06/04/2009 11:00PM

Darley castoffs find home at Hastings


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The unusual relationship between locally based Swift Thoroughbreds Inc. and Darley Stable has added a new dimension to the racing at Hastings.

Swift Thoroughbreds is a family affair. The main players in Swift are longtime friends Mark Mache and Horatio Kemeny. Their wives, Naudie Mache and Jackie Kemeny, are also active members of the stable.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, on the other hand, is the ruler of Dubai, the owner of Darley, and runs one of the most powerful racing operations in the world.

Every year Darley spends millions of dollars to buy horses, in addition to those it breeds. In some cases, the horses aren't up to Darley's standards. That's where Swift Thoroughbreds comes in. It purchases Darley's castoffs and brings them to Hastings to race.

The arrangement began when Mache and Kemeny approached a Darley representative at the Kentucky yearling sales in 2006 and inquired if Darley would be willing to sell any of its less successful horses at a reasonable price.

"We were hoping we could get horses that didn't fit their program," said Mark Mache. "It has really worked out well for us."

Swift's Darley purchases have pedigree's that are far beyond what the purse structure at Hastings will support. A good example is Rosberg, a horse Swift bought from Darley last year.

Rosberg is a son of A.P. Indy out of the European champion Bosra Sham. Darley paid $1.5 million for Rosberg at the 2002 Keeneland September sale and Rosberg turned out to be a decent horse, winning three races, including the $120,000 Vista Infinite Handicap at Nad Al Sheba last year. However, he wasn't likely to win a Grade 1, and after he finished fifth in the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile behind Diamond Stripes, he became available.

After being purchased by Swift Thoroughbreds, Rosberg won the Grade 3 Premiers at Hastings and he is now standing stud at Canmor Farms, which is located in a suburb of Vancouver.

"Rosberg is exactly the kind of horse we were looking for," said Mark Mache. "He had the pedigree and he also had a decent racing record. After he won the Premiers we had a couple of substantial offers for him. Our goal is to improve racing here, though, so we kept him."

The first horse Swift Thoroughbreds bought from Darley, Woodford Gale, turned out to be a bust. Darley paid $975,000 for Woodford Gale as a 2-year-old. He showed a lot of promise in his debut, winning a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream by over four lengths. His next and final win came for Swift Thoroughbreds in an $8,000 nonwinners-of-two claiming race at Hastings in 2006. The impression was that Darley had found a dumping grounds for horses with problems that it wanted to unload. But that has not turned out to be the case.

"Every horse we have bought from Darley has come with a detailed history, and if there are any small problems, we are made aware of them," said Mache. "We have so much trust and respect for them now that we don't bother to vet the horses out. We know some aren't going to work out, but that's the nature of the business."

This year Swift bought a package of nine horses from Darley and many of them appear to have a bright future. The standouts so far are Pop Artist and Teide.

Pop Artist was originally purchased for $275,000 at the 2007 Saratoga sale. He has won two first-level optional races for 3-year-olds - the first for the $50,000 claiming price - since he arrived at Hastings and he figures to be a major force in the local stakes division. Teide, who was bred by the Gainsborough Farm of Sheik Mohammed's brother Skeikh Hamdan, was impressive winning a second-level optional sprint on May 30 and he figures to improve when he stretches out.

Mache and Kemeny have been good friends since the seventh grade, and they developed a love for horse racing at an early age. The gambling aspect of the sport is also very attractive to them.

"We have been coming here since we were kids," said Kemeny. "One time when we didn't have any money, Mark and I spent all day collecting pop bottles so we could bet on a horse. We were pretty happy when the horse won."

Mache helped fund his way through school by betting horses at Hastings.

"It was my summer job in my second year of university," he said. "Don't get the wrong idea, though. We love every part of the business, especially the horses."

Mache and Kemeny treat horse racing as a hobby as opposed to a business. They made their fortunes developing software platforms, including Hardball, a video game that Kemeny said became the best selling video baseball game in the 1990s.

Kemeny is the computer expert and Mache brings business acumen to the partnership.

They have had immediate success in just about everything they have been involved in, except horse racing. When they decided to get involved in a big way in 2002, they hired Dino Condilenios as their private trainer. Condilenios was among the leading trainers at the time, and Mache and Kemeny, who both turned 40 this year, liked the fact that Condilenios was roughly the same age. They were a little shell shocked when they lost their first 27 races with Condilenios.

"It was a bit scary," said Mache. "But, our first winner with Dino was in a stakes race with Hammersmith and things quickly improved."

One of the first horses Swift Thoroughbreds bought from Darley was The Visualiser. A son of Giant's Causeway, he cost Darley $1 million as a yearling in 2004. He won a maiden race in Great Britain as a 2-year-old before he was sold to Swift in 2006. He ended up winning two races and placing in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

"We had a lot of fun with him and, really, that's what we're in the business for," said Mache.

From the looks of the package they just purchased from Darley, the fun is just beginning.