Darley's position as the third-leading North American breeder by earnings doesn't give the full picture of how strong the 2016 racing year was for the international operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Through Dec. 28, Darley has been represented by 16 graded or group stakes winners from a deep pool of 44 black-type stakes winners for the year worldwide. Among the grade or group winners are five grade I victors: Frosted , Joking, Special Fighter, Thunder Snow, and Wuheida. For the purposes of the leading North American breeders list, however, Darley gets credit for 11 blacktype stakes winners, of which six won graded stakes.
A total of 628 starts by Darley-breds through Dec. 28 produced 110 wins and placed finishes in 179 races, which generated $6,819,154 in earnings. Darley has an 18% win rate, tied with Clearsky Farms as the leader in this category among the top five North American breeders. Darley is the leader among the top-five with an in-the-money rate of 46%.
Multiple grade I winner Frosted led Darley's North American string with $1,912,200 in earnings, his second year to earn more than $1.9 million.
"The highlight is to have a homebred like Frosted, who is out of one of the mares we purchased in the Stonerside acquisition," said Dan Pride, chief operating officer for Darley America. "For him to come up through our system and ultimately retire to the stallion barn fits one of key goals for the broodmare band, to produce stallions and elite racehorses."
Frosted, a son of Tapit —Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister, won two grade I stakes this year. He dazzled in the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (GI), winning by 14 1/4 lengths in stakes-record time of 1:32.73. Frosted followed with another impressive performance in the Whitney Stakes (G1), in which he rolled through the first three-quarters in 1:09.65 and won without a serious challenge by two lengths.
He retired this year with five graded stakes wins to his credit and earnings of $3,972,800, and enters stud next year at Darley at Jonabell with a sire class-topping fee of $50,000. Joking also landed two graded wins, taking the grade I Vosburgh Stakes and the grade II True North Stakes. Darley has ranked among the top five North American breeders every year since 2012, when it was honored with the Eclipse Award as leading breeder and Godolphin was honored as leading owner.
In 2012, Darley was the third-ranked breeder by earnings, but had bred five grade or group I winners. The operation's highest rank by earnings since 2012 was a secondplace finish in 2015 with $9,225,921. Being ranked among the leading breeders is important, according to Pride, but the ranking itself is not a goal.
"Whether it is being on the leading breeders list or having an Eclipse Award finalist, those are reflections of the quality of the work you are doing," he said. "Given that Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin want to compete at the highest level and in the world's most important races, we need to be competitive. Being on the leading breeders list shows we're meeting our real goals of producing elite racehorses and have quality stallions retiring from our racing stable. When they're homebreds, that's even better."