77 year old Southland breeder Roger Price played rep basketball until he was 35 years of age, and he’s had a good level of fitness through the years. However in the last three years he’s has had two hip operations and a dislocated shoulder but despite this he reckons he’s got a bit more ‘game’ time in harness racing.
Although retired from training he still likes to be hands on at the stable which is now run by his son John and John’s wife Katrina and he’s still a keen breeder.
“I can come back driving with the right type of horses. I’ve got to do something. You’ve got to get up and going in the morning,” he says.
The Price family have been involved in horses for over 100 years with Roger’s dad Jack Price and his brother Vic successfully racing gallopers.
Rorke’s Drift (Calibre – O’Rorke’s Fancy) was probably one of the best gallopers the Price family raced. He won the Birthday Handicap raced over a mile and a quarter at Wingatui in 1916 (4 year old), 1918 (6 year old), and 1921(9 year old).
He also won the Dunedin Cup (one and half miles) twice in 1916 and 1919 and the Riverton Cup in 1917.
The extended Price family also owned other Riverton Cup winners in The Smuggler (1933), Wild Career (1938 and 1940), Secret Flight (1942) and Fair Trial (1944).
The Smuggler won the Great Autumn Handicap at Riccarton in 1934 and ran third in the 1933 NZ Cup.
To add to the list, Vic Price also raced Golden Silver which won the 1968 Invercargill Cup when trained by Rex Cochrane.
But it’s the Standardbreds that Roger has been involved with for most of his life.And its one mare’s record, that of Belladonna that he’s extremely proud of.
When you look at Belladonna’s progeny line on the HRNZ website you could think “good consistent mare that’s left some handy winners.”
But dig a little deeper and go offshore. Add up what her progeny has done on the racetrack and she has a truly remarkable record. She’s the dam of horses that have won 115 races.
When researching this article you start by looking at mares that have won the coveted New Zealand Broodmare of the Year Award.
The only mare (that I can see) that sits above Belladonna (and she’s another Southland bred horse) is Loyal Trick who posted her record mainly through the deeds of Young Quinn (59), Loyal Gentry (46) and Gold and Brown (21). She’s left winners of 128 races.
The Belladonna family goes back a fair way and is also responsible for producing quality Southland owned mare Fight For Glory. Fight For Glory’s fourth dam is New Way and her fourth dam is Miri Rei which is also the fourth dam of Belladonna. Both were bred by JA Flynn.
Miri Rei also left a handy type in Master Kent (Garrison Hanover – Maidstone).
He was good enough to race in the 1966 Kindergarten Stakes finishing second to Holy Hal. Trained by Cecil Devine, he won two races at three and three as a four year old. He also had numerous placings including third in the 1968 Cheviot Cup.
“He was probably the best we had out of the family. He sliced a tendon when he was the favourite for the Methven Cup. Cecil Devine was one of the nicest guys when it came to owners. He always said no one knows more about your horse than you and me.”
Belladonna’s mother Bella Kent (Brad Hanover – Maidstone) was raced by Roger and Linc McLean and won one race for trainer Henry Skinner at the Northern Southland meeting in February 1976.
“She showed a lot of ability. Every time we got her fit she was always in season and she would not run when she was in season. We got sick and tired of that so we put her to Bo Scots Blue Chip.”
Belladonna qualified at Winton in December 1991 for Price, then was sent up north.
“She showed some ability down here. In those days we used to have a couple of hundred horses at the trials. It was difficult to get a win at the trials to get a start at the races. I got tired of that and Richard Brosnan put me onto this lady in the North Island. She had three starts with the horse up there and she went pretty average so she was sent back home.”
Although she was tried again it was to no avail, so a career at stud beckoned.
“I think we had another go after she got home but she didn’t go much good so coming home from the trials one day we decide to drop her off at the stud to be served by Bo Scots Blue Chip. He was an exceptionally good racehorse so I went there.”
Her first foal was Cadillac Kent which won once when Peter Ferguson drove him to win at Forbury. He was sold shortly afterwards and went on to win another twenty races in Australia.
The mare’s next winner was Holmes Hanover filly Bellaholmes. She won her first two starts for training partners Roger and his daughter-in-law Katrina Price. She finished her racing career in the south by running fifth in the 2001 Southland Oaks final, won by Shortys Girl. Soon afterwards her training was taken over by Mark Purdon who drove her to finish third in the New Zealand Oaks.
“She was an exceptionally good mare. We thought it was better to have her up there to win that race (New Zealand Oaks) but unfortunately she drew the outside of the front row and finished third.”
At her next start she won the Group Two North Island Breeders Stakes. That was her sixth win. Soon after she was sold to Joe Muscara and continued her racing career in America where she won another sixteen races.
“Selling her was better money than there was in farming. She hardly ever ran out of the money over there. She was a typical Holmes (Holmes Hanover). She was tough but she could run as well.”
After Bellaholmes, the winners continued from Belladonna and many, after reaching their mark (handicap) here or commanding good money, were sold to either Australia or America.
“Most of the breed have been able to run out of the gate and that’s what kept me in the game.”
One that never made the races but was rated by Price, was Master Chef (Frugal Gourmet – Belladonna)
“As a three year old he ended up cracking a pedal bone and we turned him out for six months. We brought him back and took him to the trials. He bolted in (winning by nine lengths) and he was ready to take to the races and then he split the cannon bone again. He showed me a lot of ability.”
Of the four American raced foals out of Belladonna, Scotty Mach has won the most races winning 30 and recording the fastest mile time of 1-49.4.
“He was a typical Mach Three. He wanted to run and we had a lot of fun with him. You get to the stage in New Zealand where you get up to that top class which is tough. In America they can put them in classes that suit them. The same thing happens in Australia. We’ve sold a lot of one win horses here and they’ve gone on to win a lot more races whereas here they’d be struggling to win another race.”
Although Roger has stepped away from breeding leaving that up to John and Katrina, he’s still keeping an eye on two of Belladonna’s daughters – Bellavita (Mach Three) which has a Well Said yearling filly and is due to foal to American Ideal, and Donnamach (Mach Three) whichhas been served by He’s Watching.
So with a few more quiet drives and the excitement of seeing Belladonna’s family continue to produce winners, Roger and his wife Helen have a few more chapters left to be written in terms of their involvement in harness racing in Southland.
Belladonna’s winning list:
Left 12 foals 10 qualified and won 115 races.
Cadillac Kent (Cadillac) 1 New Zealand win and 20 Australian wins (21)
Bellaholmes (Holmes Hanover) 6 New Zealand wins and 16 American wins (22)
Pocket Master (In The Pocket) 0 New Zealand wins and 11 American wins (11)
Pocket Express (In The Pocket) 4 New Zealand wins and 8 American wins (12)
Bella’s Fella (Holmes Hanover) 1 New Zealand win and 8 Australian wins (9)
Scotty Mac (Mach Three) 9 New Zealand wins and 30 American wins (39)
Bellavita (Mach Three) 1 New Zealand win (1)
Donnamach (Mach Three) 2 New Zealand wins (2)