Joint Golden Slipper favourite, She Will Reign, bolts home in the $500,000 Inglis Nursery at Randwick on 17 December.
LOT 468 at the Sydney Classic yearling sale last February held more than a passing interest for Scott Darby. In fact, the managing director of now well-established Sydney-based syndicator Darby Racing knew more about the background of the Manhattan Rain filly than most. He had purchased and raced her dam Courgette as a tried horse years earlier, and was keen to bid on the mare’s first foal.
Darby was surprised when he was able to secure her for $22,000 (including GST) as he had valued her at double that amount.
“She wasn’t 100 per cent correct in front, but she was a nice bodied filly and really athletic,” he said. “I thought she would fetch around $40,000 to $50,000,” he said. “I was delighted to buy her as cheaply as we did. “Her breeder Garry Bachell was shattered because he also thought the filly would bring more. “But he didn’t throw in the towel and purchased 10 per cent back when we syndicated her. “Now, he is reaping the rewards.”
Racegoers know the filly as SHE WILL REIGN, unbeaten from two starts and currently sharing favouritism with debut Canterbury winner From Within for the $3.5m Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens in March. Her two victories – at Kembla Grange on December 10 and at Royal Randwick a week later – have netted connections a whopping $312,900 (including a $5000 BOBS bonus).
Darby became involved with Courgette (by Charge Forward) on the advice of his now racing manager Mark Holland. “Mark was an ex-breaker and broke in Courgette,” Darby explained. “He really liked her as a young filly and we bought her on his recommendation as a tried horse from her trainer Gerald Ryan’s clients. “She won two races (at Kembla Grange as a two-year-old and Canterbury as a three-year-old) but never realised her potential.” Courgette won barrier trials either side of making her debut in the $250,000 Inglis Nursery at Randwick on December 19, 2009. She was a well-fancied $4 chance and finished seventh to Chance By.
Ironically, She Will Reign won the same race – this time worth $500,000 - at Randwick last month.
Courgette ended her Sydney career when she finished last to Arabica (prepared by She Will Reign’s trainer Gary Portelli) at Canterbury on June 1, 2011. “We sent her to Stuart Kendrick at Mackay, as we had been having some luck with him,” Darby explained. “But injuries prevented her from showing her best; she was unplaced in two starts at Rockhampton and Mackay.” Courgette then was returned to NSW and after a lengthy break entered Terry Robinson’s South Coast stable. After two more unsuccessful starts at Canberra, she was retired as a racing proposition in early 2013.
“When Garry (Bachell) decided he would like to breed from her, he took over the ownership of the mare,” Darby said. “She Will Reign is Courgette’s first foal, she has a Shamus Award yearling filly, a Time For War colt at foot and again is in foal to that stallion (unfortunately recently deceased).” His affinity with Courgette aside, Darby had another excellent reason for purchasing She Will Reign. Darby Racing owns another classy Manhattan Rain filly Scarlet Rain, who won her first three starts as a two-year-old last season before failing in Capitalist’s Golden Slipper Stakes in March. But there was a very plausible excuse. She choked down and subsequently underwent surgery to rectify the problem.
Scarlet Rain is now on the comeback trail and is ready to resume after being placed in two recent trials. “Manhattan Rain certainly wasn’t on the nose with us when we went to the Classic sale,” Darby chuckled.
She Will Reign is one of 36 horses syndicated by Darby Racing in 2016, and sold fairly quickly.
“She was a cheapie (5 per cent shares sold for $2500, GST included) and they normally don’t take long to syndicate,” Darby said. After all, Darby Racing also syndicated $10,000 purchase Yankee Rose (runner-up to Capitalist in the 2016 Golden Slipper and winner of the Spring Champion Stakes and third in the Cox Plate later in the year). The syndicator is very much aware of the price factor when buying yearlings to syndicate. “There’s no point paying hundreds of thousands for a youngster by an unknown new sire, and then trying to sell to clients,” Darby said. “At all times, we’re very conscious of price. It’s a real juggling act. “But we’ve been operating now since 2007, and we’ve built a good name.”
She Will Reign joined Portelli’s Warwick Farm stables by a stroke of fortune after her original fellow Warwick Farm trainer Michael Costa decided to relocate to the Gold Coast before she raced. “Michael obviously liked the filly, and has kept in touch with us since going to Queensland,” Darby said. “He understood our decision to keep her in Sydney. “We took a vote as the syndicate is predominantly Sydney-based, and naturally they wanted to see her race here. “It’s the first year we have syndicated horses with Gary, and he is doing a great job for us.” She Will Reign had 12 days away from the stable after her Inglis Nursery victory, and returned to Portelli’s stables last Friday to begin a Golden Slipper campaign in earnest.
The sizeable prize ($291,100) she earned in winning the Inglis Nursery doesn’t count toward a Golden Slipper ballot as it is a sales-related race. “We couldn’t give her much time out because the Slipper will be here before we know it,” Darby said. “Our aim now is to get her qualified. She will trial in early February and her next run will be in the Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill on February 18.” That race is worth $143,750 to the winner, but more importantly guarantees exemption from a Slipper ballot for the world’s richest two-year-old event ($3.5m) to be run at the same track on March 18. “After finishing second with Yankee Rose last year, it would be fantastic if we were able to go one better this year,” Darby concluded. “Many in the syndicate are first-time owners. It would be a dream come true for all of us for sure.”