Bradbury Park principals Casey and Michelle Dando are fizzing ahead of the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Sunday.
The Matamata Farm is set to have three graduates contest the $1 million classic, including Tokorangi, Il Affare, and Grip.
The farm has its biggest connection with Tokorangi, with the Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) winner having been bred by Casey Dando in partnership with his mother Glenice, who still retains a share in the filly.
“Casey and I own Bradbury Park and he has bred the mare, Agent Ziva, with his mum, Glenice Dando,” Michelle Dando said.
“We used the Bradbury Park Redwood share nomination to send the mare, which resulted in Tokorangi.
“She was foaled and raised at Bradbury Park, and we sold her at the Karaka Yearling Sales and Casey’s mum retained a share in her.”
Tokorangi was purchased for $30,000 out of the Book 2 session of New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2019 National Yearling Sale by Paul Moroney and Ballymore Stables, and is trained by Michael Moroney in partnership with Pam Gerard at Matamata.
Dando said it is a proud moment being associated with one of the leading contenders for the Derby.
“It is awesome,” she said. “Even though my name is not on any of the paperwork, it’s just Casey and his mum, I am just as proud.
“It’s just like your children are going to their first major sports day. You follow them with great passion and it’s pretty cool.”
The farm’s second Derby contender, Grip, was also sold through New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2019 National Yearling Sale, with Paul Moroney and Ballymore Stables going to $100,000 to secure him out of Bradbury Park’s Book 1 draft.
“Grip was purchased with associates of ours in Australia and came back to us and sold through the Bradbury Park draft,” Dando said.
“He is a beautiful horse. Casey saw him in Australia and spoke with the other investors and said he would be rapt to bring him back here and sell him through our draft.”
While Dando will be cheering for Tokorangi and Grip on Sunday, she said Il Affare holds a special place in her heart and she will be over the moon if she gets up to win on Sunday.
The Peter and Dawn Williams-trained filly had a rough start to life, and Dando and other members of the Bradbury Park team spent countless hours nursing her back to health as a foal.
“She is an amazing girl,” Dando said. “She got sick as a foal and we nursed her back to health. Her determination has got her to where she is. She is one tough horse.
“We have spent a lot of time with her emotionally, we have a huge link with her. She has the kindest nature and she is mentally tough enough.
“We had her through to going off to the breakers, so she never made it to the sales, they ended up retaining her.
“She is owned by Greg Tomlinson, of Nearco Stud, he is a big supporter of Bradbury Park’s and a very close associate of the farm. We are absolutely delighted for him.
“If she can do it I will probably burst into tears. It would make my day if all three could do it in some form, but if Il Affare comes in I will open up a bottle of Champagne and be so proud of that girl’s efforts.”
A win on Sunday would cap a great six months for Bradbury Park, who also sold Group 1 VRC Derby (2500m) winner Johnny Get Angry.