Dark Angel From Premier To Elite


Goffs’ Premier Yearling Sale is in full swing at Doncaster, where buyers will be hoping to unearth another ‘Donny Rocket’. The name of the sale has changed over time, as has the sales complex, which is now kitted out in green rather than red this year, but, despite all the alterations over the decades, the ethos has remained the same since the foundation of the Doncaster Bloodstock Sales (DBS) by Willie Stephenson and Ken Oliver in 1962. The sale has an outstanding record in producing top-class horses and among its many alumni are Gr.1 winners Advertise,
Barney Roy, Canford Cliffs, Cockney Rebel, Dutch Art, Golden Horde, Harry Angel, Kyllachy, Laurens, Limato, Phoenix Reach, Supremacy and Turtle Island. One particular graduate of the sale that deserves a special mention, however, is Dark Angel, who recently registered his 100th individual Stakes winner, courtesy of St Albans Bloodstock’s homebred Heredia landing the Listed Dick Hern Stakes at Haydock. Sold by breeder Yeomanstown Stud to BBA Ireland for 61,000gns at the then St Leger Yearling Sale, Dark Angel, a first-crop son of Rathbarry Stud’s fellow DBS graduate Acclamation, won second time out at the Chester May Festival for Barry Hills before finishing mid-division in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot. Fourth in the Gr.2 July Stakes, he then won the valuable St Leger Yearling Stakes – now known as the Goffs UK Harry Beeby Premier Yearling Stakes – the latest edition of which was won by the Yeomanstown-bred Dragon Leader (El Kabeir) last Thursday. After failing to fire in the Gr.2 Flying Childers Stakes, he roared back to form when winning the Gr.2 Mill Reef Stakes and backed up in the Gr.1 Middle Park Stakes, beating Strike The Deal on both occasions. His final racecourse appearance would come in the Gr.1 Dewhurst Stakes in 2007, after which Gay and Annette O’Callaghan took the chance to bring him home and stand him at stud after just one season of racing, a move which has become more common in recent years. From an introductory fee of €10,000, Dark Angel was represented by 73 first-crop two-year-olds in 2011, 33 of whom won – an impressive strike rate of 45 per cent. One of those, Lily’s Angel, who had brought up a treble in the Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes at Chester and been fifth in the Gr.3 Albany Stakes, following a similar path to her sire, became his first black-type winner when winning the Listed Empress Stakes at Newmarket by half a length.

She would turn out to be his only Stakes winner that season, although Tough As Nails was third in the Gr.1 Phoenix Stakes, B Fifty Two was second to Dabirsim in the Gr.3 Prix de Cabourg and Dark Ray was Listed-placed in Italy. Better yet was to come the following season when his second crop sons Alhebayeb and Boomshackerlacker, conceived off a lower fee of €7,500, won the Gr.2 July Stakes and the Listed Prix Saraca respectively, with the latter also being placed in the Gr.2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, while first-crop son Lethal Force, who had been fourth in the Gr.2 Coventry Stakes the previous season, won the Gr.2 Hungerford Stakes, and now familiar names Sovereign Debt and Gabrial were second in the Gr.3 Sovereign Stakes and third in the Gr.1 Sussex Stakes respectively.

The year 2013 would be a banner one for Dark Angel, with Lethal Force going on to become his first Gr.1 winner in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and backing up a month later in the Gr.1 July Cup, while first-crop son Heeraat won the Gr.3 Hackwood Stakes, Gabrial won the Listed Doncaster Mile and Lily’s Angel added the Gr.3 Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes and Listed Snowdrop Stakes. In all, he supplied seven black-type winners that year and was firmly established as a sire of prodigious talent, with his fee booming to €27,500 for the 2014 season.
Dark Angel’s upward trajectory was far from plateauing, however, as in 2014 Estidhkaar struck gold in the Gr.2 July Stakes and Gr.2 Champagne Stakes, while we saw the emergence of one of his lifetime flag-bearers, Mecca’s Angel, who won the Listed Scarbrough Stakes and Gr.3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy in the space of ten days. The following season, she struck the first of her two Gr.1 Nunthorpe Stakes successes, while Gutaifan won the Gr.2 Prix Robert Papin and Gr.2 Flying Childers Stakes, and only found Shalaa too good in the Gr.1 Prix Morny. Birchwood won the Gr.2 Superlative Stakes, Mecca’s Angel’s full-brother Markaz, another yearling graduate of what had by then become Goffs UK, annexed the Gr.3 Criterion Stakes and Realtra was victorious in the Gr.3 Sceptre Stakes. These were among a
remarkable 14 Stakes winners that season, which saw Dark Angel fever hit the sales ring – eight of his progeny broke the six-figure mark at Doncaster – and his fee rose again to new high of €60,000. His achievements were such that racing juggernaut Darley was convinced to invest in him and Sheikh Mohammed’s operation supported him with mares from 2016, and thus commenced a period when he was his most prolific. Mecca’s Angel won her second Nunthorpe in 2016, the year two more future stars would emerge. Harry Angel broke his maiden in the Gr.2 Mill Reef Stakes before his acquisition by Godolphin and Persuasive won the Gr.3 Atalanta Stakes. The former, who now resides at Dalham Hall Stud, would go on to claim victory in the Gr.1 July Cup and Gr.1 Sprint Cup and the latter would defeat a high-class field in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, both in 2017.

With Mecca’s Angel retired to stud and Harry Angel soon to follow, there was room for another Dark Angel sprint sensation. Step forward Battaash. Entrusted by Shadwell to Charlie Hills, whose father Barry trained Dark Angel, Battaash would go on to eclipse Mecca’s Angel’s achievements. The speedster was not straight forward as a young horse and, having won a Bath novice on debut and finishing in midfield in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes, like his sire, he was gelded. Further wins at two eluded him, but he racked up wins in the Listed Scurry Stakes, Gr.3 Sprint Stakes and the Gr.2 King George Stakes at three and, after finishing fourth in the Nunthorpe, reversed the form with Marsha in the Gr.1 Prix de l’Abbaye, becoming Dark Angel’s third Gr.1 winner, which was made four three weeks later by Persuasive. Battaash added a further Gr.1 laurels in the Nunthorpe in 2019 and 2020, when he also won the King’s Stand Stakes. After six seasons of
racing and 13 wins, Battaash had become a fan favourite, one of a few stars on the Flat who come back year after year and perform at
the highest level. By this point Dark Angel was standing at a career high of €85,000 and from 2015 to the present, with the exception of 2019,
he has hit double-figure tallies for Stakes winners in each and every season, with no less than 19 in both of 2021 and 2022. Success on the track kept rolling and followed in the sales ring, reaching a summit in 2019 when he had two yearlings make seven-figure sums at Goffs and Tattersalls. With a lifetime average of 44 per cent winners to runners and eight per cent black-type winners to runners, he is well established among Europe’s elite stallions, and he is continuing to produces the goods at the age of 18. To this day, Battaash is his highest-rated progeny, reaching a peak mark of 127, and one of 14 by the sire to win at Gr.1 level, the latest of which was this season’s Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee
Stakes victor Khaadem, while he also sired a Classic winner in 2022 in the shape of Gr.1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches heroine Mangoustine.
As one of the St Leger/Premier Yearling Sale’s most accomplished graduates, it is fitting that Dark Angel has been a rich source of ‘Donny Rockets’ throughout the years, such as Mill Reef winner Wings Of War, the aforementioned Harry Angel and Estidhkaar, Gr.3 Tyros Stakes winner Exogenesis, this season’s Gr.3 Princess Margaret Stakes winner Sacred Angel and juvenile Listed winners Bronze Maquette, Darkanna, Dilizia, Gussy Mac, Log Out Island, Secret Angel, and of course his first Stakes winner Lily’s Angel. Although he is world-class source of precocious talent, it should be noted that ten of his 14 Gr.1 winners to date were successful at the highest level at the age of four or older, a testament to the toughness and durability of his progeny, qualities which were undoubtedly called into question when he retired
from racing at two.



By Cormac Hayes via EBN, Wednesday 30th August 2023