Another Devcich in the winning photo

Tony Devcich has had his share of success with the likes of New Moon and Sing In The Sun, but at Te Rapa yesterday it was the turn of his nephew, Phillip, to be in the winner’s enclosure as a trainer.

Phillip Devcich posted just the second training success of his career when saddling up El Soldado to take the Valachi Downs Open 2100 by a length from Grand Admiral with the favourite, Chaparrone, third.

He had recorded his first success as a trainer when El Soldado’s sister, Pepita, raced away to a seven and a half-length win at Paeroa on May 21, 2010. Pepita went on to pick up a few placings, but failed to recapture that winning touch. “She didn’t have the temperament,” recalled Devcich.

El Soldado has that vital ingredient missing from Pepita’s makeup and has now won four of his 24 starts, the first three wins when being trained at Cambridge by Graham Thomas and Paul Mirabelli.

Devcich (46) races El Soldado with Brett and Christine Higginson, his brother-in-law and sister, the trio having bred the son of Colombia.

“I trained him to start with, but I got kicked in the head by a horse,” said Devcich. “It wasn’t anything serious, just concussion, but I couldn’t ride for quite a while so that’s when I stopped training.”

El Soldado returned to Devcich’s Matangi stable after his last campaign and has had six starts this term for two fourths. But it was his seventh placing in last weekend’s Group II Waikato Times Gold Cup, which gave Devcich confidence to back him up yesterday.

“He was a bit unlucky in the Waikato Cup,” said Devcich. “He pulled up well and I was confident he’d go well (yesterday). Jason (Jago) rode him beautifully.”

Devcich is keen to have a crack at the Group II City Of Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and knew the horse had to shape up to have a chance of making the field.

“I wanted to either go for the Dunstan Final or the City Of Auckland Cup,” said Devcich. “He’s fit and well so he’ll go for the Cup. Long-term I’d like to have a go at the Auckland Cup with him.”

Though Devcich had won a race previously, yesterday’s success was very special.

“He races in my Dad’s colours and it was good to see them winning,” said Devcich. “Dad (Luka Devcich) passed away about 10 years ago. He raced quite a few horses over the years.”

Devcich was a dairy farmer before taking out a permit-to-train license, but he has had a lifetime involvement with horses.

“I had polo ponies and played polo in America, England and Australia as well as here. I did that for about 20-odd years. But my passion has always been racehorses and I knew I’d get into it one day.”

The breakthrough for Devcich came when given On The Rocks, the grandam of El Soldado, as a broodmare. On The Rocks, a half-sister to the top galloper Counsel and from the family of Topsy etc, left Zo’al, the dam of El Soldado.