12/07/2010 5:13PM

Darley Flush in Kentucky


In the first two parts of our occasional series on the world's leading stallions we highlighted a pair of young Darley sires in Europe. Shamardal stands at Darley's Kildangan Stud in County Kildare, Ireland while Dubawi is at their Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, England.

Today we focus on Sheikh Mohammed's powerful American Darley operation, situated at what used to be Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Darley has three of the Top 20 North American stallions this year in Elusive Quality (sixth), Street Cry (twelfth) and Medaglia d'Oro (seventeenth), as well as the outsanding first-year stallion Bernardini. In Elusive Quality and Medaglia d'Oro, Darley can brag that they stand the stallions of the two best fillies or mares to be trained in America in the last two years, viz., Zenyatta (Street Cry) and Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro).

Elusive Quaity was an aptly named racehorse. A son of Gone West out of a Hero's Honor mare, he is a half brother to Rossini, the juvenile winner at Maisons-Laffitte of the 5 1/2-furlong, Group 2 Prix Robert Papin. Very good on his day, Elusive Quality was rather awful on most other days, at least in stakes company. Allowed an easy lead in his two biggest victories in the space of five weeks in the summer of 1998, he went wire-to-wire to win a pair of Grade 3 turf stakes at Belmont Park, the 7-furlong Jaipur and the one-mile Poker. When pressed early on or outsped in subsequent outings in the Woodbine Mile and Kelso Handicap, he caved in, finishing unplaced in both events.

It appeared as if Elusive Quality, who was trained by Bill Mott for Sheikh Mohammed, might have lacked heart on the racetrack. If he did, his offspring show no signs of that fault, as he gets them to win on dirt, turf and synthetics at the highest levels in America, Europe and Australia, to which country he has shuttled on occasion.

Elusive Quality's most famous offspring is Smarty Jones, the colt who went into the 2004 Belmont Stakes undefeated and with a chance to win the Triple Corwn. He didn't quite last the 12 furlongs on the Big Sandy that day, going down by a length to Birdstone, but he was clear evidence that his sire, who never won beyond a mile, could produce top class runners going at least 10 furlongs.

Raven's Pass confirmed that opinion. Seemingly a miler in England where had won the 2009 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, he handled the step up to 1 1/4 miles in his next start on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Elusive Quality's best runner this year has been Quality Road. A brilliant miler, his weight-giving victory in the Metropolitan Handicap was sensational, but perhaps paled in the wake of his overwhelming 12 3/4-length romp in the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap, in which he gave away just as much weight as he would in the Met. He couldn't quite hold off subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame when spotting that one 5 lbs. in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Handicap, but made amends with a 4 3/4-length win in the Woodward four weeks later.

Quality Road couldn't stay 10 furlongs but may have been the best horse in America between eight and nine panels this year.

Most of Elusive Qulaity's best other runners have excelled between 5 and 8 furlongs. Maryfield won the 7-furlong, Grade 1 Ballerina and the 6-furlong, Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on dirt. Native Ruler is a smart dirt sprinter while West Ocean is a speedy turf sprinter. After Raven's Pass, 'Elusive's' best performer in Europe has been one-mile, Group 3 Craven Stakes winner Elusive Pimpernel, while in Canada he has 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish, who only just failed to stay 1 1/4 miles when third against colts in the Queen's Plate.

Elusive Quality stands for a fee of $50,000 in 2011.

Trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin, Street Cry, a son of Machiavellian out of the Irish Oaks winning Troy mare Helen Street, won the Dubai World Cup at 1 1/4 miles and the Stephen Foster at 1 1/8 miles. He has sired more Group or Grade 1 winners in his first three crops than either Storm Cat or A.P. Indy and shows no signs of resting on those laurels. He is, of course, the sire of the fabulous Zenyatta, the winner of 13 Grade 1 stakes between 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/4 miles on dirt and synthetics including the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic. Her exploits are the main reason that Street Cry will stand for a fee of $150,000 this year.

Street Cry's best son to date, Street Sense, was a two-time winner going 1 1/4 miles at the highest level in the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes. In his forays Down Under, Street Cry has sired 2-mile Melbourne Cup winner Shocking, who is also a Group 2 winner at a mile and a Group 3 winner at 1 9/16 miles. He also begot Whobegotyou, a Group 1 winner in Australia at both a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter.
Other Street Cry notables include Belmont's 1 1/8-mile, Grade 1 Go For Wand winner Seventh Street and Desert Party, a Group 3 winner going a mile on dirt at Nad Al Sheba and 6 furlongs on synthetics at Meydan. Street Cry's best juvenile this year is Saamid, the 2 1/4-length winner of the 7-furlong, Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

Street Cry, like so many Darley stallions, has good runners in every corner of the globe. He sires very solid 10-furlong performers, but there is a feeling he could sire more winners at longer distances if given the opportunity with the proper mares, something that may not occur in America, where there are so few races to be won beyond 1 1/4 miles.

With just three crops on the racetrack to date, Medaglia d'Oro is off to a flying start at Darley. Trained by Bobby Frankel for Edmund Gann, the son of Sadler's Wells best son to stand in America, El Prado, Medaglia d'Oro hit his best stride a little late on the track, not winning his first Grade 1 until taking the 2002 Travers Stakes. He was subsequently trumped by Volponi in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but would win the 9-furlong Whitney at four and the 9-furlong Donn Handicap at five before finishing second to Pleasantly Perfect in the Dubai World Cup in his racecourse finale.

His first crop was highlighted by the remarkable filly Rachel Alexandra. The winner of five Grade 1 races at three, among them victories over colts in the classic Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational, as well as agaisnt older colts in the Woodward, 'Rachel' had signaled that she would be a solid 9-furlong type with her late season juvenile score in the 1 1/6-mile, Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes.

While her 4-year-old campaign can only be termed disappointing, it still takes nothing away from her 3-year-old achievements. What she accomplished has help make Medaglia d'Oro the leader among session toppers at major sales during the last two years. His fee for 2011 will be $100,000, the same as last year.

Besides Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia d'Oro has sired major stakes winners between 7 furlongs and 1 3/8 miles. Champagne d'Oro and Gabby's Golden Gal both won Belmont's one-mile, Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, with Champagne d'Oro also accounting for the 7-furlong, Grade 1 Test Stakes, while 'Gabby' was successful on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride in the 7-furlong, Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap in which she defeated subsequent 4-time Grade 1 turf winner Proviso. Warrior's Reward landed this year's 7-furlong, Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, while Al Khali, who began his career going 2-for-3 on dirt in Peru, reached peak form when winning the 1 3/8-mile, Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on the Belmont Park turf.

In Europe, Medaglia d'Oro's best to date has been Passion For Gold, who won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, a 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 contest for 2-year-olds when trained by Suroor for Godolphin in England.

Bernardini is one of the most exciting first crop sires in many a year on these shores. By A.P. Indy, he was the runaway 5 1/4-length winner of the Preakness Stakes in which Barbaro suffered his career ending injury. Undeterred by the skeptics, he went on to win the Jim Dandy, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup before failing against Invasor in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Trained by Tom Albertrani for Darley, Bernardini was an absolutely first class performer at 10 furlongs. His first season at Darley in Kentucky has horsemen the world over standing up and taking notice.

Bernardini is the first stallion in history to sire Group or Grade 1 winners on both turf and dirt. The filly A.Z. Warrior did it on dirt in Belmont's one-mile Frizette Stakes on Oct. 9. On the very same day at the Capannelle in Rome, Biondetti won the one-mile Group 1 Gran Criterium on turf.

But the best of Bernardini's first crop may be To Honor and Serve, the sensational wire-to-wire winner of both the one-mile, Grade 2 Nashua Stakes and the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. Out of the Deputy Minister mare Pilfer, herself the winner of the listed, 1 1/16-mile Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware Park, To Honor and Serve looks sure to stay 1 1/4 miles, something that cannot be said about undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Kentucky Derby winter book favorite Uncle Mo, who is an Indian Charlie/Arch cross.

With his excellent first-year crop behind him, Bernardini will stand for a fee of $75,000 in 2011.