The year in reflection

From Trentham in January to Santa Anita in October, not to mention the nearest of misses at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November, Darley-sired throroughbreds have excelled the world over in 2008

After the exploits of the magnificent Ouija Board, it was almost impossible to think we’d witness another seven-time Group One-winning mare, let alone by the same stallion. But Cape Cross has done it again. In January, his NZ-bred daughter Seachange took her tally of top-flight wins to six when landing the Telegraph Handicap at Trentham before matching Ouija Board’s fantastic achievement with victory in the Waikato Sprint at Te Rapa, an appearance which marked her last run on home turf.

She was not the only star for Cape Cross this year as he also sired five Group Two winners in Europe: Sabana Perdida, Crystal Capella, Russian Cross, Treat Gently and the highly promising juvenile Sea The Stars, who is a half-brother to Galileo.

Exceed And Excel lived up to his name when his first Australian crop carried all before them to provide the young stallion with Champion first-season sire honours. In Europe, only Champion freshman Kheleyf, whose first-crop included 31 individual winners, could better him numerically.

With the current Australasian season having kicked off in August, Reset is now leading the way among the second-crop sires and has already produced a Derby winner, Rebel Raider. Exceed And Excel is just behind him in the table followed by Lonhro, to give the Darley sires a stronghold among the sophomores.

Another stallion to feature well among the Australian results was Halling. He may never have shuttled to the southern hemisphere but his son Bauer took out the G3 Geelong Cup and was run down in the dying strides in the Melbourne Cup by Viewed. Bauer will go down in history as the first horse to run the fastest time in a race but not be declared the winner!

No owner has enjoyed a finer year than HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, who finished 2008 as leading owner in Britain thanks to the exploits of New Approach, Raven's Pass and Donativum.

Having finished the previous season as Champion two-year-old, New Approach was always going to be one of the stars of the Classic generation. Initially he had to play second fiddle, but only just, to Henrythenavigator, to whom he finished second in both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas. But come Derby day and it was a different story. New Approach ruled supreme at Epsom and went on to collect the Champion Stakes in Britain and Ireland.

While New Approach has retired to Dalham Hall Stud for the forthcoming breeding season, another incredibly impressive chestnut who bore the same silks becomes his equally exciting counterpart at Kildangan. Raven’s Pass, conqueror of the mighty Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and also a highly impressive juvenile offers an exciting option to breeders in Europe. He is, of course, a son of Elusive Quality, who shuttles between Darley’s farms in Kentucky and New South Wales and is himself by the great American sire Gone West. Raven’s Pass’ dam Ascutney is a full-sister to the dam of another Darley stallion E Dubai.

With two such cracking colts running in Princess Haya’s increasingly famous colours, it’s easy to forget Donativum, the grey son of Cadeaux Genereux who showed such extraordinary improvement when becoming the first male winner of the Tattersalls Millions and going on to strike at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. As a gelding he is ineligible for the British Classics but such was his success stateside that a campaign aimed at the Kentucky Derby beckons for Donativum in 2009.

That’s certainly something to look forward to and we hope that all the breeders, whose patronage is so important to us here at Darley, have much to look forward to on the racecourse and in the paddocks next year. We wish you all the very best for Christmas and a lucky and happy new year.