Leading syndicator looking abroad to make a mark
Last month's Sydney Cup did not have one Australian-born stayer in the field.
Of the 18 starters in the 3200m staying test at Royal Randwick, 14 were bred in Europe and the other four were New Zealand born including the winner, Explosive Jack, who defeated France's True Marvel and Ireland's Knights Order.
This revelation went largely unnoticed at the time but it does underline the Australian racing and breeding industry's predilection for sprinters and a quick return on investment.
The facts are our sprinters might be as good as any in world racing but the nation doesn't boast a deep pool of staying talent.
Why there isn't more emphasis on producing stayers is a debate for another time but astute local equine investors aware of this anomaly are regularly sourcing middle distance and staying types from overseas.
A good example of this trend is former Irish stayer, Manbehindthemoney, who makes his Australian debut in the Vale Dean Holland Handicap (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Manbehindthemoney was purchased by Darby Racing founder and leading syndicator Scott Darby who made a strategic decision with his already successful business model to tap into the European staying market and potentially capitalise on opportunities in prizemoney-laden Sydney and Australian racing.
"If you look at our staying races at the moment the fields are full of imports," Darby said.
"The yearling market is getting so competitive and a lot of owners don't like to wait too long before watching their horses get to the races.
"So, we feel if you can find a European stayer at the right price, then there are good opportunities for them with the prizemoney in Sydney racing."
Darby uses renowned international bloodstock agent Hubie De Burgh to source northern hemisphere equine talent.
"Hubie does a super job for us," he said.
"We don't give him a huge budget, we don't pay more than 100,000 euros for a stayer which means he has to do a lot of homework to find the right horses."
De Burgh identified Manbehindthemoney after the gelding had won two of his seven starts in Ireland.
"Hubie admitted he didn't know a lot about Manbehindthemoney's pedigree (Bobby's Kitten-Sagesse) but said the horse was a really nice type," Darby said.
"We were told we might need to go to $100,000 but we got him for about $40,000. We couldn't believe it."
Manbehindthemoney is being trained by Annabel Neasham and has been readied for his Australian debut with two barrier trials including most recently when second in a Warwick Farm 1200m heat about two weeks ago.
"He is coming up well and is showing a lot more ‘toe' than we expected he would," Darby said.
"I thought he went terrific in the Warwick Farm trial and although you always want to see them under race conditions first, I would like to think he is some sort of show."
Manbehindthemoney is at $23 in latest TAB betting behind Floating at $3.40 favouritism.
Darby's syndication business was established 15 years ago and is one of the nation's most successful with a number of outstanding gallopers including 2017 Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign, dual Group 1 winner Yankee Rose, and the likes of Samadoubt, Time To Reign, Time For War, Every Rose, Greysful Glamour, Spirit Ridge, Malkovich, Overpass, Harpo Marx, True Marvel, King Frankel and Goldman.
She Will Reign and Yankee Rose were trailblazers for Darby Racing with both mares subsequently sold to Japanese breeding interests.
"Yankee Rose really put us on the map," Darby said.
"She wasn't Winx and wasn't fashionably bred but she had such a heart of gold.
"I would have loved her to stay here and go to stud but we couldn't find a buyer at the price and Japan was offering the best deal at the time.
"She has already produced Liberty Island who looks an absolute star in Japan and is the one kicking the goals over there at the moment."
Darby's decision to invest in overseas staying talent is paying off with former New Zealand stayer Goldman winning his three Australian starts including the Listed Roy Higgins Quality to qualify for the Melbourne Cup, Irish import King Frankel won the Listed Parramatta Cup and ran third in the Group 1 Tancred Stakes, and True Marvel ran a close second in the Group 1 Sydney Cup.
Goldman's sudden emergence as one of the nation's most exciting stayers has "come out of the blue" according to Darby.
"At the end of last year I thought we would look at buying some New Zealand-tried horses and Goldman was the first one we ventured into," he said.
"We actually got offered White Marlin but didn't take him up but when we saw what he did, the next one to become available was Goldman.
"Robbie Waterhouse put Goldman in his ratings system, he liked the horse and it went from there.
"We were hoping to win a Saturday race with him if we could but he has just gone ‘bang, bang, bang' and took everyone by surprise. He looks a nice, progressive horse."
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained White Marlin and Goldman are now early favourites for the Melbourne Cup.
Darby also revealed King Frankel has joined the Neasham stable and will be aimed at The Metropolitan and Caulfield Cup in spring while True Marvel is a contender for any race over the extreme staying distances.
"There are just not enough long distance races for True Marvel," Darby said.
"His statistics in races at 3000m and further are 11 starts for four wins and four seconds. Anything under 3000m is just too short."
Darby Racing isn't just relying on their stayers and already this month his brilliant sprinter Overpass won the inaugural $4m The Quokka and speedy Malkovich was impressive in the Listed Hawkesbury Rush.
"I didn't think having Overpass and Malkovich gelded would do a lot for either horse but it looks a good idea now they have both scored first-up wins," Darby said.
Overpass is being aimed at the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 next month where the syndicator hopes his sprinter does enough to earn another start in The Everest after finishing sixth in the world's richest turf race last year.
"We would love to get Overpass to The Everest again. When we gelded him, we decided to go for those next tier races and let someone pick him," Darby said.
"The name of the game is winning, not running nice seconds and thirds, and hopefully he can continue to progress as he has done right through his career. A good run in the Doomben 10,000 and someone might select him for The Everest."
Darby Racing is now in the rare position of having chances in the nation's two richest races later this year, the $15 million The TAB Everest with Overpass and the $8 million Melbourne Cup with Goldman.
"We haven't been a Melbourne Cup syndicator before so this is all a bit new to us," Darby said. "But we might have get used to it with all these imports coming through."