Keeping Up With Craig Dunphy
Feel good stories don’t get much better than that of Craig Dunphy’s and the purchase of a broodmare by No Excuse Needed named Red Delicious. A relative newcomer to the thoroughbred breeding industry, Craig, along with his wife of nearly 30 years Steph, are relishing the opportunity to enjoy a lifelong passion through an honest purchase made three years ago which now has Group 1 performers on the ground.
Hard work and dedication are two words that spring to mind when looking back on Craig’s life as a farmer, growing up in Piopio on a sheep and beef farm he was destined to follow the family tradition. Upon leaving school it was decided land ownership was going to play an integral part for future success and a lease to buy arrangement on a Waikato property allowed Craig to springboard into the more lucrative dairy industry.
“I met Steph while I was young and owning the land was a great asset for us, we wanted to move into dairy and spent a year working for wages before share milking on a farm near Te Kuiti”, Dunphy noted. A drive to succeed even further saw the Dunphy’s make the big decision to move South where dairy stations were growing at a rapid rate.
“The decision to move South was to try and advance what we were doing, we got a great opportunity to share milk on a farm owned by the late Allan Hubbard in Ranfurly (roughly halfway between Wanaka & Oamau)”, Dunphy added. From there Craig milked some 1100 cows which provided him with the experience to step out on his own. In conjunction with family, Craig moved further south to Wallacetown near Invercargill after purchasing a large dairy farm. The success snowballed to the point where over 2500 cows would be milked across 3 farms in the district.
Racing was always a passion for Craig’s parents as he points to their pride and joy a Mussorgsky gelding, Spring Easy, labelled as the horse that ignited the flare for racing. Unfashionably bred, the warrior of nearly 70 starts was a consistent performer and good enough to place 3rd in the 1988 Group 1 Railway Handicap behind the well-bred Australian mare, Alynda (Nassau). In 2015 Craig and Steph made the decision to head back home and be closer to family when the opportunity to purchase Oakfield Farm in Cambridge arose (previously own by successful breeder/owner Phil Bayly), allowing them to follow the fascination of breeding thoroughbreds, “the property is so well set up for horses, it just made sense, so we went down this path”.
The good fortune continued in 2017 when Craig purchased the broodmare Red Delicious in foal to Atlante (subsequently named Shezdelicious) at the 2017 NZB Broodmare Sale for a bargain price of $1,000. “I bought her, then must admit a month or two later re-listed her on Gavelhouse. The sale fell through and she was never sold, it turned out to be good result”, Craig confesses. Less than 12 months later her third foal, by Pins, named Madison County, would declare himself as one of the country’s premier three-year-olds when winning the Group 2 Hawkes Bay Guineas. Starting favourite, he was a convincing winner of the Group 1 2000 Guineas and went on to record a stellar season with a second win at Group 1 level in the Levin Classic and narrow defeats in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic and the Group 1 Australian Derby - Madison County was crowned the 2018/2019 Champion NZ 3YO with over $1M in prize money.
The future looks bright for the Dunphy’s with the rising three-year-old Shezdelicious in work with the Baker/Forsman team while her dam is in foal to Champion Australian stallion Pierro.
Craig and Steph breed from a small pool of mares and love being surrounded by them on the farm to feed and care for. Stallion investment has been a key focus and as shareholders in the exciting young sire Tarzino they are spurred by the positive word on his progeny.
We caught up with Craig to found out more.
What race would you travel back in time for?
Madison County’s win in the 2018 Group 1 2000 Guineas. We were on course to celebrate - it was a magnificent day and weekend!
Race you would most like to win?
Cox Plate & Melbourne Cup.
Best horse you have seen?
I haven’t been to many, but Ellerslie is always enjoyable.
Favourite stallion of all time?
Favourite stallion at Westbury Stud?
Tarzino. As shareholders we are thrilled with what we have produced by him and the feedback we are hearing gives us great encouragement. He is so much like Zabeel and was a top racehorse in the best company in Australia.
Best piece of breeding advice you’ve received?
Conformation of both a stallion and mare is vital.