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Darby dreaming of Cup glory with ‘one out of the box’

Kiwi import Goldman (NZ) (Verdi {NZ}) became the first horse locked in for this year’s G1 Melbourne Cup after winning the Listed Roy Higgins at Flemington on Saturday. TDN AusNZ caught up with Scott Darby to discuss the ‘meteoric’ rise of the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained 4-year-old.


Having won two of his four starts in his native New Zealand for his previous trainer Tony Pike, Goldman (NZ) arrived on Australian shores with a reasonable degree of promise, but not even the most optimistic of owners could have anticipated him being catapulted to Melbourne Cup favoritism only a month after making his Australian debut.


The son of lesser-known New Zealand stallion Verdi (NZ) entered plenty of notebooks when shouldering 61.5kg to a dominant 5.3l in a BM64 H. at Kembla Grange last month, only to win by even further (5.5l) when upped in both class and distance at Warwick Farm on his next start.


The ease of that victory sent many of Australia’s time and ratings gurus into a frenzy, so it was no surprise to see Goldman line up in the Listed Roy Higgins at Flemington on Saturday as a short-priced favourite. The manner in which he made such light work of a field that included several Group 1 performers, however, came as a welcome surprise for Darby Racing and their syndicate of ecstatic owners.


“It’s unbelievable to think that we only purchased this horse in December,” Scott Darby said. “You’d be happy winning a couple of nice Saturday races with him, but to win at Kembla, then win at Warwick Farm and do what he did today (Saturday) is just phenomenal.


“It’s just been such a meteoric rise. His trials were quite dour and when we hit the Kembla race we really weren’t sure what we had. We had a big weight and he just dominated that field.


“From that moment, we thought we had something pretty good, and then he backed it up at Warwick Farm. It’s only been 10 days since Warwick Farm and he’s had a trip down to Melbourne, so he’s entitled to have had enough, but he shows us no signs of stopping.


“He looks like he is one out of the box. He’s just getting better and better and we can’t wait for the spring.”


With the Roy Higgins carrying a ballot exemption for the G1 Melbourne Cup for the first time this year, Goldman’s connections can now send him to the paddock safe in the knowledge that he is assured of his place in the field on the first Tuesday in November.


Given the way he saw out Saturday’s 2600 metres on his first attempt at the trip, Darby has no qualms about Goldman staying two miles in the race that stops a nation, and after a conversation with his trainers, the leading syndicator has every reason to believe that the 4-year-old will come back even better in the spring.


“Speaking to Gai today, she’s just so keen to get him to the paddock and get some Australian sun on him,” Darby said.


“They got him two starts into his prep and gave him a few trials, so they are really keen to see what he will do with a full prep in the Waterhouse-Bott stable.


“He’ll head to the paddock now and we’ll dream of the spring. We’ve had horses before that have qualified for the Golden Slipper very early and you get months and months of dreaming - that’s what the owners will get now.


“There will be plenty of sleepless nights for the owners, but that’s what it’s all about. These big races are the big dreams and we are thankful to the owners that supported us in purchasing this horse.”


A tried and tested system


Goldman was purchased by Darby Racing in the wake of a narrow victory at Pukekohe in November, with both bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo and Rob Waterhouse playing a key role in bringing the Kiwi raider across the Tasman.


Darby was quick to praise the latter in particular, with Waterhouse’s data-driven system one of the key reasons why the syndicator moved to secure Goldman after just four career starts.


“Bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo trades a lot to Australia and he presents a number of horses to Robbie and the Waterhouse stable. Robbie puts them through his ratings system and uses his data to go through them,” Darby revealed.


“He thought that this bloke was very progressive and recommended him based on all his data. He knocks a lot back, so if Robbie likes one on ratings then that’s the first port of call, then it progresses to seeing the horse physically and getting the vetting done.


“We had one of our team members, Loren Wadsworth, over in New Zealand at the time. She went and inspected him and said that he looks like what you should be buying - a lean, New Zealand staying type.


“New Zealand has always been a great source of stayers, particularly for Gai, and having Robbie looking from a data point of view rather than a horse point of view, or at least starting there, is a real edge.”


Despite already having the favourite for the Melbourne Cup in Goldman, Darby Racing could have had an even stronger hand for this year’s Flemington showpiece had things panned out a little differently.


The syndicator revealed that they were offered unbeaten gelding White Marlin(Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) - who is also trained by Waterhouse and Bott and with whom Goldman currently disputes favouritism for the Cup - long before Goldman came onto the scene, only for him to be knocked back on the recommendation of one of their most trusted advisors.


“It’s a funny story, Hubie de Burgh, who does all our European stuff - he’s very good at what he does and he has imported some really good horses for us - when we got offered White Marlin we put it to Hubie and he actually didn’t like the horse physically,” Darby revealed.


“So when we saw what White Marlin did we were on the next one to come through, which was Goldman, so we jumped in.

“We’re looking at a few more (New Zealand stayers) at the moment. There’s not a lot that come up, because as I said, Robbie knocks a fair few back, but the ones that do make it on his ratings we are certainly looking at closely.


“The Waterhouse-Bott team are absolutely flying and have been flying for quite some time. They’re winning plenty of big races and it’s great to team up with them again.”


Exceeding expectations


Bred by Monovale Holdings, Goldman is very much the flagbearer for his New Zealand-based sire Verdi, who stands at Long Acres Stud in Canterbury. He is the first stakes winner and one of only two winners from just 11 runners for the son of Zabeel (NZ), who has produced only 31 foals to date from his two seasons in the covering shed.


Out of a mare by another staying influence in Montjeu (Ire), it is not unreasonable to say that Goldman wasn’t bred to be a star, but much like Darby’s G1 Golden Slipper heroine She Will Reign (Manhattan Rain), pedigree is not always the main consideration when buying a horse, particularly where imports are concerned.


“Speaking with Gai, she said that when they get these tried horses she doesn’t care who they are by and who they are out of,” Darby said.


“They have been bought purely on Rob Waterhouse’s ratings and their progression. If they’ve got the ability and they’re for sale, the Waterhouse motto is to grab them.


“It’s the beauty of racing I guess. We’ve won (Golden) Slippers and run second in Slippers with horses who haven’t been fashionably bred.


“Obviously, the better they are bred, the more you’re going to have to pay for them, that’s the bottom line.”


Goldman’s unassuming pedigree aside, Darby feels that the gelding’s achievements since landing on Australian soil are still deserving of the utmost praise.


“I don’t think anyone, from start to finish, could have really thought that this horse would have done what he has done so far in just three starts,” he added.


“When you buy these horses from Europe or New Zealand, the first aim is to win a couple of Saturday races because our prizemoney is that good.


“We only paid NZ$165,000 for him, so to have him qualify for the Melbourne Cup is a dream for the owners.”


Double dream alive and kicking


Such is Darby Racing’s strength in the staying division, another of their imports from overseas, this time from Europe, currently shares second favouritism for the G1 Sydney Cup, which will be run for $2 million on day two of The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 8.


The horse in question, King Frankel (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), is trained by Hong Kong-bound handler Mark Newnham and ran a mighty race at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday to record his first elite-level placing in the G1 Tancred S.


“He was great, we were really pleased with that run,” Darby said. “It was a big ask with that weight at weight for age and he’s going to drop nine kilos for the Sydney Cup.


“We’re really excited and that was just the sort of run we wanted to see today. We wanted to make sure that he wasn’t held up like last time and didn’t get outsprinted.


“He was another relatively cheap buy, I think we paid €90,000 (AU$145,700) for him.


“The Sydney Cup-Melbourne Cup double certainly does have a nice ring to it, but we’ll take either if we can get it.”

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