Regally bred filly Toffee Tongue added to her family’s rich legacy when finishing runner-up behind Colette in the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
The Chris Waller-trained daughter of Tavistock is a full-sister to former Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther, Group One performer Milseain, and Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) winner Gobstopper.
She earnt black-type when second behind Colette in the Gr.2 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) a week prior and is now on the way towards paying back her $500,000 purchase price as a yearling, notwithstanding her high residual value.
Toffee Tongue was bought by bloodstock agent Dean Hawthorne out of Highden Park’s 2018 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale Book 1 draft and Highden Park Principal Libby Bleakley was delighted with the weekend’s result.
“It was huge, we were so rapt with her,” she said. “We knew that she would have a better shot than some of the more touted runners just because of the way the track was (Heavy8).
“She grew up here in the Manawatu mud during winter, so we thought she would cop it better than most.”
Toffee Tongue now boasts five placings from eight starts and Bleakley said her connections have been excited about her prospects for some time.
“Toffee Tongue was always going to improve over ground and with time,” she said. “The whole family has done that, they just keep getting better and better.
“After her first couple of starts we rang Dean Hawthorne, who purchased her for Jonathan Munz’ Pinecliff Racing, and they have always had a big opinion of her. Even though she is not a very big horse they said she has always had really good aggression.
“We have always had a little bit of hope for her, but it was nice to see that result.”
Her dam, Bagalollies, resides at Bleakley’s Manawatu property and she said Toffee Tongue is a mirror image of her mother.
“Our sales pitch at Karaka was that Bagalollies is such a fantastic mare herself, wouldn’t you want to buy the replica of her? And that was Toffee Tongue.
“As far as temperament and physical type she is definitely the most like herself that she has produced.
“Bagalollies is amazing. She is just a regular mare in the paddock, she doesn’t know she is special and she is not treated any different. She just goes from strength to strength that mare.”
Bleakley was also pleased the expensive purchase is proving her worth.
“It’s a relief for us when owners get a return on their investment because it is a lot of money to spend on a yearling and it’s always nice to see them live up to the expectations that owners and buyers do have on the horse when they outlay that sort of money,” Bleakley said.
“Now she is a valuable broodmare going forward.”
Highden Park has had an exceptional strike-rate of late with their graduates such as dual Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation, Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Ping Hai Star, and Werther, but Bleakley also noted the farm’s Oaks success.
“Highden Park has had three fillies run in an Oaks and all three have run second. We have had Milseain (Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks, 2400m), Harlow Gold (Gr.1 VRC Oaks, 2500m), and now Toffee Tongue.”
Meanwhile, Werther has recently joined Ping Hai Star in retirement at Highden Park and Bleakley said he is enjoying educating younger stock.
“Werther is really good. He has got the older group of weanlings, he didn’t quite know what to do with the younger ones, so Ping Hai Star is in with them because he is fantastic.
“But Werther does such a good job, he has got them on a really good routine. They eat, sleep, work, and repeat. He gets them up and takes them off around the paddock and they do a few good laps.”
Like many operations around the world, Highden Park has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic with Bagalollies and her Tavistock yearling colt originally set to be be sold in Australia.
In consultation with their owners, Bleakley withdrew both horses and said a decision will be made on their future in the coming months.
“The colt is something special, we would easily say this is the best foal Bagalollies has had,” she said.
“We have just turned him out, we are still feeding him up and we are just going to wait for the lockdown to lift and make some decisions after then.
“We have also withdrawn Bagalollies from the Gold Coast sale. We will also make a decision on what we do with her after the lockdown has lifted, but the first port of call for her is foaling down in early September.”
While many businesses are struggling with the effects of Covid-19, Bleakley said Highden Park has been fortunate with strong support from their clients.
“We see how many people are hurting and we are so fortunate that we have been in a position to keep on our team because our team is so valuable,” Bleakley said.
“This is the best team we have ever had working for us, we would be lost without them.” – NZ Racing Desk