IN Racing
Posthumous Group One honour for grand producer
El Vencedor’s career-best performance at Ellerslie to triumph at Group One level was tinged with a bittersweet note for breeder-owners David Price and Mark Freeman.
Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | March 12, 2024
David Price leads in El Vencedor following his win in last Saturday's Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m). Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

El Vencedor’s career-best performance at Ellerslie to triumph at Group One level was tinged with a bittersweet note for breeder-owners David Price and Mark Freeman.

The Stephen Marsh-trained son of Shocking added to the Wellington pair’s success with the family when he capped off a lucrative campaign with victory in Saturday’s Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) under Irish jockey Joe Doyle.

“It was off the charts really, you don’t go there expecting to beat what is probably the best horse (Legarto) in New Zealand and that was certainly the way I approached things,” Price said.

“He is just so honest and really underrated, every time he starts he drifts in the betting and hardly ever gets selected by the pundits.

“When you look at his record, he hasn’t finished further back than fourth in his previous eight starts and all in Group races.”

They included success in the Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) and a runner-up finish in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m).

Price and Freeman bred El Vencedor from the O’Reilly mare Strictly Maternal who was unraced due to injury and has been a wonderful broodmare during her time at Libby and Sam Bleakley’s Highden Park.

“Unfortunately, we had to have her put down a couple of weeks ago at Highden,” said Price, a financial adviser.

“I went and saw her and the vet thought she had cancer, she had a swollen stomach and was losing weight. She looked like she was in foal, but she was 23.

“Libby said she’s going to have to be put down and she didn’t want to go into the paddock and find her rolling around in pain.

“Mark and I were of the same view, she has been an amazing horse for us so sadly we had to euthanise her and we wanted to do it before she was suffering. It was quite sad.”

Strictly Maternal produced six winners from seven foals to race, including El Vendecor’s brother Chocante.

He claimed the Gr.2 Brisbane Cup (2200m), the Gr.3 Counties Cup (2100m) and ran third in the Gr.1 The Metropolitan (2400m) when trained by Marsh for Price and Freeman.

She is also the dam of the Hong Kong Derby (2400m) winner Sky Darci, who was purchased out of Highden’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale for $160,000 in 2018.

Strictly Maternal’s last foal is a two-year-old sister to El Vencedor and Chocante.

“She is an absolute miracle baby, what happened was that we had retired the mare because she had cysts in her ovaries and it was hard for her to get pregnant. She was 21 and we thought that was it,” Price said.

A subsequent scan suggested she may get in foal again and she duly did to Rich Hill Stud’s Shocking.

“Our tough decision was did we go to Shocking, at that stage Stephen had said to me that El Vencedor would be the best horse we’d ever had, or Darci Brahma and Sky Darci hadn’t won the Derby then but looked quite promising,” Price said.

“We had to choose and we went with the Shocking line and she had the foal, which was amazing and the family has been stunning.

“Everything she has left has won bar one, and that horse (Golden Darci) ran third in a black type race (Listed El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy, 1200m) so she has been fantastic.”

Price is also breeding from the Bahhare mare Run To The Bank, who was successful on three occasions and placed in the Listed Sunline Vase (2100m).

“I raced her and she’s had three to the races and they have all won, including Nest Egg,” he said.

The son of Reliable Man has won five races, but ran out of luck in the Gr.2 Auckland Cup (3200m) when continuing his rivalry with Mahrajaan.

“He was battered from pillar to post and he had only been beaten by half a-neck by Mahrajaan in the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) after we had drawn badly,” Price said.

“I had the sister, Chakana, and she went to Australia and broke down after she ran fourth the Ipswich Cup (Listed, 2150m).

“She had won four races and came back about six weeks ago after having 18 months off and won first-up over 1400m and then ran third and broke down again, so she’s retired. We never got to see the best of her.”

Two-year-old half-sister Serendipitous, by Darci Brahma, is also in the Marsh stable and has been a trial winner and likely to debut in the coming weeks.

El Vencedor David Price and Mark Freeman Shocking Stephen Marsh