Suna Rather Than Later For Darby Racing

Setsuna wins the Inglis Banner.

Setsuna wins the Inglis Banner (Racing Photos)


Scott Darby and Mark Holland probably shouldn’t be too surprised if they have a few people ‘tugging the coat’ at the 2018 Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale.

After all, Scott and Mark’s Darby Racing Syndications outfit is building up quite a reputation at the February auction for sourcing outstanding 2YOs at bargain prices.

In 2015, Darby Racing eyed an All American filly from the Widden Stud draft, paying $10,000 for the privilege to take her home. Ten starts and two Group Ones (ATC Sires’ Produce and Champion Stakes) later, the filly – Yankee Rose – has pocketed $2,043,700 in prizemoney for connections and trainer David vandyke.

Roll the clock forward 12 months and another of the Darby Classic picks is a Manhattan Rain filly from Ambergate Farm which set them back $20,000. That one turns out to be the Gary Portelli trained She Will Reign, who won this year’s Golden Slipper and resumed in September with a Group One Moir Stakes victory. Her tally from seven starts? $3,034,150.

Turns out Darby Racing also decided to purchase a Choisir filly from Lujain mare, Longoria, which was being offered by Manx Park at this year’s Classic: although this time had to up the ante and go to $55,000 to secure the youngster.

Hang the expense! On Saturday, the filly – named Setsuna and racing out of the Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott stable – won the $250,000 Inglis Banner at Moonee Valley and is clearly a youngster with huge promise.

Setsuna had debuted at Royal Randwick on 30 September with a close second behind Satin Slipper in the Listed Gimcrack Stakes, but there was no catching her this time around.

Whereas Setsuna was sent out a $21 pick for the Gimcrack, she was a clear $4 favourite for the Inglis Banner and duly saluted, but not without some drama after missing the start and forced to race four wide until turning for home.

“We had to go to plan B after she missed the start and I guess that’s where we were able to see the benefit of her having some race experience,” Bott explained. “A tough effort, but she was able to cover the ground and was strong through the line.

“She’s always proven to be one of the most precocious types for us and I think she’ll go on improving. We’ve got another nice race for her at Flemington on Cup day (Group Three Ottawa Stakes over 1000m), so hopefully we’ll see a bit more to her again. She appears to have a very bright future.”

Bott wasn’t the only one to breath a sigh of relief as Setsuna hit the line at Moonee Valley, with Holland later describing it as a “tough, tough win”.

“Half way through the race, four wide, off the bit … I’d pretty much given up on her,” Holland reveals. “Fantastic win though and we’re all looking forward to what comes next.

“From very early on, we thought of her as a Gimcrack filly and we kept asking Adrian and Gai ‘how’s our Gimcrack filly’. Well, she ended up getting beaten a lip in the Gimcrack but Saturday made up for it.”

Darby Racing has now sourced three outstanding fillies, by three different sires, from three different farms and with three different trainers, but Holland said Waterhouse/Bott was a natural fit.

“Gai trained the mother, Longoria (a winner at two in Sydney) and Troy Everson, who broke the filly in for us at Wild Oaks, had agreed she’d be perfect for Gai and Adrian based on what he’d seen of her.

“Troy told me how well the filly had been responding to her work … there’s not much of her, but what there is, is all heart. They’ve got the 1400m straight track at Wild Oaks that goes uphill and Troy told me he’d give the filly a real good hit out and she’d only be looking for more. He absolutely loved her.”

Ironically, Darby Racing came close to missing out on their latest star.

“Scott and I split up the yearlings we wanted to inspect at the Classic so we could cover more ground,” Holland reveals.

“We’d actually filled our quota and Setsuna had originally been passed in. Anyway, Scott rang and asked me if I’d looked at the Choisir filly. I quickly looked at my notes which had comments like ‘explosive’, ‘ready to go’, ‘Gimcrack type’, so we ended up going back and getting her. Sure glad we did!”

Setsuna’s sire, Choisir was a fantastic racehorse in his own right, blazing a trail for Australian-bred sprinters in England by winning the 2003 Group One Lightning Stakes at Flemington before capturing the Group One Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Now the source of over 1500 winners – 86 stakes winners – the Coolmore Australia based stallion sired 2008 Inglis Banner winner, Starspangledbanner, who would also go on to capture a Golden Jubilee.

Rob Caruso, was a happy camper too after the Inglis Banner and not simply through the vicarious pleasure of having bred Setsuna. Wisely, Caruso decided to retain a share in the filly after she was knocked down to Darby Racing.

Caruso had purchased Setsuna’s dam, Longoria, at the 2009 Inglis Easter Broodmare Sale for $45,000, in foal to Oratorio, and the resultant foal, Miss Solis, would become a dual stakes winner, winning her first three races as a juvenile, including the Listed Supremacy Stakes in Perth.

Deciding to first send Longoria to Choisir in the spring of ’13, Caruso adds that the tryst had its ups and downs.

“She (Setsuna) really was three to four years in the making,” Caruso points out. “The first year Longoria went to Choisir she slipped, then the following year the foal died and, eventually, she produced Setsuna.

“As a small breeder it can be really tough, but wins like this make it all worthwhile. I always thought she’d be an early 2YO like her half sister, Miss Solis, and a lot of the credit goes to Peta Tilden at Manx Park where Setsuna was reared and prepped.”

Following the earlier hurdles, Caruso and Manx Park will offer a So You Think half brother to Setsuna at the 2018 Inglis Sydney Classic … and it’s Winx odds that Darby Racing will be one of those lining up for inspections.

The Power of Passion