As preparations ramp up for the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales at Karaka in March, Curraghmore principal Gordon Cunningham was once again celebrating the success of a past graduate of his Te Awamutu-based operation.
The popular Irishman bred outstanding Ocean Park mare Tofane who added a fourth Group One victory to her impressive career record when she took out the Gr.1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday afternoon.
Although initially entered in the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale, Cunningham elected to retain Tofane and send her to trainer Michael Moroney’s Matamata barn under the care of co-trainer Pam Gerard.
Tofane won an 820m trial at Te Teko before Ballymore Stable clients purchased her from Cunningham and she was transferred to Moroney’s Melbourne stable where she has gone on to win eight races from 27 starts and over A$3.39 million in prizemoney.
Cunningham is justifiably proud of the mare, who he admitted didn’t really stand out as a young horse until she began to mature.
“She was a pretty typical Ocean Park early on, but with maturity she developed with more obvious quality and the look of a good horse ,” he said.
“She has gone on to show she is an absolutely elite galloper, who always gives her best.
“I actually feel she is probably still a touch underrated as the field she beat yesterday was full of quality and she did it in confident fashion.
“She led all the way and was a sitting duck for the stalkers and nothing could touch her.
“I think she deserves all the accolades she gets.”
With the National Yearling Sales less than a month away, Cunningham and his Curraghmore team are hard at work putting the finishing touches on a draft that will see them present 23 individuals in the Book 1 sale and a further four in Book 2.
Having developed and sold numerous elite horses on his Te Awamutu farm, Cunningham is confident the depth of his current draft will continue the legacy the farm has created since it was established back in 1994.
“We have been hard at work for the past five weeks and have enjoyed probably the best November and December period that I can recall.
“I’m delighted with how our preparations have gone so far as we certainly have confidence in our draft right through each colt and each filly,” he said.
“Hopefully the rewards will be there for us, and all the vendors, and that bidding will be deservedly strong across the two catalogues.
Cunningham is loathe to single out individuals in his draft but does have a special mention for Lot 410, a filly by Fastnet Rock out of Galileo mare, Memories Of You which makes her a full sister to Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) winner, Unforgotten and stakes placed filly Special Memories, who are both Curraghmore graduates.
“I guess our draft is headed by our full sister to Unforgotten Lot 410, who is a big prospect to run and is so well related. It is a privilege to be able to offer her for sale,” Cunningham said.
“We sold both of her sisters in Unforgotten and Special Memories and I think this filly has a lot of similarities to Unforgotten although she may even be a tad more mature at this stage.
“She is typical of those good Fastnet Rock fillies and is bred on the Fastnet Rock, Galileo cross that has provided ten individual Group One winners worldwide.
“We also have an Impending colt (Lot 433) who is a half to Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) winner On The Bubbles and he looks a lot like his half-brother, while we are offering three US Navy Flag Colts (Lots 125, 138, 157) who I also like.
“We have bred a lot of mares to US Navy Flag over the last three years as he was a terrific racehorse and I have high hopes he can make his mark as a sire.”
Cunningham also believes Lot 615, a Pierro filly out of Strada Cavallo will be a popular choice for the buying bench but he cautions buyers not to overlook some of the lesser profile horses in both his and other vendors drafts.
“I think the best thing about our draft is that it is very even across the board,” he said.
“We certainly have some standouts on paper, but the beauty of Karaka is that any yearling offered here could go on to be your next stakes winner.
“A case in point for us is Tarzino filly Gypsy Goddess, who is unbeaten in four starts, but was passed in during the Book 2 sale in 2020.
“For whatever reason, we were unable to sell her but look at her now as she won a Group Three race at her last start and will be one of the most favoured fillies for races like the Australian Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m) during the Sydney autumn carnival.
“Obviously there are some horses that are pretty obvious in their potential, but others like her can sneak under the radar so I really hope that buyers participate at Karaka in force and enjoy the rewards that are there annually for everyone.”
New Zealand bred horses are enjoying another fine season in Australia and following Tofane’s victory have now won 9 of the 32 Group One races (28%) conducted so far this term.
The New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales Series commences at Karaka on March 7 with the three-day Book 1 Sale followed by a further three days of selling with Book 2 taking place from March 10-12. – NZ Racing Desk