Hong Kong Derby Glory for Sky Darci (NZ)

22 March 2021

Sky Darci (NZ) becomes fourth consecutive Karaka graduate to win the HK$24m Hong Kong Derby. Photo: HKJC

A golden run for New Zealand-bred or sourced horses in the HK$24m BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) continued on Sunday with a sparkling performance by Sky Darci (NZ) (Darci Brahma) in the 2021 edition of the Sha Tin showpiece.

Bought for $160,000 from Highden Park’s draft at Karaka 2018, Sky Darci is the fourth consecutive Hong Kong Derby winner bred or sourced in New Zealand, and the fifth in the last six years. He followed in the footsteps of Werther (NZ) (Tavistock) in 2016, Ping Hai Star (NZ) (Nom du Jeu) in 2018, Furore (NZ) (Pierro) in 2019 and all-conquering Karaka graduate Golden Sixty (Medaglia d’Oro) last year.

Sky Darci has now had 12 starts for six wins and three placings, earning HK$21m in stakes – the equivalent of NZ$3.77m, which is 23 times his purchase price at Karaka three years ago.

“It’s a magic day – massive satisfaction,” winning trainer Caspar Fownes said on Sunday.

“This horse is owned by the Kwan family, who have been incredible people to train for.

Sky Darci (NZ) as a yearling prior to selling at Karaka.

“They bought this horse and gave me the opportunity to train him, so all credit goes to them. He’s come a long way in a short period of time.”

Ridden by champion jockey Joao Moreira, Sky Darci settled in fourth on the rail as Healthy Happy (Zoustar) and Silver Express (Canford Cliffs) charged out to a six-length lead in the back straight.

The field bunched up coming down the side of the track towards the home turn, but Moreira picked a perfect path out into clear air and presented Sky Darci to lodge his bid at the top of the home straight.

Sky Darci accelerated powerfully to take a clear lead, and despite tiring in the last 200 metres, he held on tenaciously to beat Russian Emperor (Galileo) by a head.

“It was such a smooth run,” Moreira said. “He jumped out well and immediately I just grabbed hold of him and tried to put him to sleep. 

“Once those two horses ran away in front, it was such a good section for us. At the 800-metre mark, when Russian Emperor was moved out and left the fence for me to start improving, it actually forced me to go a little bit too early. 

“I had to angle my way out. Once I got into the straight, I had taken the lead a little bit too early, but I knew I was on the best horse in the race and I had a lot of confidence in the horse. 

“I knew the others were coming, they were good horses as well. He’s not a specialist 2000-metre horse, in my opinion, but he’s got heart and even if they were coming, he was giving his best. 

“Going across the line, oh my goodness, it’s such a meaningful race for me, for Casper too and his family.”

Sky Darci was bred by Mark Freeman and David Price, and he is a half-brother to their Group Three Brisbane Cup (2200m) winner and Group One placegetter Chocante (NZ) (Shocking).

Remarkably, Sky Darci is the third Highden Park graduate to win the Hong Kong Derby in the last six years, joining Werther and Ping Hai Star.

In the entire history of the Hong Kong Derby, New Zealand has been the number one source of winners. Graduates of NZB sales have won 11 editions of the prestigious race in the last 27 years - more than any other auction house in the world including Inglis with only three winners and Magic Millions with just two.


Highden Park


Mr B Kwan (Hong Kong)


Darci Brahma – Strictly Maternal


Lot 629, Karaka 2018 Book 1, $160,000

Bred by

M W Freeman & D G Price