Super Saturday

Group winners galore for Darley stallions

Darley stallions dominated one of New Zealand racing’s biggest racedays at Te Rapa on Saturday, 9 February when Seachange and Mission Critical took the two Group One races on the card.

At this stage of her career Seachange, now the winner of seven Group One races, needs no introduction, but the daughter of Cape Cross has now put herself in pole position to star on what is arguably the world’s biggest stage at Nad Al Sheba on Dubai World Cup night at the end of March. Over the past three seasons, she has carried all before her in her homeland, having shown top-class form from six to ten furlongs. Her win on Saturday, at weight-for-age in New Zealand’s most prestigious sprint, has confirmed that she will head for the Dubai Duty Free at the peak of her form.

The Fantastic Light colt Mission Critical put himself to the forefront of his country’s Classic generation by outpointing the multiple Group One winner Sir Slick at weight-for-age in the G1 Whakanui Stud International Stakes (10f). This one-and-three-quarter length victory was an outstanding performance for so unseasoned a horse and he will now line up for the New Zealand Derby as one of the favourites. Mission Critical was bred by Darley Australia out of the Capote mare Trick Taker, a great grand-daughter of the mighty Dahlia.

In Australia, it was Exceed And Excel day at Caulfield as his first-crop runners built on the superb start they have made to their racing careers by filling the quinella in both G3 Blue Diamond Preludes, the trials for Melbourne's biggest juvenile race of the year.

Wilander (pictured) led home Exceedingly Good in the colts' division with a dominant display of front-running to maintain his unbeaten record. The youngster, a son of the high-class Snippets mare Scandinavia, whose previous offspring include top sprinter Magnus, races in Sheikh Mohammed's colours and was bred by Lee Fleming of Eliza Park Stud.

Darley Australia also claimed breeding honours for the winner of the fillies’ Blue Diamond Prelude, Believe'N'Succeed, who proved one and three-quarter lengths too good for her paternal half-sister Sugar Babe. Like the runner-up in the colts’ race, Sugar Babe is also already a Stakes winner, having taken out the Debutants Stakes at Caulfield in October.

The performances of this quartet has raised the prospect of Exceed And Excel dominating the first two-year-old Group One race of the season as all four should line up in the Blue Diamond in two weeks’ time.

In France on Sunday, Slickly, who stands at Haras du Logis in Normandy, was responsible for two Listed winners on the sand at Cagnes-Sur-Mer. Three-year-old Gris Tendre, bred by the lated Baron Guy de Rothschild, won the Prix de la Californie, having won over course and distance on his last start a fortnight ago.

Gris de Gris won the same race last year and has remained a consistent campaigner for his connections ever since, winning the Listed Prix de Pomarne in May and returning to Cagnes-Sur-Mer to take Sunday's Grand Prix de la Riviera Cote d'Azur by two lengths