Tofane (NZ) (Ocean Park) was at her best on Saturday when claiming the second elite-level win of her career with a brave performance to secure the Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
A few weeks ago the five-year-old mare was at a career crossroads.
Having managed two Group placings since her Gr.1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) victory last autumn, her owners were weighing up whether to auction her at Queensland's national broodmare sale.
Rupert Legh was one of those keen to sell but on Saturday at Eagle Farm, he was happy he was outnumbered after the mare stormed to victory in the Stradbroke Handicap.
"We were at the sales only three weeks ago to make a decision whether we sold her on not," Legh said.
"Fortunately, I was outvoted by the other owners and here she is today winning another Group One."
The Mike Moroney-trained mare has proven herself a top-level sprinter and was good enough to earn a slot in last year's Everest, finishing ninth.
While connections haven't ruled out another tilt at the A$15 million Sydney race, Legh suggested the mare could extend to a middle-distance and contest the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m), a race her Waikato Stud-based sire Ocean Park won.
"Mike has been trying to get this horse to a mile plus. If you look at her pedigree, it suggests she can get to 2000m, so who knows, we might be running in the Cox Plate in October this year," Legh said.
Ridden by Craig Williams, Tofane slotted in behind the speed and presented in the straight to wear down local hope Vega One (Lope de Vega) and capture the Stradbroke by a half-length.
Williams said he pushed hard to get the ride on Tofane once he knew Adelaide filly Instant Celebrity (Not A Single Doubt) wasn't heading north.
"When (trainer) Phillip Stokes decided Instant Celebrity wasn't going to come up here, after Tofane's last run I said, 'get me on that horse please. I really think she can win the race for us'," Williams said.
"I loved the way Mike had spaced her runs. She's now a dual Group One-winning mare.
"I had to try to restrain her throughout the race and she got a bit inconvenienced throughout but she was really strong late."
Tofane was bred by Curraghmore Principal Gordon Cunningham and did her initial education in Moroney’s Matamata barn under the care of co-trainer Pam Gerard.
She won an 820m trial at Te Teko before Ballymore Stable clients purchased her from Cunningham and she was transferred to Moroney’s Melbourne barn.
Not initially a standout foal, Cunningham said there was plenty of development in the daughter of Ocean Park between weanling and yearling stage.
“Whilst we included her in our entries for Karaka for the yearling sales , I felt in my own mind there was a fair chance I would retain her,” he said.
“I loved the make-up of her pedigree on her dam line, but also Ocean Park was a superbly bred horse.
“Each year I keep at least one filly and she was a filly I kept by choice rather than one that was unwanted.”
After Tofane’s impressive trial win at the beginning of her three-year-old season in New Zealand, Cunningham’s phone rang hot, but he was thrilled clients of Ballymore could secure the filly, who have been rewarded with a multiple Group One winner.
“Of course, I am a horse trader, and I had a good sized offer from two leading stables in Sydney but with my own horses I will always give the trainer an option to secure the horse to be retained in the stable,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham would later sell Tofane’s dam Baggy Green to Kevin and Jo Hickman’s Valachi Downs, with the mare foaling an Ocean Park full sister to Tofane last year.
An impeccably bred daughter of Galileo, Baggy Green is a three-quarter sister to Group One winners Funstar (Adelaide) and Youngstar (High Chaparral). In addition to Tofane, she is also the dam of exciting stayer No Compromise (NZ) (Pins), a recent Sydney winner for Chris Waller.
Cunningham had a winning double on Saturday after Palm Springs (Super Easy), who he bred in partnership with Pencarrow Thoroughbreds, won her 1100m contest at Te Rapa. The four-year-old mare who races in the silks of Sir Peter Vela was resuming off the back of a successful preparation last year when she won twice and finished third in four starts. -RAS NewsWire, NZ Racing Desk