Commanding win in Champagne Stakes

Darley shuttler Commands holds a 10 winner lead on the Australian sires’ premiership and he grabbed a Group 1 first this season when Skilled was successful in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.  

Latest AAP figures show Commands (117) leads Redoute’s Choice (107) and Testa Rossa (105) in the individual winners category for 2009-10.

Skilled (2c Commands – Dextrous by Quest For Fame) has struck a rich vein of form in April.  He started the month with a Listed victory in The Schweppes at Rosehill and followed up with a Group 1 second to Yosei in the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes.

The Champagne Stakes was the first Group 1 for Commands since Russeting won the QTC Winter Stakes at the 2009 Brisbane carnival.

Commands is coming to end of his first shuttle season at Darley’s Japan base.  Woodlands also shuttled him to France for a one-off season in 2002.

A decade after he retired, the bare bones of his abridged race record don’t do justice to Commands.  At first glance, his career high was a G3 victory in the 1999 Missile Stakes on the eve of his third birthday.  

But that doesn’t take into account the day he was third home behind Redoute’s Choise and Testa Rossa in arguably the most memorable G1 Caulfield Guineas of the modern era.

Or in the following year’s G1 The Galaxy when he was beaten a half-head by Black Bean.  And he was beaten again in the stewards room when Larry Cassidy’s plaintive protest was dismissed.

Irrespective of his race record, Commands was always going to be given a chance at stud being a son of Danehill from a daughter of priceless broodmare Eight Carat.

His Champagne Stakes winner is out of 2002 Sandown Guineas winner Dextrous.  That Group 2 was sandwiched between wins in the Listed Eliza Park Stakes at Moonee Valley and G3 The Vanity at Flemington.

Skilled is raced by Sheikh Mohammed and it’s ironic the colt’s Group 1 breakthrough should come in the Champagne Stakes which is programmed on the same card as the G2 Emancipation Stakes and G1 All-Aged Stakes.  His second-dam is a half-sister to Australian Horse of the Year Emancipation whose numerous G1 triumphs included the 1984 All-Aged Stakes.  

Commands is within 7 winners of his previous personal best of 124 which he achieved when runner-up to Encosta de Lago in 2008-09.