Skilled retires to Darley Northwood Park

As the only Group 1 winning son of Commands at stud, Skilled is sure to prove extremely popular with breeders at Darley’s Victorian branch at Northwood Park.

With the Australian marketplace fixated on two-year-old speed, it is well worth noting that Commands colt Skilled was a three-time winner during his juvenile season, twice at Stakes level, including a career-defining victory in the G1 Champagne Stakes.

A winner over 1200m at his second career start, Skilled progressed to win the Listed Baillieu Handicap at his fourth start, defeating subsequent dual G1 winner Sincero in the process.

Jumping in grade at his next start in the G1 Sires’ Produce Stakes, Skilled was run down in the last final strides by the lightly-weighted filly Yosei. Behind him that day were future dual G1-winning colt Toorak Toff, plus Stakes winners Hinchinbrook, Divorces, More Strawberries and Blackball.

While only narrowly defeated, a quick look through the record books suggest that from a future stallion perspective, finishing in the runner-up stall is not such a bad thing. The likes of Fastnet Rock, Choisir and Mossman – all sires who have recorded G1 winners in the past few weeks, also finished second in the race.

Having established that he was clearly a G1 performer, Skilled went one better two weeks later over 1600m in the third and final leg of the two-year-old triple crown, the G1 Champagne Stakes. Recording a gusty head victory, Skilled defeated G1 winners Anacheeva, Yosei, Toorak Toff and Shadows In The Sun; who between them went on to record seven wins at G1 level.

Winning in the time of 1:36.29, the quickest recorded by a colt since 1985 and the second fastest by a colt since the race was run over 1600m in 1972, Skilled joined recent winners Samantha Miss, Meurice, Mentality, Dance Hero, Hasna and Viscount along with Tierce, Triscay, Red Anchor, Bounding Away and Luskin Star.

Ending his two-year-old season as the equal highest Timeform rated colt of his year with a 121, Skilled’s mark was equal with G1 performers Star Witness, Beneteau and Decision Time.

Skilled returned at three and finished in the top four in three of the four Stakes race he contested before he headed back to Sydney for a tilt at the G1 Randwick Guineas.

In front for the length of the straight in the Guineas, Skilled was headed in the shadows of the post by Ilovethiscity, going down by a half-neck margin. Among the beaten horses that day were G1 winners Pressday (Domesday) and Shootoff, plus that season’s G1 Victoria Derby runners up Praecido and Retrieve.

A head and a nose away from being a three-time G1 winner, Skilled was once again rated among the top colts of his generation, ahead of G1 winners Secret Admirer, Lion Tamer, Sincero, Shamrocker and Playing God.

Ending his racetrack career as the winner of three races and in the money on 12 occasions from his 18 starts, Skilled’s race record was considerably better than that of his sire Commands. Arguably even better looking than his sire, Skilled is one of 46 Stakes winners for Commands, of which 42 are the best progeny produced by their dam.

The sire of six individual G1 winners, Commands performs at the elite level year in, year out. The sire of more winners in the past two racing seasons than any other stallion, Commands has been a top-ten finisher for the last seven racing seasons. Currently sitting in third position on the leader board, Commands in an excellent position to achieve his best ever result this season.

Skilled’s dam line also makes impressive reading, with his pedigree laden with black type performers. He is out of the G2 Sandown Guineas-winning Quest For Fame mare Dextrous. The dam of three foals to race, all winners, Dextrous is also the dam of this season’s Stakes-winning full-brother to Skilled in Ambidexter. A different style of horse to Skilled, Ambidexter won the Ming Dynasty during the spring, defeating the eventual G1 Victoria Derby winner Sangster by a half-length margin.

Tracing back to the brilliant grey mare Emanciaption, Horse of the Year in 1984 and the winner of seven G1 races, the extended family of Skilled has repeatedly thrown exceptional racehorses – among them dual G1 winner Virage de Fortune, G1 Caulfield Cup winner Railings, G1 South Australian Oaks heroine Small Minds (Canny Lad), UAE Oaks winner Raihana as well as this season’s G1-winning half-relations Gimmethegreenlight and Ofcourseican, both out of the Canny Lad mare Yes She Can Cancan.

As a grandson of the immortal Danehill, Skilled certainly has the bloodlines to be a success a stud – with six of the top 20 stallions on the general sires’ table being either sons or grandsons of Danehill, Skilled’s pedigree, combined with his talent on the track is sure ensure he will prove a popular choice with breeders this season and in years to come.