Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock head honcho Darren Dance is a hard man to pin down at the best of times, but with the recent purchase of ATB’s latest international Seismos, who incidentally scored a 9 length win overnight in Germany, I thought it would be great time to turn his mobile phone off, take his car keys off him, lock him in his office, and ask him about his international operation.
Anyone who knows Darren Dance knows he is one of the hardest working syndicators in the racing industry with a burning desire to win a Melbourne Cup for his owners, and getting him to sit still to answer a few questions is no easy feat, especially when it is not about his owners, but here we go!
Bear in mind, I am limited to 10 questions or risk losing my share in Dandino. So ten questions it is!
1- Darren you have syndicated a number of international gallopers the last couple of years since branching out overseas, what has been the highlight?
I would have to say watching Jakkalberry run 3rd in the Melbourne Cup will be a moment that l will never forget. When you buy these quality international horses you really want to see them run to their form and reward the owners who trust our judgement and get involved.
Seeing the excitement on the owners faces is an image that l will never forget.
The resurrection of Tac De Boistron overseas after failing in Australia, to go on to win the Group 1 in France for us was great, and Dandino has been really exciting as well.
2- Apart from the distance and extra cost for travelling, what has been the major difference between buying and syndicating overseas horses compared to home grown?
When you buy overseas horses they have already been racing so you can see how good they are. Our goal is to buy proven horses that might improve in a new stable and providing they pass all our vet tests and physical examination we will have a great chance to do so.
Here when buying yearlings, they are a type and have a pedigree, then we have to wait one or two years to see if they can really run.
3- Jakkalberry & Dandino are two of your more profile internationals, what caught your eye with them to purchase for syndication in Australia?
Jakkalberry was the star thoroughbred in Italy, a Derby winner with great form. He was very difficult to buy but he was a great type and had an ability to run distance and reel off great sectionals late in his races. He also had a super pedigree.
We just thought he would be good enough and he was. He won three times for us in Dubai and Chicago, was placed on several occasions and won over $1.5 million for us in just over 12 months.
Dandino caught our attention for different reasons. Our agent found him and whilst he was not setting the world on fire, he was very consistent and once again processed that great turn off foot for the last 600m. He had great 2400m form and there is no doubt with Marco Botti and travelling, that he has gone to another level.
Only the wide gate beat him in the Calfield Cup and in the Melbourne Cup he finished an unlucky 5th, you know why.
4- Both Jakkalberry & Dandino won the American St Leger for you during the past two years, will you be going back to try for three in a row?
Why not? l am sure one of the three (Dandino, Kelinni, Seismos) will go to that race. It will just depend where they are at after Royal Ascot and what options Marco thinks is the best for each horse.
5- Unusual Suspect was the first of your internationals and he ran well in a Melbourne Cup, where is he now?
We retired him and sold him to Stud and he wil stand this season in Victoria. I will have to send him a mare as he was the one that started this journey.
6- Tac De Boistron struggled on the firm tracks in Melbourne and you bit the bullet and sent him back to the UK, a successful move on your part. What was the reason behind the decision?
Most of the credit goes to Michael Kent. The horse was struggling on the firm ground here in Australia, he was much better on soft going and we all know that, however for the 9 months he was out here it only rained on about 3 days. It was so dry that year.
Michael rang one day in May 2013 and said to send him to Marco, and after speaking to the owners we did. Only one person dropped out of the ownership. He won at Chester and then the Group 1 Royal Oak in France and is a star over there. Back in the form that he had when we bought him at the start.
7- Crackerjack King showed plenty of potential before persistent injuries continued to hound him, where is he at now?
Crackerjack King is a very gifted galloper and has had tendon problems and is not very effective on soft ground. He is in training with David Hayes and we are eyeing this spring with him if we can get him and keep him sound. He is a 1600m to 2000m group class horse when right on firm ground.
8- You purchased South African gallopers Counter Ridge & Chocolicous, the latter in foal to Frankel, how have they compared to your European purchases?
We bought 2 mares in South Africa for not a lot of money and exported them to the Uk. They raced in South Africa first and then the idea was to put them in foal in the UK southern Hemisphere time and export them to Australia.
The quarantine period is extremely lengthy and costly so it puts a lot of peole off but we have plenty of time, so we did it.
Chocolicious is here now at our stud in foal to Frankel and is lovely mare. Counter Ridge is on her way to the UK now.
9- You announced on ATB-TV last week that you had secured another international who will likely race at Dubai in March before heading to Royal Ascot, what can you tell us about him?
Yes we secured the controlling interest in Seismos who is a star 6yo old gelding who will run in Dubai in the Group 1 Sheema Classic before being transferred to Marco Botti in the UK to race at Royal Ascot. He will embark on a programme to bring him to Melbourne for the Spring to contest the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
Seismos had his first start for ATB last night at Neuss in Germany – He won a 2300m Conditions race by 9 lengths. A great start for Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock!
10- Finally, will you continue to look overseas for syndication or do you see a different trend happening perhaps?
We have 2 very good agents in the UK who work with us and they will continue to select horses and put them up to us. So despite all the factors that are currently working against the Australian buyer, prices going up, the Aussie dollar dropping against the pound and their stocks being depleted in Europe, we will continue searching for that potential cup’s horse.
Email Darren Dance to register your interest in a Melbourne Cup horse.
It was time to let Darren go as he had to take a few horses to Warrnambool to go back into work, a 5 hour round trip, one he does regularly each week.
As he turned his mobile phone back on, the messages came through thick and fast, and who knows, perhaps another international is among them!