When Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation in Kentucky decided to make an addition to its stable of racing sponsorships, it didn't choose another nationally prominent event like the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland or the Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Instead, it opted for a regional thrust and went with the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s annual Day of Champions races in Florida.
"When you look at other racetracks and other races and try to find a place where there was a critical mass of your clients, there was no better place than Ocala," said Dan Pride, Darley's chief operating officer.
The Darley sponsorship increased the purses for two of the races on the five-event card, which is scheduled for Feb. 11. The value of the OBS Championship Stakes rose from $100,000 to $150,000, and the value of the OBS Sprint rose from $50,000 to $75,000. The winners of the three other races each will receive a 2008 or 2009 season to a Darley stallion.
"We try to have the sponsorships tied into the marketing arm of the operation, so there is more than one benefit," Pride said. "But, ultimately, you like to be where your clients are and show support for an endeavor in their backyard and show appreciation for what they have done with you in the past while building relationships with new clients for the future."
The Ocala market, according to Pride, "represents a deep pool of Darley clients as well as potential future clients. We did research and found that there were over 500 yearlings registered in Florida a year ago by stallions that stood for $10,000 or more in Kentucky. That is a pretty good number, and we stand stallions for $10,000 or more. You figure to get those 500 or so foals; there were probably 700 or 750 mares bred, at least. We would love to have (the owners of) those mares consider our stallions in Kentucky."
Darley doesn't own a breeding farm in Central Florida, but it does stand Essence of Dubai at Harley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds near Ocala.
"We have not gotten to the point where we have seriously considered a satellite division in Florida," Pride said.
While Darley hopes to attract mares for its stallions, OBS general manager and director of sales Tom Ventura, is hoping that the richer OBS races will attract more horse owners, who in turn will stay and spend money at the OBS February select sale of 2-year-olds in training the following day.
"Hopefully, it will follow that they'll come to our sale and try to buy another horse for their stable," Ventura said.