On the eve of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales Curraghmore’s Gordon Cunningham was again pleased to see the farm’s past-graduates do the talking on the track, no doubt paving the way for further confidence for the product he will present at auction this week.
The Karaka Sales will commence from 11am on Monday and pedigree updates don’t come much bigger than offering a full-sister to a Derby winner.
But that is exactly the position Cunningham finds himself in following the authoritative victory of Asterix in Saturday’s Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) for trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.
The popular Irishman sold Asterix, a son of Tavistock, through his 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft and will offer a full sister to the smart stayer as Lot 434 on Tuesday. `
“Asterix was born and raised on the farm and developed right through,” Cunningham said.
“That is the ultimate as the Derby, in whatever country you are in, is the pinnacle and every winner gives us fulfilment, but to be associated with a New Zealand Derby winner in the same way as we were with Efficient winning the Melbourne Cup, is extremely special.
“He was bred by Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock, who is a great supporter of New Zealand racing and breeding.
“He bases his four or five mares in New Zealand with us.”
Cunningham said the fact Asterix was a late October foal from a classic European family was the impetus to offer him as a breeze-up horse, where he had more time to mature.
“He was broken in by Mark Brooks and he went into the Ready To Run Sale on quite a light preparation,” Cunningham said.
“He breezed up in 11.8 seconds, but his action was extremely fluent which wasn’t missed by the buying bench.
“Physically at the sale he was an extremely good-looking horse who was well sought after, where (owner) Sam Kelt bought him on the advice of Bruce Perry, Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.
“Their mission was to secure a Derby winner at the sale and I will always remember Sam’s reaction when he was knocked down to him, it was like he had won the Derby, so what has transpired 15 months later as they won the Derby is a phenomenal training achievement.”
Cunningham described the update for the Derby winner’s full sister as “serious” and said he was looking forward to the daughter of Tavistock and the stakes-performed Shirocco mare Mourasana stepping through the ring.
“She is from a very, very high class European middle-distance family, an Aga Khan family and at the same stage I would say she has a little more maturity than her full brother,” Cunningham said.
“She is not quite as tall as him, but she has a certain amount of sharpness about her. We are excited to be offering her and while the timing is very good, regardless of all of that, in time, she is a filly we will be following as we know the genes work.”
In addition to cheering home Classic success at Ellerslie, Cunningham was thrilled to see another farm graduate Annavisto commence her autumn campaign with a Group Three victory in the Frances Tressady Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Saturday.
“She didn’t go to the yearling sale as at the time she was physically a little bit immature and she was developed on the same schedule as Asterix,” Cunningham said.
“She went into training with Tony Pike and was bred by Greg Tomlinson at Nearco Stud who keep a number of their horses with us, so she is a real product of Curraghmore and of New Zealand as a nursery in terms of her development.
“She is trained by Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr and is the seventh stakes winner that they have trained from Curraghmore.
“She’s part-owned by Bill Frost (Pendant Equine), who has had a lot of success as well with horses from us.
“Bill bought a filly from us called Royal Ocean who won the Morphettville Guineas (Listed, 1600m).
“He has also had a terrific amount of luck with NZ bred horses like Zarita and Ballet Society.”
The Curraghmore principal is also proud to be offering Lot 433, an Impending half-brother to Group One winner On The Bubbles, who further enhanced his career record with a strong victory at Ellerslie in the Listed Mufhasa Stakes (1400m).
On The Bubbles was sold by Curraghmore’s Barn G neighbour Leanach Lodge, snapped up for $90,000 by David Ellis at the 2020 Karaka Sales.
“The Impending colt is a good-looking horse, very strong and by all accounts has a lot in common with his half-brother,” Cunningham said.
“He is a half-brother to a Group One winner from a dam who is a half to a Group One winner, and it is good to see On The Bubbles has trained on and has withstood the rigours of some intensive racing from two to three.”
Cunningham is positive ahead of an important week for New Zealand breeders as the cream of the thoroughbred crop goes under the hammer.
“We have a very broad draft and I feel our horses have, in general, been very popular,” he said.
“Everyone has been zoning in on what they perceive to be our most likely prospects but, like every barn here at Karaka, there is potential to be had if the horses have been raised on all these farms around the country. It is what comes out of the ground here in New Zealand that breeds the (outstanding) horses, and we just compliment that.”