Dark Destroyer, one of last season’s top three-year-olds showed he has come back as a spring four-year-old in fine fettle as he produced a resolute finish to take out the first Group One of the New Zealand season, the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings.
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained son of Proisir hadn’t been seen since completing a successful campaign in Brisbane during the winter where he took out the Gr.3 Rough Habit Plate (2143m) before finishing an unlucky fourth in the Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) behind fellow Kiwi, Pinarello.
The David Archer-owned gelding had failed to flatter when unplaced behind race-rival La Crique over 1100m at the Taupo trials last month, however he stripped a far fitter horse for his campaign opener on Saturday.
Settled back towards the rear by rider Lisa Allpress, Dark Destroyer began to move into the race approaching the home corner where hot favourite Imperatriz ($1.50) had been taken to the front by Opie Bosson.
Imperatriz and last year’s runner-up Spring Tide set down to a tooth and nail struggle at the 200m before Dark Destroyer asserted his superiority in the final stages to win by a length from Spring Tide with La Crique knocking off Imperatriz for third.
Scott admitted the stable had a few doubts about the readiness of their charge for the first-up assignment following his trial effort but were delighted he had proven them wrong.
“He looks good now but, in all honesty, he still has a lot of improvement in his coat to come,” Scott said.
“He just hadn’t come up at all since returning from Queensland with the cold air making it hard to keep them warm like he experienced over there.
“There will be a lot of improvement in him and he has three weeks to get ready to get back down here again (for the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate, 1600m) and hopefully he keeps going the right way.
“He had the benefit of residual fitness, but it has been a good effort by the team at home to get him ready.
“He looked a bit average after he trialled at Taupo but Lance (O’Sullivan) said not to worry he had just pulled a bit hard and it certainly switched him on and he showed massive improvement.”
Scott believes the step up in distance to 1600m for his next target will definitely suit the horse.
“The further he goes it doesn’t seem to worry him,” he said.
“A wee bit of racing and some warmth through the spring is only going to help him along.”
Allpress was thrilled by the effort of Dark Destroyer who she had kept an eye on since his first start before finally gaining the mount for today’s campaign opener.
“Full credit to the horse as he just switched off and gave me such a beautiful ride,” she said.
“I’m very appreciative to get on such a neat little horse.
“He was difficult for me at the trials but gave me a lot better feel today.
“I could see during the running that La Crique was getting pocketed and Imperatriz was well in front of us so I got on my bike and he just gave me everything.”
Dark Destroyer has now won five of his eleven starts and over $587,000 in prizemoney and becomes the second Group One winner for his Rich Hill Stud-based sire Proisir who will stand his eighth season at the Walton nursery in 2022 for a fee of $17,500+GST.
The victory started a wonderful twenty minutes for stud master John Thompson and his team at Rich Hill as exciting Melbourne-based galloper I’m Thunderstruck, a son of former Gr.1 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking, stormed to victory in the Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
Shocking will stand the 2022 breeding season at Rich Hill for a fee of $12,500+GST.