Darren eyes a victory Dance with Detonator Jack in Derby

6 min read
If history has a habit of repeating itself, it might be this Saturday with the leading South Australian Derby contender Detonator Jack (NZ) (Jakkalberry {Ire}), who has the same sire, jockey and co-trainers as the race’s 2021 winner, Explosive Jack (NZ).

Cover image courtesy of Racing Photos

Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock's Darren Dance would love for history to repeat itself in Saturday’s G1 South Australian Derby at Morphettville. Dance will be represented by the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Detonator Jack, who will be ridden by John Allen.

Twelve months ago, Maher-Eustace and Allen combined to win the 3-year-old Classic with Explosive Jack, and Dance hopes that having the same trainers, jockey and sire proves to be a winning formula once again.

Allen is the right jockey for the occasion, having won the South Australian Derby on four of the past six occasions.

The Irishman partnered Howard Be Thy Name (Redoute’s Choice) to victory in 2016, before going back-to-back aboard Volatile Mix (NZ) (Pentire {GB). Then, in 2020, Allen guided Russian Camelot (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) to a brilliant triumph, after travelling three-wide with no cover at the back of the field for much of the 2500-metre trip.

Maher and Eustace are no strangers when it comes to winning Derbies, too.

David Eustace and Ciaron Maher | Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

In 2017, before Eustace joined as co-trainer, Maher took out the Queensland Derby with Ruthven (Domesday). The pair’s star colt, Hitotsu (Maurice {Jpn}) won both the 2021 Victoria Derby and 2022 ATC Derby, while Explosive Jack claimed last year’s Tasmanian Derby and ATC Derby, before his Morphettville masterclass.

“They’re pretty good at winning these big races, probably the best at it,” Dance told TDN AusNZ. “Let's hope they can do it again.”

A stayer with enormous upside

Detonator Jack heads into the Derby undefeated from three starts.

He won his maiden over 1400 metres at Bendigo on March 11 by 3l, before scoring over 1600 metres in BM64 grade at Sandown on March 30. The 3-year-old then triumphed over 2100 metres at Sandown in a BM78 on April 18.

“It’s really good. To have a son of Jakkalberry as a genuine chance in a Group 1 Derby, it’s very exciting,” said Dance.

“Normally with these stayers, you’ve got to teach them how to settle and then quicken. He just seems to be a natural.” - Darren Dance

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a 3-year-old that’s shown what he’s shown so far. And, to be undefeated too. Normally with these stayers, you’ve got to teach them how to settle and then quicken. He just seems to be a natural.

“He’s a lovely horse, just a beautiful athlete, so clean-winded with a great attitude and will to win. I don’t know how good he is, but we just look forward to Saturday and see what he can do. They don’t give away Group 1s.”

Fond memories

Jakkalberry will always have a special place in Dance’s heart.

Dance purchased the 2010 G1 Gran Premio di Milano winner off his then Italian owner, albeit it wasn’t straightforward.

“He was racing in Italy and we were looking for an international,” Dance said. “The owner didn’t want to sell him at the time because he had a dream to race in Dubai. So, we did a deal where we bought half of him on the provision that he went to Dubai, and then we had the option to buy the other half after that race.

Jakkalberry (Ire)

“He went to Dubai and ran third in the Sheema Classic, then we exercised the right to buy the balance.”

In 2012, Jakkalberry won the inaugural running of the American St Leger S. for Dance, before finishing third behind Green Moon (Ire) and Fiorente (Ire) in the 2012 Melbourne Cup.

“We set Jakkalberry for the Melbourne Cup and he drew the car park,” Dance explained. “He flew home to run third though, it was a massive run.”

Jakkalberry raced in six countries and among his major wins was the G2 Dubai City of Gold S. in 2013.

“He was great. We went to America, Dubai… all these places we’d never been to at the time,” said Dance. “It really opened our eyes and gave us a great thrill to travel around in these elite races.”

“He (Jakkalberry) was great. We went to America, Dubai… all these places we’d never been to at the time. It really opened our eyes and gave us a great thrill to travel around in these elite races.” - Darren Dance

In 2014, Jakkalberry was retired to stud duties as the foundation stallion at Novara Park in Cambridge. Sadly, he had 204 live foals before dying from a gut infection in February, 2018.

“Jakkalberry was the first international I bought and he took us all over the world,” Dance said. “He’s very special, and it was very sad when he died after three seasons at stud.

“I’ve been really keen to get a good Jakkalberry (yearling). This is the first one I’ve had that’s shown any promise out of the four that I’ve had. A lot of the owners that were in Jakkalberry are in this horse, and it looks like we might have found a good one.”

Meant to be...

Detonator Jack is out of Red Delicious (NZ) (No Excuse Needed {GB}), making him a half-brother to the dual Group 1 winner Madison County (NZ) (Pins), and his fourth dam is Courtza (NZ) (Pompeii Court {USA}), a winner of the G1 Golden Slipper S. and dam of New Zealand Horse of the Year and four-time Champion Sire O’Reilly (NZ).

Madison County (NZ) | Image courtesy of Sportpix

The gelding is from Jakkalberry’s final crop (in 2018), and he was bred by Waikato-based husband-and-wife breeders Craig and Steph Dunphy. Offered by Prima Park, he was passed in at the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale Book 1.

That’s when Dance got a phone call.

“Mike Rennie, a friend of mine in New Zealand that I have known a long time, called me,” Dance said. “He was out for dinner with one of his mates, who said to him; ‘I’m breaking in this Jakkalberry gelding and I think he’s got a bit of X-factor about him’. Mike said, ‘I know someone that might want to buy him if you want to sell him’.

“So, Mike called me out of the blue. I looked at his pedigree, and given the breaker said he’s really good, I thought, ‘why wouldn’t we buy him?’ I went on his word, bought him, and they sent him over.”

Jakkalberry (Ire) when racing | Image courtesy of Sportpix

Dance said Detonator Jack will head to the paddock after the Derby, with a spring campaign to be determined for his 3-year-old that “still isn’t furnished”.

He added that the top races, such as the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, aren’t on the agenda at this stage.

“I would have thought he’ll have a nice spring just to season him up and get his rating up to where it needs to be, and then we can attack the best races in 2022.”

SA Derby
Morphettville
Jakkalberry
Detonator Jack
Ciaron Maher
John Allen
Dave Eustace