06/07/2007 11:00PM

World-wide stallion strength Darley's goal


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The deals Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization struck to acquire Street Sense and Hard Spun's breeding rights vividly illustrate Darley's determination to be a dominant stallion operation not only in the United States, but around the world. That was underscored again on Wednesday, when Darley announced it also has purchased the stud rights to 2007 Epsom Derby winner Authorized.

Authorized is expected to stand at stud in England. But Street Sense and Hard Spun are pointing for the American market, at least initially, and will start their stud careers with Darley at Jonabell in Lexington.

"When Sheikh Mohammed purchased Jonabell back in 2001, one of his major goals was to develop racing stock in America that he felt was worthy to stand as stallions or be retired into his broodmare band," Jonabell president Jimmy Bell said. "The overall vision Sheikh Mohammed has for this operation is to establish meaningful breeding stock through American racing. He's intrigued with American racing and breeding. He was excited to land both of these horses because he believed so heavily in them as racehorses but, even more important, in them as potential stallions that could make a lasting impression on the breed."

Darley's global aspirations are obvious in the Hard Spun deal. The Danzig colt, who hit Darley's radar screen after he won his maiden at Delaware Park by 8 3/4 lengths, had particular appeal not only because of his race record, but also because of his potential as a shuttle stallion.

"The Danzig line, specifically through Danehill and some other sires as well, has been the most prolific line in Australia," explained Dan Pride, Darley's U.S. chief operating officer. "A horse by Danzig that has shown that kind of precocity should be a natural fit for what those breeders are looking for when he shuttles to the Southern Hemisphere, because 2-year-old racing is a prominent part of their breeding operation.

"On the surface, it could be surprising," he said of the Hard Spun acquisition. "But I think when you look at it in the context of our global operation, he is a natural fit."

Street Sense was an unsurprising choice for Darley, which stands his sire, Street Cry, and also owns his dam, Bedazzle. Pride said Darley started tracking the colt when he was a month old as part of its routine inspection of Darley sires' first crops. They shortlisted him as a possible yearling purchase before breeder Jim Tafel decided to keep and race him. And well before Darley bought him, Street Sense was already providing good advertising for the operation.

"I saw Bob Manfuso up at Saratoga in 2006, and this was after Street Sense had run a couple of times but hadn't really broken out yet," Pride recalled, referring to the owner and breeder who is also a friend of Tafel and Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger. "He walked up and said, 'I want to reserve three seasons to Street Cry right now for next year. This horse of Carl Nafzger's is the real deal, and I want to go on and get locked in.' "

Street Sense, of course, went on to win the Derby. Maktoum surely hopes he or one of his other stallions will go on to sire a Darley-owned Derby winner. But Bell says that as much as Maktoum would like that, the plan is broader than that.

"He has a more global perspective than just one race or one day," Bell said. "His overall program will speak for itself in time, and, in time, we're hopeful that one of those offspring is able to win the Derby for him. That would be fantastic."

Exhibition honoring Affirmed opens

Steve Wolfson was among attendees Wednesday at the Kentucky Horse Park's opening reception for its new exhibition about 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Wolfson, 66, was stepping in for his stepmother, Patrice, who was stuck in bad weather at an airport in Miami. Patrice Wolfson and Steve's father, Louis Wolfson, bred and campaigned Affirmed.

Surrounded by Affirmed's trophies, including the elusive tricornered Triple Crown trophy that no one has won since, Wolfson reflected on the colt's career and its effect on his father, who in 1968 had served nine months in prison for selling unregistered stock. Affirmed lifted the elder Wolfson from that nadir and returned him to happier prominence.

"His name meant more to him than anything in the world," Steve Wolfson said. "On the back of Affirmed, he was resurrected. It was a great bringing together of a family, seeing him rise to the top again. It was palpable. He had lost his name, never stopped trying to prove his innocence. . . . Affirmed brought him back."