With back-to-back stakes wins including a last-gasp thriller in Saturday’s Gr.2 SKYCITY Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie, Dark Destroyer is stepping up to fill a void for owners David Archer and Diane Wright.
The couple’s distinctive grey and blue colours have had a quiet few months following the retirements of quality trans-Tasman performers Bostonian and Charles Road during the winter. But it turned out that their next star galloper was just around the corner, as Dark Destroyer debuted with a third placing at Taupo in September.
The talented son of Proisir has now won three of his six starts including the Auckland Guineas and last month’s Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), and he also placed in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m). His only time outside the placings was a solid fifth in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
“This is a big thrill today and our hearts are pumping,” David Archer said. “It’s been quite a long time between drinks for us, but this is a brave little horse who’s very tough, very talented and really progressing well.
“We just had to find out today whether her could go on a dry track, and he did that. It’s been a great training feat by Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott, who are a lot of fun to race horses with, and it was just a magnificent ride by Sam Weatherley.”
For most of Saturday’s Guineas, second place seemed to be the best that Dark Destroyer could hope for. The 2000 Guineas placegetter Field Of Gold had enjoyed an easy time in front, and he threw down the gauntlet in the straight with a powerful kick.
Dark Destroyer was still more than a length adrift with 100m remaining, but he gradually clawed his way up alongside the leader and then collared him in the shadows of the post, winning by a long neck.
“That was a big win,” Weatherley said. “I’m really grateful to David and Diane for keeping me on this horse. He’s a pretty good galloper, and I’m over the moon with that.
“He wants to go even further than this – I couldn’t pull him up after the race and almost had to go up the Ellerslie hill to get him to stop, so it’s exciting.”
The TAB now rates Dark Destroyer a $10 favourite for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 5.
“Our Derby dream is still a little bit alive,” Archer said. “We’re actually quite lucky to own him. He was passed in at Karaka as a yearling, and I asked Paul Moroney which of the passed in lots he liked the best. He gave me a list of five to have a look at, and Dark Destroyer was one of those.”
It was the third consecutive Auckland Guineas win for O’Sullivan and Scott, who won it with Dragon Leap in 2020 and Rocket Spade in 2021.
“This horse has some incredibly loyal owners, who have been so patient with this horse all the way through,” Scott said. “They’re starting to be rewarded now, and hopefully that will continue.”
Dark Destroyer is out of the All American mare All Can Party and comes from a speed family that includes Group One winners Masked Party and Festal.
The three-year-old gelding was bred by Warwick Jeffries, a sheep and beef farmer based about 15 kilometres from Tauranga and a shareholder in exciting Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir.