A downgrade in the Matamata track due to persistent rain on the day played right into the hands of local runner Dark Destroyer as the promising galloper delivered a gritty victory in the day’s feature event, the Gr.3 Mitchell Family Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m).
Sent out a warm $2 favourite after the late scratching of his well-fancied stablemate Karman Line due to the downgrade from a Dead4 to a Slow8 track surface, the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained son of Proisir showed plenty of heart as he dug deep to defeat fellow three-year-olds Whiskey and La Bella Beals in a slogging finish to the contest.
Rider Sam Weatherley stalked La Bella Beals throughout and moved into contention approaching the home turn. Just as he mastered La Bella Beals, Whiskey snuck through on the rail and looked set for victory before Weatherley coaxed a further response from his mount which saw him draw to a half-length victory at the line.
The race was the first for Dark Destroyer since he finished fifth behind fellow Matamata galloper Noverre in the Gr.1 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (1600m) in early November, with O’Sullivan delighted to see him back in the winners’ enclosure.
“That was good for the team and really good for David (Archer) as we think he is a very nice horse,” O’Sullivan said.
“Sam was pretty complimentary of the horse and he actually said he felt with a set of blinkers he would be even better.
“I thought he showed a really good will to win on a tough track that meant the 1400m was probably more like a mile.
“We weren’t sure about what his distance range is and even though we sent him to Riccarton, both Scotty and I thought he would be a better horse for the experience.
“He holds a nomination for the New Zealand Derby (Gr.1, 2400m), but we want to sit down and talk with David about what his thoughts are and we won’t be making any decisions until we’ve done that.”
While the downgrade to a Slow8 played in favour of Dark Destroyer, it did force O’Sullivan’s hand into late scratching impressive debut winner Karman Line.
“Scotty went for a walk on the track about 45 minutes before the race and he said it was getting very testing,” O’Sullivan said.
“We had to take a longer-term view with her (Karman Line) as we didn’t want her finishing near the back after having a real gut buster.
“We have thoughts about tackling the Eight Carat Classic (Gr.2, 1600m) on Boxing Day and if she had failed today, she might not get a start or worse, she would have been physically affected for the race.
“There is a rating 65 race for her at Te Rapa next week, so we thought we would tread with caution and save her for another day.”
Raced by well-known owner David Archer under his Archer Equine Investments banner, Dark Destroyer is out of the All American mare All Can Party and has now won two of his five starts while also finishing third in the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m).
He comes from an extended family full of Group One performers including Gr.1 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) winner Festal, Gr.1 Galaxy Handicap (1200m) winner Masked Party and Gr.1 Spring Championship Stakes (2000m) winner Complacent, who is one of the resident stallions at Matamata’s Mapperley Stud.
Dark Destroyer also becomes the seventh individual stakes winner for his sire, Rich Hill Stud resident Proisir.