Darley Continues Buying Spree Down Under

By Ric Chapman
It seems purchasing sprinting sensation Exceed And Excel (Danehill-Patrona) for A$22 million (U.S. $16.9 million) last month wasn't enough for the ever-expanding Darley in Australia. The big boys have just grown a tad more and in the interim again turned the screws on all Australian stud rivals by buying Australia's best 3-year-old Reset (Zabeel-Assertive Lass) for A$20 million (U.S.$15.3 million) overnight.

We all have held wild fanciful visions that Sheikh Mohammed's pockets are endless but only now has that fact been totally made clear. He has spent $42 million (U.S.$32.2 m) on two young racehorses in the past month – that's above and beyond the $8 million to buy his Hunter property and the countless millions he has spent on mares alone. And this capital outlay has been spread over just 35 months. Reset's purchase brings to 15 the number of stallions standing at Darley in Australia this year.

Reset, for example for those not overly familiar with Australian results, is to Australian 3-year-olds what say Halfbridled is to America's 3-year-old fillies... only he's a colt of course.

Reset has awesome talent, even better acceleration and a pedigree that screams stallion. He only had to run fast to warrant it and he certainly could do that. He retires as a 3-year-old unbeaten in his five starts. Those five starts were recorded in just one short campaign. Those same five starts saw him improve from maiden grade to group I company. And he beat the second best 3-year-old colt in the land Starcraft in the Australian Guineas (Aust-I) over 1,600 meters (one mile). To further showcase Reset's quality, Starcraft is a multiple group I winner and has been beaten just once in his past seven starts....by Reset.

"This is a quality racehorse and quality individual," beamed Darley's Australian general manager Olly Tait. "We knew him as a yearling and have been following him ever since. When Sheikh Mohammed said see if you can get him, we approached his owner Lloyd Williams and the deal was done."

As is the policy of Darley, Tait was tight lipped about the actual sale price but when A$20 million was suggested he simply smiled and said, "I can't comment on that but I will say that both Lloyd and Darley came to a mutual agreement about retiring him right now unbeaten. And it makes sense as he beat his own age bracket at group 1 level then at his next start, he dropped in distance, took on open grade in a group 1 race and won that too. He ticked all the boxes necessary and Sheikh Mohammed is very happy we own him now."

Tait said his fee would be announced after Easter but pundits believe it will be around AUS$25,000.

Reset's short but highly productive life on the track began on Boxing Day last year, where he won his first start with his head on his chest. It made everyone who saw it sit up and take notice but not even his most ardent fan would have predicted what followed. Remember too as you read on, this is the best crop of 3-year-olds ever to race in Australia. And there are no arguments from anyone about that claim.

Reset's next two starts were both over 1,400 meters (7 furlongs), winning each by three lengths then 3 1/2 lengths before stepping up to a mile and group 1 competition in the VRC Australian Guineas. Among those he beat that day was Starcraft, and another group I winner in Elvstroem. Two weeks later he dropped back in distance to outgun seasoned weight-for-age performers Vocabulary, Yell and Thorn Park -- all major sprinters with group wins to their credit -- in the 1 MRC Futurity Stakes (AUS-I) over 1,400 meters, putting the opposition to bed with an electrifying burst of speed.

Reset's brilliance as a racehorse is matched equally by his pedigree. He is by six-time Champion sire Zabeel out of two-time grade 1 winner Assertive Lass, who herself is own-sister to former champion 2-year-old and champion miler, Assertive Lad.

"I think being by Zabeel, out of an outstanding mare, there is no doubt he is one of the most attractive stud prospects for years, and a worthy addition to a terrific roster of stallions already at Darley," added Tait.

Now it seems the Darley roster of 15 stallions is likely to attract about 1,700 mares this year.