As one door has closed at The Oaks Stud with the retirement from commercial duty of farm stalwart Darci Brahma another has remained wide open with U S Navy Flag to return to the Cambridge nursery.
Danehill’s son Darci Brahma has successfully led the lineup at the Dick Karreman-owned operation with a stallion career to compliment his glittering record on the track, which featured Group One victories as a two, three and four-year-old.
At the other end of the scale, former crack European short course performer U S Navy Flag has made his mark at the highest level this season from a handful of first crop representatives and will stand at an unchanged fee of $15,000 + GST in 2023.
“We’ve come to an agreement with Coolmore to bring him back to New Zealand, he hasn’t had the stakes winners yet but he had second, third and fifth (Aprilia, To Catch A Thief, Chantilly Lace) in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr.1, 1400m),” The Oaks General Manager Rick Williams said.
“It’s the same terms and conditions for people who have used him before to get a discount and I’m thrilled with the interest in him.
“The most important positive to me is the trainers, we have a lot of horses in work and they don’t sugar coat anything with me and they love them and say they are horses that will be much better at three.”
U S Navy Flag has sired five winners from 17 starters to currently sit second on the First Season Sires’ Premiership.
“He’s $10,000 off Staphanos and with a number of trial winners that look like they can win their maidens before the end of the season he’s a big chance to go past him,” Williams said.
“On the Champion Two-Year-Old table there’s Satono Aladdin, Snitzel and Staphanos and then U S Navy Flag, I believe he is capable of ending up second, which to me is much more important because that’s against all the proven sires.
“They are sound with great temperaments as he is, he raced 11 times at two and not many can do that and come back and win a race like the July Cup (Gr.1, 1200m).”
A son of War Front, he was a three-time Group One winner before he retired to Coolmore’s Tipperary base and initially shuttled to Valachi Downs before relocating to The Oaks last season.
“We’re running a smaller ship and we are keen to stand stallions, but we’ve got to get the right ones and U S Navy Flag will be our sole commercial one this season,” Williams said.
He shoulders that responsibility after Darci Brahma was laid low last season by illness and an issue that subsequently impacted his fertility.
“In early October, he had an infection in his abdomen that wasn’t obvious and it snuck through to one testicle and we had to treat him with antibiotics,” The Oaks General Manager Rock Williams said.
“While we cleared that up, the antibiotics affected his semen production. We test bred him through late January and early February and he wasn’t producing any viable semen.
“We haven’t given up hope, but realistically he isn’t going to breed commercially and if he showed some return to fertility we might breed a few shareholder’s mares to him.
“At the moment, I’ve told people he isn’t available and it’s a 90 percent chance that’s the way it will stay.”
Bred by Pencarrow Stud, Darci Brahma is out of the Gr.1 Australasian Oaks (2000m) winner Grand Echezeaux and was a $1.1 million Karaka purchase for Te Akau’s David Ellis.
He subsequently posted Group One victories in the TJ Smith Classic (1600m), New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), Otaki Maori WFA (1600m), Telegraph Handicap (1200m) and the Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m).
He retired to The Oaks in 2007 and to date has sired more than 540 winners in eight countries with 57 individual stakes winners and 12 at Group One level including multiple top-flight success stories Recite, Nashville, Sierra Sue and Julinsky Prince.
Darci Brahma claimed the leading New Zealand sire of three-year-olds titles in 2015-16 and 2019-20 and currently has progeny earnings in excess of $81 million.
“His results have always been consistent and he’s been a wonderful stallion,” Williams said.
“We have been lucky to have him, he’s been an absolute pleasure and a gentleman to work with. He has a great temperament and left a good style of horse.”
Recite claimed the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) and Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) in the colours of breeder The Oaks, who also raced Darci Brahma’s top-flight winning daughters Artistic and Devise and his son Catalyst.
“He’s been an extremely versatile stallion with two-year-olds like Recite and winners up to two miles (Dee And Gee, Gr.3 New Zealand Cup),” Williams said.
The stud will also offer Roc De Cambes at $3000 + GST while Williams said Niagara is likely to be relocated to the Central Districts for the 2023 season.