Darara, the 1986 Prix Vermeille winner who went on to produce four Group 1 winners and become the cornerstone of Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber’s Watership Down Stud, has died at the age of 29.

Darara with Watership Down Stud Manager Terry Doherty

Bred and raced by the Aga Khan, Darara, who was described in Racehorses of 1986 as “a rabbit on looks”, lined up for the Vermeille with only three previous runs under her belt but nevertheless routed the field to win by five lengths. Her performance earned her a supplementary entry for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, in which she finished sixth behind Dancing Brave.

By a top-class sire and broodmare sire in Top Ville and a half-sister to Darshaan, to whom the same applied, Darara was always going to be an attractive addition to any broodmare band. Retired initially to Aga Khan Studs, her first foal was the Group 1 winner Dariyoun, by the owner/breeder’s Derby winner Sharastani.

In 1994, Darara was purchased by Charlie Gordon-Watson on behalf of the Lloyd Webbers for IR470,000gns at Goffs. She was sold in foal to Shirley Heights, with the resultant foal being Kilimanjaro, a 500,000gns yearling who was runner-up in the King Edward VII Stakes in 1998.

Having already produced the Group 2 winner Darazari to Sadler’s Wells, Darara returned to him, with her next foal being Rhagaas, who also made 500,000gns as a yearling finished third in the 1999 Prix du Jockey-Club.

A subsequent mating with the former champion sire would produce the colt who still holds the record for a yearling sold in Europe – 3.4 million gns. He started his racing career under the name of Diaghilev in Europe, where he won the Group 3 Prix La Force, and later won the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup as River Dancer after being sold to race in Hong Kong.

Following fertility problems, which were successfully overcome with the help of vets Twink Allen and Huw Neal, who developed a method of flushing fallopian tubes, Darara went on to produce a further two Group 1 winners well into her twenties. Dar Re Mi, her 2005 daughter by Singspiel, won the Pretty Polly Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Dubai Sheema Classic, while Darara’s final foal, Rewilding, another 500,000gns purchase, won last year’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes for Godolphin before suffering a fatal injury in the King George.

Madeleine Lloyd Webber, who still owns Darara’s daughters Evita and Dar Re Mi, said: “Andrew and I feel grateful and honoured to have owned such a world class foundation mare in Darara. It is difficult to quantify how important her contribution has been to Watership Down Stud.

“Luckily we own her two daughters so that her outstanding bloodline will continue. However, it was a very sad day for Watership Down Stud.”

Dar Re Mi has a colt foal by Oasis Dream and is in foal to Dubawi.