Turffontein is a firming favourite to break a run of outs for Victorian stallions in the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes.
His unbeaten filly Fontiton is at $4.60 in pre-post markets for the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on February 28 and victory will complete a full circle for Blue Gum Farm owner Philip Campbell.
Blue Gum initially stood champion sire Encosta de Lago and among his Victorian progeny was 2004 Blue Diamond champion Alinghi. A decade of winners since then have been conceived in the Hunter Valley.
Turffontein (Johannesburg) was a Group 1 winner of the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield and William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley before retiring to Blue Gum Farm in 2010.
“Encosta also won a Rupert Clarke and we were delighted to acquire a horse of his ability,” Campbell said. “He’s a very masculine looking horse from a pre-potent sireline that’s free of Northern Dancer going back four generations.”
Fontiton is a true-blue product of Blue Gum’s Euroa nursery. Philip’s father Graham Campbell bought into the family with a $55,000 bid for 12 year-old mare No No Nanette (Showdown) at an Inglis Sydney Sale in 1984.
She foaled Rancho Ruler first-up at Blue Gum and he also won a G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (when it was known as the Marlboro Cup) plus a Manikato Stakes and Memsie Stakes.
Rancho Ruler sired Fontiton’s second-dam Blue Gum Girl and she foaled 6 winners including Personal Ensign (Rubition) who won a stakes race for Philip Campbell during the 2006 Caulfield Cup carnival.
Personal Ensign threw two winners by Elvstroem before Fontiton was sold for $110,000 at the 2014 Inglis Melbourne Premier yearling sale. She is owned by Matchem Racing’s Byron Rogers and Matthew Cain along with Inglis Bloodstock consultant James Price and Vasko Ognenovski who won a 10% share through a Herald Sun newspaper promotion.
Fontiton passed several key tests with flying colours at Oaklands and the Matchem team predicted she had the genetic and physical characteristics to become elite performer.
Rogers is based in Kentucky after starting his working life in the Hunter Valley and, apart from his own expertise, the criteria for yearlings includes heart-scores, DNA testing of hair samples and the experienced eye of Group 1 trainer Robert Smerdon.
The new-age selection process struck gold when Fontiton won the $250,000 Inglis Banner by 6 lengths at Moonee Valley in October and she returned for a Group 3 victory in the Blue Diamond Preview at Sandown on Australia Day.
“She has come through the Preview really well,” Smerdon said after the filly sizzled over 600m in 32 seconds at Sandown on Saturday morning. “There’s still improvement to come and the (G2 Blue Diamond) Prelude this Saturday will top her right off.”
The Group 1 Blue Diamond worth $1 million later this month is the immediate grand-final but Smerdon is also looking ahead to the spring. “She’s got good height and scope about her for a filly. We expect her to eventually stretch out to 1600 metres for a race like the Thousand Guineas.”
Fontiton has a yearling half-sister by Canford Cliffs that made $20,000 at the Inglis Sydney Foal Sale last year. She was purchased by Bucklee Farm’s Leeanne Smith and will race for Victorian owners Carol Randells and Dennis Price.
Personal Ensign has a another Canford Cliffs filly on the ground and she is back in foal to Turffontein.
Smerdon also prepares G2 Edward Manifold Stakes winner Fontein Ruby who is bred on the same Turffontein / Rubiton cross as Fontiton. They have helped Turffontein climb into third place on the Australian second-season premiership with earnings over $1.10 million so far this season.
Turffontein has 10 yearlings catalogued for the Melbourne Premier starting with Blue Gum’s colt (Lot 5) from a half-sister to Melbourne Group 3 winners Intelligent Star (Rubiton Stakes) & Blaze The Turf (Autumn Classic).