The Championships in Sydney have been compulsory viewing for many during the COVID-19 lockdown with the success of New Zealand exports, both equine and human a welcome diversion.
One viewer celebrating over the weekend was Curraghmore's Gordon Cunningham. Two of his farm’s graduates Tofane (Ocean Park – Baggy Green[AUS]) and Kinane (Reliable Man[GB]-Tres Rapide) raced away with group race spoils winning the Gr.1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) and Gr.3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m) respectively.
“It was a great thrill to watch Tofane win her first Group One in the time honoured All Aged Stakes,” said a very proud Cunningham.
“New Zealand breds have enjoyed another great autumn in Sydney, Tofane and Kinane are just further reminders of the quality horses we breed. I’m very proud that Curraghmore has further established itself among many of the successful thoroughbred nurseries in our country.”
Cunningham was responsible for breeding Tofane, while Kinane was bred by Greg Tomlinson’s Nearco Stud, a longstanding client of Curraghmore’s with several of his broodmare band making up the 50-60 mares in residence at Curraghmore alongside the 15 to 20 owned by Cunningham.
A four-year-old filly by Waikato Stud stallion Ocean Park, Tofane commenced her racing career as an autumn three-year-old and opened her winning account at her second start. She had a further two starts at three finishing the season with a second placing in the SAJC Gr.2 Euclase Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville.
She returned to racing this season in the spring and at her second start won again over 1200m at Moonee Valley. Two starts later she won the Gr.3 Bass Strait Beef Steaks Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield, followed by the VRC Furphy Sprint (1100m) at Flemington before a well-earned spell.
Her autumn campaign got off to an ordinary start, but at her third start hints of her sprinting ability returned when she ran third in the Gr.1 Galaxy Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill. At her next start in the Gr.1 T J Smith (1200m) at Randwick, she flew home late, giving rider Opie Bosson enough confidence to believe she was worth sticking with in the All Aged Stakes two weeks later.
And so it proved when she stormed home down the outside to claim Pierata on the line in the final Group One race of the championships.
Tofane is the second foal from Baggy Green, a winning Galileo (IRE) mare Cunningham purchased at the Sydney sales in foal to Pierro (AUS). Baggy Green’s dam Starspangled (AUS) is a winning Danehill (USA) mare out of the User Friendly who was the Champion European Three-Year-Old in 1982 winning five Group One races including The Oaks, the Irish Oaks, the Yorkshire Oaks, the St Leger, and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. She was also second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triopmhe.
At stud User Friendly left eight winners including the Group Three winner Downtown, also by Danehill(USA), and the stakes placed winner Two Miles West (Sadler’s Wells[IRE]).
When Cunningham purchased Baggy Green Starspangled had only left three winners, nowadays she is better known as the dam of the Group One winners Funstar (by Adelaide [IRE]) and Youngstar(by High Chaparral[IRE]), as well as the stakes placed winner Eleven Seconds (Encosta de Lago[AUS]).
“Ocean Park was an obvious mate for the mare at the time,” said Cunningham, an affable Irishman who settled here in 1987 as farm manager at Waikato Stud, before establishing Curraghmore in 1994.
“He was a racehorse of the highest class, with beautiful blood. Gareth Downey, who was at Waikato Stud at the time, liked the mating on paper so Tofane’s performances are fulfilling from that perspective also. Equally for our industry it is great to see Ocean Park fulfilling his potential also.”
Downey, who is now the General Manager of Valachi Downs, has had an influence on Baggy Green’s subsequent matings as the mare is now owned by Kevin and Jo Hickman. She had two visits to Pins (AUS) and produced colts No Compromise and Bradman, and a colt by Reliable Man who was sold at Karaka to John O’Shea and Laurel Bloodstock for $280,000. She is currently in foal to Ocean Park again.
“As a foal and yearling Tofane always had a great deal of presence and quality,” Cunningham recalled.
“Whilst we had entered her for the yearling sales it was really our intention to retain her to race. Knowing we were retaining this filly we sold Baggy Green to Valachi Downs to support some farm development at the time. The family has really prospered since with her three-quarter sisters Youngstar and Funstar both excelling and now Tofane becoming a Group One winner also. I am delighted for Kevin Hickman that he’s got a prize mare in his broodmare band.
“Tofane is the inspiration for me to go and find the next broodmare like Baggy Green.
“When she trialled impressively as a spring three-year-old the value that was placed on her couldn’t be ignored and we were delighted that Mike Moroney was able to secure her for clients of his Melbourne stable.
“As a youngster she was a filly that lacked natural confidence. But she’s been kindly nurtured and developed and the courage she displayed on Saturday is a real credit her along the way. I’m so pleased that Tofane has justified Mike’s confidence in her.”
Meanwhile Kinane was making only his fourth race day appearance when he took out the Gr.3 Frank Packer Plate having cleared maiden ranks at Wyong at the end of March. He is the first foal from the Nom de Jeu mare Tres Rapide, who produced one other foal a filly by Shocking (AUS) before she died in 2018.
“Kinane was bred here by Nearco Stud,” said Cunningham. “Greg Tomlinson boards most of his mares here, and we offered Kinane as a weanling at Karaka.
“It’s another endorsement for the farm, we were leading vendor for many years and we used the sale as genuine trading median. They got the opportunity and many a good horse has come from this sale. We have never been too shy to send good quality weanlings to the sale, it’s a good trading option and has kept a lot of clients in the game.
“Personally, all the horses that are raised here are like your own, and it’s a thrill to see them win,” he added, before mentioning the farm’s most famous graduate in Efficient the dual VRC Derby and Melbourne Cup winner.
Other Group One winners the farm has produced include Caulfield Guineas winner Mighty Boss, Australian Oaks winner Unforgotten, and New Zealand Oaks winner Fanatic, with no doubt there will be a whole lot more from this fine Waikato property. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA