Alastair PulfordAlastair Pulford (Darley)Australian Alastair Pulford of Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud was an interesting recent visitor to South Africa.

Pulford is the manager of stallion operations for Darley Stud in Australia and is based on their farm in the Hunter Valley, an area three-and-a-half hours drive from Sydney that has been the traditional home of Australian breeding for over 100 years. Hosted by Durban bloodstock agent Andy Williams, he attended a night meeting at Greyville, the J&B Met and also visited various stud farms and training yards.

Pulford was most impressed with J&B Met day. “This was my second Met, the first being the one when Horse Chestnut won. It is a great meeting and extremely well promoted for which J&B and Gold Circle deserve to be patted on the back,” he said. “I love the way the whole town gets into the spirit of the meeting and the crowd is fabulous. Everybody is just out to have fun. It’s a great card, with the three Group ones, which was a real treat for me to see.

“The horses are turned out magnificently and Pocket Power is just a beautiful thoroughbred racehorse. It was a privilege to be there and I have to say it is one of the most enjoyable meetings in the world.”

Comparing the quality of horse here to Australia he said, “Australia has a studbook of 25 000 mares compared to about 5 000 here and the depth of our stallions is also greater. But the best horses in South Africa are already proven overseas. “It would be fantastic to have some of them over to run in the Cox Plate and other races out in Australia although obviously the quarantine restrictions at the moment are an obstacle.”

Pulford revealed that among breeders in Australia there is more prestige in winning races like the Cox Plate (the country’s premier weight-for-age event, run two weeks before the Melbourne Cup), the Golden Slipper (the premier juvenile event, run in Sydney) and the various Guineas races than there is to winning the Melbourne Cup itself.Breeders thus enjoy horses that have a turn of foot and tend more toward sprinter/milers than stayers.

He himself is on his way to England, followed by Ireland and the USA, where he will assess the suitability of certain Darley shuttle stallions for Australian needs.“Currently the line of leading Australian horses is dominated by Danzigowing to the success of Danehill. “We currently stand Exceed And Excel, one of Danehill’s brightest stars, but we are also looking for the best outcross to this line. An example is the stallion we stand, Elusive Quality (sire of Smarty Jones, the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner).

“Although his dam is from the Northern Dancer line, his sire, Gone West, is a Mr Prospector line horse.” Bernardini, by A.P. Indy, is another who complements the Danehill-Danzig line.
Pulford said of Sheikh Mohammed, “He is forward thinking, extremely generous and an astute businessman and wants to make a difference. “One only has to see what he has done in Dubai and, using the same principles, he wants to create the best stallion business the world has ever known.”

Darley’s strategy is thus to buy stallion prospects and consequently they have recently purchased three of the top four such prospects in the USA, Street Sense (Street Cry), who won the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile in 2006 and the Kentucky Derby in 2007, Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor) and Hard Spun. The former two are both by Mr Prospector line stallions.

Other recent purchases have been Authorized (Montjeu), who has won three Group 1’s including the Epsom Derby in 2007, Teofilo (Galileo), who was the top ranked European juvenile of 2006, and Manduro (Monsun), a German-bred who was the number one ranked horse in the world in 2007. Darley has two farms in Australia, the other being an hour north of Melbourne, and in a normal year they stand at least 20 stallions at any given time, all bar four of whom are shuttled. Pulford hopes to attend some South African sales in the future although he said that successful older horses in training together with fillies and mares would be of more value.

Extract by David Thiselton (Gold Circle)