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  • Provincial Racing NSW


SPARE a thought for Kembla Grange’s Rob and Luke Price.

When any stable, let alone provincial racing’s sole father and son training partnership, loses its two best horses in the same season, it’s understandable to be wondering if and when another good one might walk through the stable door.

Not only did their 2021 $1m The Gong winner Count De Rupee die from a heart attack during a jumpout at the Price’s home track last August, but now they have retired their class mare Jamaea.

Between them, the two horses cost $275,000 as Gold Coast Magic Millions yearlings, and returned more than $3.6m from their brilliant deeds on the track, racing in the stable colours of white, tartan maltese cross and armbands.

Count De Rupee, a $145,000 buy in 2019, collected just over $2.6m for his owners, and Jamaea, their $130,000 buy of a year later, became a $1m earner.

August 24 last year is a date father and son won’t forget.

Five-year-old Count De Rupee, who had given them a massive thrill in landing their home track’s highlight race (The Gong) the previous November, tragically lost his life.

“He had a heart attack at the top of the straight and kept going before crashing through the outside fence,” Luke Price recalled.

“Fortunately, Tommy Berry, who rode him in the jumpout, escaped injury.

“It was a very tough morning. I had 18 horses at the trials, and Dad was away on holidays.

“Count De Rupee was stuck to my right arm. He never went anywhere without me.

“I was probably more confident of him winning the Golden Eagle (then worth $7.5m) at Rosehill Gardens three weeks before The Gong.

“It was during COVID, and the jockeys were locked up and so I had been riding Count De Rupee work instead of his regular rider Brock Ryan.

“The horse was going terrific, and was beaten in the last stride by another topliner in I’m Thunderstruck. It was gut-wrenching.”

Coincidentally, I’m Thunderstruck had to be put down in March after an incident following routine surgery.

“We were pretty confident going into The Gong, but being a local, there was a fair bit of expectation leading up to the race as he was favorite.

“Thankfully we all handled it well, and Brock got the job done.”

Losing such a good horse is hard enough for any provincial stable to take, but now the Price boys are also without their star four-year-old mare Jamaea.

“We have just retired her, and most likely she will be offered for sale as a future broodmare,” Luke Price said.

“Wear and tear on her back legs forced the decision. She has been such a good mare to us, and we weren’t going to take any risks with her.

“Jamaea was our first stakes placegetter ((the Listed Lonhro Stakes at Royal Randwick in February 2021 and again in the Group 3 Magic Night Stakes at Rosehill Gardens the following month), and our first Group 2 winner (the $1m Percy Sykes Stakes at Randwick in April that year).

“She was a bit on the small side when purchased, and went for a bit more than we thought, but we got her with one extra bid, and she more than repaid us.”

Father and son initially trained separately from Turpentine Park at Cambewarra on the South Coast, but joined forces nearly six years ago when they were able to secure boxes closer to the city at Kembla Grange.

“Turpentine Park was a fantastic set-up, but we’re fortunate to have two barns at Kembla Grange with 50 horses, and I live close to one of them,” Luke Price said.

“Dad and Mum stayed at Berry. You couldn’t get them away from there.”

Father and son started out as apprentices, but increasing weight led to Rob pulling the pin before donning the silks in a race. He turned to bricklaying before later becoming a trainer when he felt financially comfortable to do so.

A chance meeting with the late legendary horseman Kevin Robinson proved beneficial not only from a training viewpoint. He married Patricia, one of the Robinsons’ dozen children.

Rob’s first winner as a trainer was at Kembla Grange in 1989 with Duo Bellissimo, followed soon after by a double at the same track and then he broke through in town with Phantom King in 1993.

Luke rode 110 winners and “had a fair bit of luck”, as he put it, before a bad fall at Warwick Farm in 2002 sidelined him for nearly two years.

“I fractured the C2 vertebrae which left me with a broken neck,” he said.

“I did make it back to riding for about 12 months, but I was growing and my weight ballooning, and I decided it was time to hang up the boots not long after my 21st birthday.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, he prepared his first winner at the Moruya Cup meeting in 2008 when The Patriot was successful.

“Dad trained The Patriot at first, but gave him to me. He was a bit of a b……to ride,” Luke said.

He trained on his own for about four years, and had a runner (Man Of Choice) early on in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington in 2015.

“Man Of Choice was placed in both the Gloaming Stakes (Group 3) at Rosehill and Spring Champion Stakes (Group 1) at Randwick,” he said.

“We had a big offer for him, but one of the owners wouldn’t sell. I regretted starting him in the Derby as he was a big heavy horse and, even though he was placed a few times subsequently in town, never won another race.

“I had a really good Show A Heart mare Belle De Coeur, and won three races with her, including one in town, and she was also placed in Group 2 and 3 company.”

Luke Price says he and his father’s training business works well.

“We take the pressure off each other,” he said. “I’ve got a young family and make sure everything is sorted out at the stables, and Dad enjoys going to the races when we have runners.”

With a new 2023-24 season just around the corner, the Prices are looking ahead – not behind.

“Obviously, quality horses like Count De Rupee and Jamaea are hard to replace,” Luke Price said.

“But we’ve got some lovely young animals, and we’re hoping that at least one or two of them step up.

“You never stop hoping in this game.”

*Words John Curtis, June 19, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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