sovereign) a winner of 11 races in New Zealand and Australia. Her wins included the Gr.3 CJC Canterbury Gold Cup and the Listed BATC Labour Day Cup and STC Rosehill International Hotel Stakes, she was also third in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks.
Take Silk was placed and subsequently went to stud and left two winners.
“We have kept the family going, racing a few,” said Price.
“Bruce Marsh had Strictly Maternal in work and she injured herself and he said you won’t be able to race her, but she can gallop so I would breed from her. It’s been an amazing journey.
“She has now left winners in three countries with stakes winners in the three countries.
“We are a couple of hobby breeders, Mark and I head down to the local with the stallion register and have a few reds and come up with a mating. It’s probably a lot of good luck and a little bit of science, that is how we originally came up with Shocking.
“Sky Darci was the first one we have ever put through the sales, he was earmarked for the sales from day one, everything else we have sold off the racetrack.
“The first two Danroads, Up The Ante and Well Fit, both went to Hong Kong then we went to Shocking and that mating worked with Chocante. He won the Group Two Brisbane Cup and Group Three Counties Cup.
The next foal was also by Shocking – Hermanito and he had to be put down. The next one, a filly, died, then we didn’t send her to stud until after Chocante became a stakes winner.
“Chocante helped Sky Darci get into K1 at Karaka, he made her a commercial mare. We are really pleased for the people who bought him and it’s pretty exciting for a couple of hobbyists.”
The mating to Darci Brahma that produced Sky Darci was on a nomination the pair purchased at a Wellington Branch fundraising event.
Her two-year-old is a Shocking colt named El Vencedor while her return to Darci Brahma in 2018 produced another colt who is now a yearling and was sold out of the paddock last year.
“Mark and I are racing El Vencedor,” Price said, “He won a trial but failed the vet, we are rather pleased he did as he had his first start at Counties last week and finished second. Hopefully he is as good as he looks. Being by Shocking anything he does at two shows he’s pretty good.
“Stephen (Marsh) reckons he will be the best horse we will ever race.”
Price, who works in the financial services industry, has raced a number of horses in the last 30 years, after developing an interest that started as a child.
“I was exposed to racing with my family,” he said, “From a young age I got dragged off to Trentham racecourse, and spent the day picking up tickets and it just grew from there.”
Besides El Vencedor he is also racing a two-year-old Darci Brahma filly Lil El Gee Dee with Bruce Marsh.
“With Bruce I had a mare called La Grande Dame (Pins[AUS]-Tattinger) from the family of Rangirangdoo,” Price said. “She won a race, and has left Mr Dependable (Reliable Man[GB]) a winner of five in Sydney and Mandalorian (Darci Brahma) and Effervescent (Pentire[GB]) who are both winners. Bruce and I are racing her last foal Lil El Gee Dee, she hasn’t been to the races but has had a couple of trials.”
Another mare he raced and is now breeding from is Run To The Bank (Bahhare[USA]-Rebus), a winner of three races, and third in the listed Sunline Vase. She is a full sister to Charliehorse who won five and ran third in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby. Their dam Rebus(Truly Vain[AUS]) won four and was stakes placed twice.
Run To The Bank has had three foals, all by Reliable Man(GB), a stallion he and Freeman have a share in. The first, Shaz The Bank is a winner, the second Chakana is a three-year-old placed maiden and the third, Nest Egg is a two-year-old has had five starts for a third in the Listed ARC Champagne Stakes and four fourths.
Price is also involved in syndicates racing Chakana and Nest Egg.
Run To The Bank is currently in foal to Darci Brahma, who according to Price is one of the most underrated stallions around, as he features on all the lead tables and his progeny go extremely well in Asia.
Going forward Price and Freeman will continue to enjoy the ride their purchase of Take Silk in the 90’s has given them, and no doubt relive their success and make future mating decisions over a glass or two of red. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA