A decision taken 18 months ago to try and establish themselves in the competitive world of thoroughbred breeding is on the cusp of paying some serious dividends for Cambridge couple Craig and Steph Dunphy.
Originally from King Country, and both with a farming background, the Dunphys had spent 14 years in the dairy industry on family-owned properties in Southland before deciding to return north with their two children in 2015.
While still actively involved in the management of their farms in the South Island, the Dunphys purchased the Karapiro property formerly known as Darley Park, now rebranded Oakfield Farm. Set on 50 acres of fertile grassland, the Dunphys run a beef fattening operation along with a thriving farm-stay accommodation business and now a boutique thoroughbred nursery.
An interest in thoroughbreds that was sparked by Craig Dunphy’s father, who had co-owned the 1988 Gr. 1 Railway Handicap placegetter Spring Easy, went to a new level when the couple decided they would begin to assemble a small broodmare band.
“When we shifted back here from Southland it provided the opportunity to move in a different direction,” Craig Dunphy said.
“We are still heavily involved in the three farms in Southland that we co-own with an uncle, but we have long-term managers and staff in place that run the operations on a day-to-day basis.
“It was always in the back of my mind to get involved in the breeding side of things, particularly having the set-up we’ve got, as thoroughbred breeding has always been my interest.”
The decision was made to attend the annual New Zealand Bloodstock Broodmare Sale in May last year to get the ball rolling.
“I went there basically just looking,” he said. “I had a dozen or so highlighted in the catalogue, including a No Excuse Needed mare who had a good pedigree and was a nice enough looking mare with a great nature, so we bought her out of the Waikato Stud draft for $1,000. She was also in foal to Atlante at the time.”
Named Red Delicious, the mare is from one of Waikato Stud’s best families with the brilliant Courtza, the dam of outstanding sprinter and subsequently champion stallion O’Reilly, featuring in her lineage.
Red Delicious duly produced a healthy Atlante filly to add to her earlier three offspring, two of whom who have since begun to excel on the track and add plenty of value to the Dunphys’ initial investment.
The mare’s third foal is Pins gelding Madison County, who stamped himself as a three-year-old of serious class with his victory in the Gr. 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas at Hastings last weekend.
The win saw him cement his favouritism for the Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton next month.
Older brother (Our) Pinnacle won one of his four New Zealand starts before heading to Singapore, where he has won again and is now being touted by his trainer, expat Kiwi Stephen Gray, as a serious contender for next year’s prestigious Singapore Derby.
“We couldn’t be more rapt with how things have panned out so far with this mare,” he said. “The plan was always to race the Atlante filly with my parents, who are getting on a bit now, so we will definitely be keeping her.
“She’s a lovely filly who has a bit of leg about her, so we are hoping to have a bit of fun with her before she goes into our broodmare band.
“Red Delicious is due to foal down to Jakkalberry later this month and then she will most likely go to Preferment, who we have a share in. It’s a good match for her.”
Dunphy is keenly anticipating the match, although he could see the dark humour in the situation when it was pointed out that each of the stallions the mare has visited – O’Reilly, Pins, Atlante and Jakkalberry – have passed away in the last two years.
“Hopefully we are going to be able to break that trend at some stage,” he said.