Curraghmore’s Gordon Cunningham has been acknowledged by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) with the Wild Geese trophy, an award sponsored by the Aga Khan for Irish horsepeople who have represented their home country on the world stage with distinction. Cunningham received the award at the National Breeding & Racing Awards, which took place virtually.
The Te Awamutu-based horseman has flown the Irish flag with great pride for more than two decades in the southern hemisphere, raising equine champions such as Fairway and Melbourne Cup hero Efficient, amongst 18 Group One winners from Curraghmore, as well as welcoming and nurturing many young and emerging Irish breeders who made their way to the country.
“I know what the Aga Khan means to Irish breeding and his support in racing and breeding over the years and it’s a great honour for me to receive an award that has been sponsored by him,” Cunningham said. “I am very grateful to the ITBA and I know that there’s so many people like myself all over the world that are very, very worthy of this acknowledgement and I feel very proud and privileged to be considered worthy of it.
“I would like to acknowledge my late Uncle Dick Collins and my aunt Bernie who basically took my younger brother and I under their wing when my father passed away when we were pretty young.
“They brought us up to the Curragh every summer and from my first summer at Lisieux Stud, I can say that horses were always going to be my life.”
A grandson of the legendary Irish trainer Michael Collins, Cunningham established Curraghmore in 1994, with its name derived from Curraghmore House and Gardens in Port Law, Co. Waterford in Ireland.
Growing up in Waterford, Cunningham was in awe of this property and often remarked that it would be the perfect place for raising horses. And so in 1994 he established his own Curraghmore, originally situated on 160 acres in Ngahinapouri.
In 2008 a second farm, nestled in the countryside of Te Awamutu was purchased and initially used in conjunction with the Ngahinapouri property. In 2016 Curraghmore centralised it’s operation at Te Awamutu and is renowned for breeding and raising some of the finest thoroughbreds in New Zealand.
Cunningham’s two sons Patrick and Liam are also now heavily involved in the running of Curraghmore, which recently enjoyed a successful Karaka Sales, where once again they were among the leading vendors and sold 23 of 24 horses offered across Book 1 and 2.
While delighted to receive the award, Cunningham acknowledged the many people who had helped make the operation such a success over the past 26 years. “There have been so many people who have contributed and worked for Curraghmore and been part of our success. Their success is our success,” Cunningham said.
“I could never put a value on the support that so many people have given me and now I get a great sense of fulfillment to see Patrick and Liam, our two boys, who are becoming more and more involved in the farm every day and are giving me terrific support.
“I couldn’t have been more fortunate to settle in New Zealand, which is blessed as one of the great thoroughbred breeding grounds of the world, and I am looking forward to some great years ahead breeding more good horses.”