Senor Toba is flying the flag for Toronado in Hong Kong. (IMG: Hong Kong Racing)

Toronado’s Senor Toba is now rated among the top 25 horses in Hong Kong.

Beaten a half-head in the Group 1 Queensland Derby for trainer Chris Waller, the four-year was immediately transferred to Hong Kong trainer Caspar Fownes but it was 26 weeks before the gelding trialled.

The son of the in-demand Swettenham Stud stallion won at his third Hong Kong start and later ran fourth in the Listed Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in March and after a 42-day freshen-up, lived up to his $1.60 favouritism to score a two-length victory in the Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2400m) on May 1 at Sha Tin.

At his next and most recent start 21 days later, also at Sha Tin, Senor Toba finished third in the Group 1 Charter Cup (2400m).

Senor Toba, which had won the Group 3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m) at Randwick and was then third in the Group 3 Rough Habit Stakes (2000m) at Doomben before running second in the Queensland Derby, is equal 24th on the Hong Kong ratings but is expected to quickly climb up the list of the country’s best horses.

Swettenham Stud’s general manager of operations and nominations Sam Matthews said Toronado’s progeny continued to be in high demand in Hong Kong.

He said Senor Toba, out of Bahamas, was purchased for $180,000 at the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale by Hermitage Thoroughbreds.
“David Peacock and Mill Park bred him and it was always the plan to get him to Hong Kong,” he said.

“He was going to Hong Kong regardless of where he finished in the Queensland Derby.

“And he could be one of the many stars up there for Toronado and I’d say there would be bigger and better things to come for him.”

Matthews said the locals like Senor Toba and Toronado in Hong Kong and he believes Lucky Express, which won the inaugural $1 million Showdown (1200m) as Prince of Sussex at Caulfield, looms as the stallion’s next Stakes winner in the tough racing jurisdiction.

Prince of Sussex was sold to Hong Kong for $1.75m after his big win for Mornington trainer Matt Laurie in 2019.

“I would say Lucky Express is knocking on the door as his next Stakes winner in Hong Kong,” Matthews said.

“There are a few more up there as well and it was good to see Senor Toba get that Stakes win, and even without that Stakes win, Toronado is still incredibly commercial up there and very much sought after because of the temperament of his progeny.

“They certainly want them up there.”

Matthews said the majority of Toronados in Hong Kong are from his Australian matings, but there is a small number, including the talented grey Toronado Phantom, which was bred in Europe.

“But I would say 90 per cent would be Australian Toronados,” he said.
“They have a lot of Australian and New Zealand bred progeny that go there, but the vast majority would be Aussie. There might be one more up there which was a French-bred horse that went to Hong Kong but there is not a huge number of them.”

Matthews said that with Senor Toba it was always the plan to get the gelding going in Australia with a few starts before moving him to Hong Kong.

“It’s a shame because I think he should have won the Queensland Derby and I was there that day,” he said.

“He was just beaten narrowly by a good horse (Kukeracha) but he probably should have won it.”

Matthews believes Senor Toba will be Toronado’s No. 1 horse in Hong Kong for a while.

“I think there about 20 horses by Toronado up there now,” he said.

With an increase of his service fee from $49,500 to $88,000 for this breeding season, there is no shortage of breeders keen to send a mare to the son of High Chaparral.

Toronado served 172 mares last season.

“He is pretty much full for this season,” Matthews said.

“The quality of mare is better than last year and better than the year before, so he continues to get better and better mares to him.

“We have been strict on his book again and just making sure that we are only taking mares that we know that are going to get a commercial return for the people who are spending the eighty grand.

“It’s also people who have supported him before and are sending their best mares. I think he has got 11 Group winners booked to him and quite a few Group 1 producers and Group 2 winners and those sorts of blue hen mares they have coming to him.

“Obviously for $80,000 you have to be selective with the quality of mare you send and interestingly there are still quite a few breed to race people who just want to breed a nice horse and race it.

“And the larger commercial people are in there as well.”

Matthews said the demand for Swettenham Stud’s other stallions – Rubick, Puissance De Lune, I Am Immortal, Highland Reel and newcomer Wooded – was good.

“With horses like Rubick and Puissance De Lune, people need to have faith that they have these big books of quality mares coming through,” he said.

“It is the third season for I Am Immortal and he has already got more mares booked than he had last year (97) and they are all ticking along well but I think people are very bit cautious that they are going to go to something to make sure they get a commercial return.”

Matthews said the stud was always able to offer advice on which of their stallions was best suited to a particular broodmare and pedigree.