Updated on 06/27/2013 5:46PM

Top-priced Darwin wins in Irish debut

Barbara D. Livingston
Darwin, shown here winning his career debut last year at Belmont Park, picked up his career win and first in Europe on Wednesday at Naas Racecourse.

Darwin, the highest-priced 2-year-old to sell at public auction in 2012, was victorious in his first outing for new trainer Aidan O’Brien on Wednesday, his first start in nearly eight months, winning a race at Naas Racecourse in Ireland.

The 3-year-old Big Brown colt began his career in the U.S., generating plenty of buzz after the Coolmore partnership secured him for $1.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale, topping the sale and the juvenile market.

Darwin was sent to the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher where he started twice, first breaking his maiden at Belmont Park by two lengths. He then finished fourth in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes in early November before being sidelined with an injury. He was shipped to Coolmore’s Irish operation earlier this year to prepare for his sophomore campaign under O’Brien’s tutelage.

The competition was fairly soft for Darwin’s European debut as the colt faced only two opponents, each with a maiden win on their résumés. Jockey Joseph O’Brien kept an easy hold of Darwin through the race’s opening stages and allowed pacesetter Resolute Response to be chased by Fighter Squadron, both well ahead of the 11/10 favorite.

The younger O’Brien began to ask Darwin for run with a quarter-mile to go, and the colt responded effortlessly, passing his foes on the outside and taking control of the lead by the final furlong. He carried on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over runner-up Fighter Squadron, a Medaglia d’Oro colt and $360,000 Keeneland September yearling also owned by the Coolmore partnership of Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor.

Darwin completed the one-mile race in 1:35.42 on turf labeled good to firm.

With the victory, Darwin improved his record to two wins from three career starts. The $11,318 (8,699 Euros) that he earned with the winner’s share of the purse increased his lifetime earnings to $62,118.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Lansdon Robbins and Tom Hansen, Darwin is out of the winning Silver Ghost mare Cool Ghoul, who is the dam of five winners from as many foals to race, including multiple stakes winner Dagnabit and stakes-placed winner Bad Boy Rising. He is from the family of Grade 1 winner Single Blade and Grade 2 winner Comeonmom.

Darwin was initially purchased by IEAH Stable, led by bloodstock agent Chris Brothers, at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings for $220,000. Then, the colt was sent to Ciaran Dunne’s Wavertree Stables in Ocala, Fla., to be seasoned for the juvenile sales.

He breezed one furlong in :10.20 seconds during the pre-sale under-tack show at Palm Meadows Training Center, which tied him for the second-fastest time among the horses cataloged.

“He was a very good-looking horse and breezed very well,” said Demi O’Byrne, Coolmore’s bloodstock adviser, following the purchase last year. “He’s got lovely action.”

Correction: In a previous version of this article, a photo caption misidentified the track where Darwin won his debut race. It was at Belmont Park, not Saratoga.