One of the small pleasures of the hectic autumn schedule is the publication of each stallion farm’s roster for the coming year. There’s the sharp intake of breath at the substantial price rises, coupled with the welcome confirmation of the additions to the stallion ranks. At the same time these lists often reveal a few untold stories. Some names from previous years won’t be there anymore, for a variety of reasons. A few will have been sold abroad, but connections are sometimes loath to highlight this, in deference to clients who still have yearlings to sell. Others will have been moved on or pensioned because of fading popularity or even failing fertility. Occasionally, the name of a distinguished reverse-shuttler will no longer be on the list. We will encounter examples of most of these in the following mini-analysis, which centres largely on Darley’s outstanding team. 

Believe it or not, Darley’s European squad has fallen each year since it stood at a substantial 35 stallions in 2020 (16 at Kildangan Stud, 13 at Dalham Hall Stud and six at Haras du Logis). By 2021, the number was down to 28 before dropping to 26 in 2022 and now to 24 for 2023, when there will be only two newcomers – the sprinters Perfect Power and Naval Crown. 

It appears that even the most powerful of stallion operations can find it hard to secure colts who combine the rare mix of top-notch bloodlines, conformation and performance that today’s breeders expect. Coolmore added only one new stallion – St Mark’s Basilica – in 2022 and one again – the prematurely-retired Blackbeard – in 2023. With Juddmonte making no additions, there is a noticeable shortage of new stallions in Britain for 2023, the star of the show being Baaeed.

It appears that even the most powerful of stallion operations can find it hard to secure colts who combine the rare mix of top-notch bloodlines, conformation and performance that today’s breeders expect

The main reason why the Darley team experienced such a substantial drop in numbers a few years ago was the end of the stud’s experiment called The Darley Club. No doubt the motivation for this experiment was the success in the US of Spendthrift Farm’s incentive scheme called Share The Upside, which could hardly have had a better flagbearer than Into Mischief, now the holder of four consecutive champion sire titles.

In the Darley Club programme, which began with four first-crop stallions in 2016, breeders were offered free nominations in a stallion’s second and third years if they paid up front for a first-year nomination. Breeders who used a stallion in each of his first three seasons would then be rewarded for their loyalty with a lifetime breeding right.

As Sam Bullard, Darley’s Director of Stallions, explained at the time: “The Darley Club offers breeders a fantastic and very affordable way of breeding to quality stallions. The chance to secure a lifetime breeding right for the cost of just one nomination is a great opportunity for breeders, and offers fantastic terms which put the balance of power firmly in the hands of the breeder.”

Three more stallions were added to the Club scheme in 2017, one of which – the modestly-bred Toormore – was quickly returned to training after this winner of the National Stakes failed to attract sufficient support. The six remaining Club stallions, which were spread between England, Ireland and France, were all admirable racehorses and all were sons of very successful Darley stallions. Several of them were also admirably tough, with Fulbright, Hunter’s Light, Bow Creek, French Navy and Buratino respectively being veterans of 30, 27, 24, 23 and 13 races. However, Fulbright, French Navy, Buratino and Bow Creek all lacked that Group 1 success which breeders crave and the other two – Hunter’s Light and Outstrip – had gained their Group 1 victories away from the Britain, Ireland and France. 

The fact that none of the six is still on the Darley roster no doubt tells its own story, with some of them struggling for support from the start. Outstrip, though, was an exception. This good-looking grey by Exceed And Excel possessed the two-year-old ability which is usually high on a breeder’s tick list. In addition to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, Outstrip had handed The Grey Gatsby a three-length defeat in the Champagne Stakes after being narrowly beaten in the Vintage Stakes. Breeders could also tick the box for a classy female line, his dam being the well-bred American Grade 1 winner Asi Siempre.

Unfortunately, Outstrip had failed to win any of his six starts at three and four, though two creditable efforts behind Kingman at three were worthy of a Timeform rating of 116. His career tailed off with two lacklustre efforts at Meydan early in 2015, which meant that breeders could be forgiven for forgetting his smart juvenile form by the time he made his debut at stud in 2016. Darley compensated by setting his fee at only £5,000, compared to the £40,000 fee commanded by Outstrip’s sire Exceed And Excel in 2016.

The intention of the Club programme was to maintain the young stallions’ support after their first season and it worked well with Outstrip, who covered 130 mares in his first year, 126 in his second and 128 in his third. Subsequent years proved much harder, with 91 mares in year four, 62 in year five and 26 in year six, in 2021, when it was announced early in the breeding season that the ten-year-old stallion had been sold to a syndicate of Brazilian breeders. 

By that stage Outstrip had been represented by the Grade 3 American winner Outburst and Listed winner Flippa The Strippa. However, pride of place very much belonged to Gold Trip, winner of the Prix Greffulhe before finishing third in the Grand Prix de Paris and fourth in Sottsass’ Arc. Although Gold Trip was to add further Group 1 placings in France at four, it has been his exploits in Australia in 2022 which have turned the spotlight onto Outstrip.

Outstrip: retired as part of the Darley Club programme, he is the sire of Melbourne Cup hero Gold Trip

Beaten only a head in the Caulfield Cup, Gold Trip had his class and stamina put to the test when he tried two miles for the first time in the Melbourne Cup. Carrying top weight of 9-1 and starting at 20/1, Gold Trip proved surprisingly well suited by the extra half-mile, winning by two lengths from Kingman’s ex-English son Emissary. Pinpointing the source of his stamina isn’t easy, as Outstrip was a miler and so was Gold Trip’s broodmare sire Dubai Destination. However, Gold Trip’s second and third dams were by Rainbow Quest and Doyoun and the fourth generation of his pedigree contains the likes of Sadler’s Wells, Silver Hawk and Alleged, who – together with Rainbow Quest – all sired winners of the St Leger. A more typical offspring of Outstrip is two-year-old Tigrais, winner of the Prix La Rochette, but Outstrip has also had Listed winners over 9f, 9.5f and 11f in 2022.

It was appropriate that Australia’s most prestigious prize should fall to a grandson of Exceed And Excel, Australia’s champion sire of 2012/13. Exceed And Excel first shuttled from his native Australia to Europe and for the 2005 breeding season and was to make the journey for 16 consecutive years, standing his last season at Kildangan Stud in 2020. In the process he sired more than 1,600 foals in Australia. Equineline credits him with a worldwide total of 2,896 foals of racing age and the final figure will easily top the 3,000 mark, as he is still part of the Darley team in Australia, standing the 2022 season at AUS$132,000.

It is a similar story with Fastnet Rock, another of Danehill’s champion Australian sires. The much-travelled Fastnet Rock disappeared from Coolmore’s Irish roster after the 2021 season but he too is still active in Australia, priced at AUS$165,000 in 2022. His tally of racing-age offspring stands at 2,810 and he too will eventually leave a legacy of over 3,000 foals. Such numbers seem hard to comprehend when the long-lived Northern Dancer is credited with a lifetime total of 646.

Some of the stallions mentioned here became exceptional sires of sires, so where does Exceed And Excel stand in this respect? I wouldn’t include him in that category, though Excelebration (now in Morocco) gave us Barney Roy and Helmet excelled with Thunder Snow. In addition to Outstrip, there’s also Bungle Inthejungle, sire of Nunthorpe Stakes winner Winter Power, Sidestep, sire of Golden Slipper Stakes winner Kiamichi, and Kuroshio, sire of Australian Group 1 winner Savatoxl. 

The story isn’t over yet, though, and it should pay to keep an eye on Cotai Glory, whose fee has risen from €5,000 to €12,500 in the space of three years. With 213 foals in his two inexpensive crops of racing age, Cotai Glory has passed on his precocious speed to Atomic Force (winner of the Prix Robert Papin) and to The Platinum Queen, whose victory over the older sprinters in the Prix de l’Abbaye was instrumental in her selling for 1,200,000gns at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale. There’s good reason for expecting greater things from the Tally-Ho Stud resident.

Exceed And Excel, a stalwart of the Darley operation in Europe and Australia

Wonderful career

One name I noticed was missing from the latest published Darley stallion roster was that of New Approach. 

The 18-year-old covered 28 mares in 2020, for 22 foals, and 21 mares in 2021, for 14 foals. However, he is credited with covering only 11 mares in 2022, at the age of 17. And while he hasn’t officially been retired, he hasn’t been included in the 2023 Weatherbys Stallion Book and isn’t expected to cover a lot of mares.

I believe New Approach is a rig and his career has inevitably been compromised by his inability to cover several mares a day. It is no coincidence that only two of his 14 crops have contained more than 100 foals, with his highest total standing at 105. His 11 crops of racing age averaged 90 foals per crop, but his last few crops are going to reduce that average to somewhere in the 70s.

This amounts to a rather subdued, undeserved closing stage to the career of a wonderfully tough and quirky racehorse. Only once out of the first two in 11 starts, he was unbeaten as a two-year-old and could be considered a little unlucky to lose his unbeaten record when beaten only a nose after attempting to lead throughout in the 2,000 Guineas. He made full amends for that defeat when overcoming traffic problems in the Derby and later rounded off his career with victories in the Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes, his six-length victory in the latter being his fifth at Group 1 level.

Potentially the most important of his sons is Masar, who followed the example of New Approach and Galileo in winning the Derby

For a while it looked as though New Approach was going to be even more effective as a stallion. He burst onto the scene with a magnificent treble at the 2012 Royal Ascot meeting, where the future 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach – already an unbeaten winner of three races – landed the Coventry Stakes. Next came the short-lived Newfangled, who maintained her unbeaten record in the Albany Stakes, a day before Tha’ir took the Chesham Stakes. These three came from a crop of 94 which eventually produced eight Group winners and three Listed winners. Even New Approach’s sire Galileo would have been proud of such figures, especially when the group included a four-time Group 1 winner in Dawn Approach and an Oaks winner in Talent, as well as Libertarian (Dante Stakes and second in the Derby), Sultanina (Nassau Stakes) and Messi (Sky Classic Stakes).

New Approach has gone on to boost his total of Group 1 winners to seven in Europe and two in Australia, where the veteran Cascadian is still doing well at the top level. Potentially the most important of his sons is Masar, who followed the example of New Approach and Galileo in winning the Derby. With his first-crop sons selling for up to 350,000gns and his second-crop foals fetching up to 110,000gns, Masar looks well positioned to extend his male line’s influence, especially when he is inbred 3 x 4 to the highly influential Urban Sea. 

It’s possible, though, that New Approach’s greatest legacy will come via his broodmare daughters, which have already produced the likes of Modern Games and Earthlight.

New Approach at the Darley Stallion Parade

New Approach: looks set to leave an important legacy. Photo: George Selwyn