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Dar Re Mi looks top of the scale; Curragh Group 1 winner could prove big hit as broodmare.

IT would not have been a difficult decision to keep Dar Re Mi in training for a third season after a 2008 in which she progressed significantly and established herself among the leaders of her age and sex. She seemed to thrive on racing, had performed with admirable consistency, and, with a little bit of luck, she might just cap her career with a Group 1 score.

On Saturday at the Curragh the mission was accomplished, and maybe there was an element of luck involved, as a different set of stewards might have taken an alternative view of the final-furlong incident when she drifted right and forced Beach Bunny off a straight course. There was only a short head in it at the end, and opinions were divided over whether she would be confirmed as the winner.

Perhaps there will be another day for the gallant runner-up, whose connections bore no grudges over the eventual verdict. Had the placings been reversed, it would have seemed a shame for Dar Re Mi, who had led all the way and battled resolutely to retain her advantage when joined by the challenging Beach Bunny.

It would be unfair to dwell upon the lucky angle, because we must recognise that Dar Re Mi was racing over a distance that hardly seemed likely to suit her. Her best form last year had all been at 1m4f, and she had given every indication then that she would be amenable to longer trips; few would have cared to bet that if she were to win at Group 1 level it would come over 1m2f in the Pretty Polly Stakes, so the performance was very much to her credit.

Dar Re Mi had only one start as a juvenile, at Newmarket in November, and her close second place there in a 19-runner maiden marked her down as a filly with abundant potential. A seven-length win on her return at Sandown confirmed her promise, and her form maintained an upward curve for much of her second season.

Third to Lush Lashes in the Group 3 Musidora, and third again in a three-way photo-finish on her first attempt at 1m4f in the Group 2 Prix de Malleret, she followed with a smooth Listed victory over Folk Opera at Newmarket and earned her first success at Group 3 level in Deauville's Prix Minerve.

Further improvement was evident when she stepped up to compete in Group 1, going under by little more than a length against Lush Lashes in the Yorkshire Oaks (transferred to Newmarket's July course) and matching that form when only the wonderful Zarkava led her home in the Prix Vermeille. She was having her fourth race in seven weeks when a little below par in finishing third in the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu to sign off for the season.

Dar Re Mi was clearly not fully wound up when she reappeared for the Group 3 Middleton Stakes in May, but she failed by only a matter of inches against Crystal Capella, showing that her zest for racing remained undiminished and that Group 1 glory was still attainable. Having reached that target, it scarcely matters what her immediate future holds; it is the long term, and her role as replacement for her retired dam Darara at Watership Down, which really signifies.

A tall, well-made individual and a fluent mover, Dar Re Mi is a very different physical type from Darara, a lean and delicate sort whose racing career was over inside five months, but who in that time established herself as one of the best of her sex in Europe.

The filly Classics of 1986 were already history when she made her winning debut at Saint-Cloud in June, but by August, after a second in Listed company at Evry, she had a Group 3 success in Deauville's Prix de Psyche to her name. Smart as that form was, it gave no hint as to what she was to achieve in her next race, the Group 1 Prix Vermeille.

Yves Saint-Martin sent her to the front early in the straight, and she drew right away from her rivals to score by five lengths, with Lacovia, heroine of the Prix Saint-Alary and the Diane, only third. So what if she looked a frail little thing? She had a powerful motor concealed in that puny frame, and the Aga Khan was encouraged to supplement her for the Arc de Triomphe.

As luck would have it, the 1986 Arc was one of the most competitive on record - second only to the 1965 edition (Sea-Bird, Reliance, Diatome et al) in the minds of many judges - so it was a tall order for the filly, one of a four-strong team in the Aga Khan colours.

She did not help her cause by fighting Saint-Martin for her head in the early stages, but she was still in contention until the final furlong and it was no disgrace to wind up sixth, only four lengths off the winner, when the illustrious quintet who led her home were Dancing Brave, Bering, Triptych, Shahrastani and Shardari.

HAVING contested a vintage Arc, Darara was sent for an edition of the Breeders' Cup Turf that turned out to be exceptional. Never before or since could America field such a trio of outstanding grass performers at one time as Manila, Theatrical and Estrapade. They were all too good for Dancing Brave, so it was hardly surprising that a tired Darara could make no impression on them.

As the top-rated three-year-old middle-distance filly on the International Classifications, Darara was naturally a valuable broodmare prospect, but she also owned exceptional pedigree credentials. From an outstanding family that had delivered numerous champions for Marcel Boussac, she was also a half-sister to Darshaan, famously winner over Sadler's Wells and Rainbow Quest in the 1984 Prix du Jockey-Club.

Darara was already the dam of four winners from her first four foals when the Aga Khan sent her to the 1994 December Sales, covered by Darshaan's sire, Shirley Heights. If ever there was an ideal foundation mare for a new stud, it was surely she, and for 470,000gns Charlie Gordon-Watson secured her for Watership Down.

Darara's tally of winners eventually reached nine, including two sons of Sadler's Wells who claimed Group 1 honours - Darazari in Australia and Diaghilev in Hong Kong - and her auctioned produce have repaid the investment in her several times over. But to have a Group 1-winning filly out of her represents the icing on the cake for the Lloyd-Webbers.

There should be a lot of fun to come from a mare whose pedigree makes her easy to mate and allows hopes that her produce will add further lustre to an exceptionally distinguished family.

CAPTION(S):

Dar Re Mi (Jimmy Fortune, farside) pips Beach Bunny by a short head to land the Audi Pretty Polly Stakes
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 2, 2009
Words:1142
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