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Meet the Breeder - David Price

17 November 2023
In this week's edition of Dunstan Horsefeeds 'Meet the Breeder' the NZTBA team caught up with David Price, who in conjunction with Brian Stewart, bred Listed Metropolitan Winner and Gr.3 NZ Cup favourite, Nest Egg.
Tell us the story of Nest Egg
I bred him with my mate Brian, he had 10% and I had 90% of his dam ‘Run To The Bank’, we then sold 50% to two guys who wanted to have him for the Derby, I went down to 45% and Brian went 5%. They basically only wanted to a win a Derby and so when he went to Aussie and it just poured, Sydney had had a full year’s rain by the 1st of April it was horrible, so by the time he got a decent track in Queensland, he had had enough.

He then came home and I re-syndicated him sort of sold down to 25% and Stephen (Marsh) took some and the rest was to my mates.

He has been to three stables, he started off at Berg’s (Royden Bergerson), the went to Chris Waller’s and now Stephen Marsh and he has been the stable favourite in all three stables. He is just a lovely horse.

So looking forward (to the NZ Cup), there is a big crew of us going on Saturday. There is one guy who has just had a bad bad experience and never had a winner and now he has been in Chakana (Reliable Man), Nest Egg (Reliable Man) and Serendipitous (Darci Brahma) so he is having a bloody good time so I am excited for him and the newbies that are in.

How did you get into thoroughbred breeding?
It really was by accident, I have two mares now, the first one is called Strictly Maternal and all her offspring that have got to the races, have won. She has had Chocante (Shocking) who won the Gr.2 Brisbane Cup and Gr.3 Counties Cup, he was favourite and placed in the Gr.1 Metropolitan in Australia and also run third to Winx in a Gr.2. Then there was Sky Darci (Darci Brahma), he has been the only one who we have sold through the sale ring; and he won the Hong Kong Derby in 2021, and currently there is El Vencedor (Shocking).

How we got her was that my long-time friend Mark Freeman and I had her mother and we sort of lucked it, we went to O’Reilly twice when he was standing for about $7,000. Strictly Maternal was one of the resulting foals, Bruce Marsh was training her and she showed a lot of promise but then got injured and Bruce advised that we should breed from her - that is also how she got the name ‘Strictly Maternal’. Our decision to get into breeding was made for us rather than by us.

Her last foal is a 2yo filly and she is at Libby and Sams. (Highden Park)

How many mares do you breed from?
Just the two – I own all of Run To The Bank and half of Strictly Maternal with Mark.

What else do you have in your bloodstock portfolio (youngstock, racehorses etc)
Strictly Maternal is now retired but there is a bit of a miracle story with her. She had a lot of cysts and so in terms of getting pregnant it was a bit of an issue so we decided that we had had a really good run and chatting to Libby and that we said ‘Right, she is done. She can just eat grass for the rest of her life and no more being a Mum.’

It was kind of a pure fluke, I went up to watch a horse run which was unusual for me to do on a Thursday and I said to Libby I will pop in and see Strictly.

She brought Strictly in, who had been running with a mob of geldings and was a little fiesty, and it just so happened that the vet was there at the same time. The vet said to Libby ‘Oh how old is the mare’ Libby replied: ‘How do you think?’ and he said ‘12’ she said ‘Try 21’. He asked if he could scan her, which he did and he found follicles.

So I arrived there and Libby said to me that we had a decision to make, which I thought the worst and thought we were going to have to put her down; but when she told me about the follicles, the decision was to go to Darci Brahma or to Shocking, there was no other consideration. The decision was made because at that stage, although Sky Darci had looked promising, I don’t think he had won the Derby yet; and Stephen had mentioned that El Vencedor was going to be a really good horse for us so we went to Shocking.

As it turned out, we got offered a lot of money for El Vencedor as a 2yo and he failed the vet with a tiny superficial fragment that they said wouldn’t hurt him or ever affect him, so it was disappointing on that front. Mark and I had had a meeting only a couple of days before saying that he was not for sale at any means due to Strictly never being served again, as she hadn’t had the last foal yet which we have since called ‘Joy’; but when you get offered the money we did, you sort of change tact but it was a bit of a gamble for us because we had had the family for 25-30 years and if we had sold El Vencedor and Strictly had slipped, that was it, no more family left.

So she has since had Joy, and whatever she does she will continue on the family as she is so well-related.

The second mare, Run To The Bank (dam of Nest Egg), has just had a full-sibling to Chakana and Nesty and has gone back to Reliable Man again.

Do you breed to trade or breed to race? How do you decide on what to keep or sell?
Like I mentioned before, we have only ever sold one at the sales which was Sky Darci and he was earmarked to sell from the start.

Before Chocante came along, Strictly was never commercial so it was easy, it was always breed to race; and if we got them sold that was great and we did make a few sales. It took one horse to make her commercial and obviously Sky Darci and El Vencedor have also performed well since.

We have never been delusional about what we had, we had a sub-commercial and we knew, and if you look back at who Strictly Maternal went to, we went to a lot of lower cost ones – Danroad a few times, Howbaddouwantit, and Shocking isn’t overly expensive. We did that because we are purely trying to breed a racetrack horse not a sales horse.

Sky Darci winning the Hong Kong Derby allowed us to sell a Darci Brahma weanling straight out of the paddock. He is known as Golden Darci and while he hasn’t won a race yet, he was black-type placed at his first start.
Do you seek advice on your breeding decisions?
We do our own research and but it has been somewhat based on cost and the fact we didn’t have an overly commercial mare.

This will some horrify people but if you look at the names of Strictly’s foals – El Vencedor means ‘conquerer’, Chocante means ‘shocking’ and Hermanito means ‘little brother’, in Spanish but the reason being is that Mark and I would take the Stallion Register down to the local wine bar and drink Rioja while we were deciding what we were going to cross Strictly with. So it has been a bit of science, a bit of luck and sometimes a lot of alcohol. (laughs)

Best breeding advice you have received?
A few years ago, I went to a studmaster who shall remain anonymous, and I asked him ‘who should I send my mare to?’ and he said ‘send me the details and I will have a look’ and then he came back and said ‘no one’ – and that was Strictly. So we turned up at the Counties Cup when Chocante won it and he said to me ‘what are you doing running a Rating 74 in the Counties Cup’ and I said ‘let’s talk later’ and of course he won, so the next day I turned up to his stud to see Strictly and he came tearing down the drive and asked what I was doing there to which we replied ‘just coming to see the latest group winning Mum that you have got here – so the point of that story is if the biggest, most expensive chequebook was always going to win, then there would be no fun in it for the little guy but the reality is the little guy can do it on a shoestring budget and that’s what people hope for. They hope for a group winner off a small service fee, off a home breed and that’s what bascially keeps the dream alive.

What do you love about the thoroughbred breeding industry?
Moments like now, having friends involved and looking forward to the weekend where everyone is going to turn up to cheer on a horse that you bred. Makes me pretty proud.

What advice would you give someone entering the industry as a breeder?
A did give someone some advice that entered the industry pretty late – I said you need to do one of two things, especially when you are townie like me where I need to pay all the costs as I don’t have my own property, you need to decide whether you are going to put them through the sales or breed them to race. There is no point in breeding a K2 mare for the sales as you will be lucky to break even – that is from my own experience and why we haven’t put any (except Sky Darci) through the sales.

Proudest moment as a breeder?
It would have to be without doubt winning the Brisbane Cup with Chocante.

Finish this sentence: The best part of being a thoroughbred breeder is…
Bringing friends in at the appropriate time to enjoy the ride, have some fun and making it accessible to them. That’s what I love about it all, people are excited for you whether they are associated with the horse or not.

I must say, that Libby and Sam have been absolutely wonderful to deal with and I can’t speak highly enough of them. Libby is great at explaining everything to a townie like and they have become great friends.

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