Asked what El Soldado's $500,000 upset win in Saturday's Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup meant to him, owner and trainer Phillip Devcich said: "No more bills".

"This was a dream come true," he told the Herald yesterday. And that's not taking it over the top.

Devcich was a pretty good polo player who wasn't quite good enough to make the representative team, but took himself to Australia, England and the US to play at the top level. Twenty years of milking cows when he returned taught him hard work.

As magnificent as EL Soldado's win was at $125 for $1 wagered, Saturday racing's battler wasn't gloating.


"You know, I have the greatest respect for the leading trainers like Murray Baker and Tony Pike, to be a top trainer you have to go out and get the good horse and that's not easy. I admire those guys so much.

"The brother-in-law [part owner Brett Higginson] plucked $20,000 off the tote and my sister Christine and I pulled a few thousand out."

That is in addition to the $100,000 each of the co-owners pulled from the winning stake.

"I think I might go to the beach with my surfboard for the next 10 days," said Devcich.

He now operates as a fencer after working El Soldado mornings.

"I got this horse when a mate Brian Richardson gave me a mare 20 years ago. The old man and I bred a mare which we bred this horse from."

Devcich tried professional training but said that didn't work. "That's why I have so much respect for professional trainers, because it's so hard."

El Soldado, three hurdle races past, is now free of a few niggles Devcich says hampered the veteran and was primed for his fourth attempt at the 3200m Auckland Cup.

Much of the credit for the win has to go to winning rider Darryl Bradley. The 49-year-old made a magic move when he shot El Soldado out to a four-length lead at the 800m. In a slowly run race those in the second half of the field were out of play - they couldn't possibly sprint home in the sectionals required.