Horse Racing

'My father was an out-of-the-box thinker' — Ryan Darby

Observer writer

Friday, March 16, 2018

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Robert Darby Sr's first entry into the world of racing came as an owner. The racing bug had bitten and the bite was infectious and deep. Darby started his time as an owner with horses like Ugly Duckling and then Young Robert , the latter named after his son Robert Darby Jr.

The door of opportunity for Darcy Sr came with the advent of the claiming system in the early years of the 1990s. Darby had by then taken up the challenge to qualify as a trainer, and from there he went on the make a name for himself by churning winner after winner. So good was Darby in working with lame horses and still being able to produce winners, he was acclaimed as racing's “Claiming King”.

Apart from saddling 603 winners, Darby's legacy in racing is being carried on by two of his sons, Robert Jr and Ryan, who are both trainers themselves.

The Supreme Racing Guide spoke with Ryan about his father and the impact he made on him and on racing.

You and your father were very close. How has his passing affected you?

“The passing of my father has taken one of the major lights out of my life. He was not only my father and mentor, but a constant source of enlightenment — a repository of valuable information. This is what I would miss most with him not being around. My father has left me with so much useful information concerning the care and preparation of horses afflicted with lameness. The legacy of horse caring he left behind is invaluable and, for sure, I will continue to use this information as my career progresses. He was known as the “Claiming King” based on his success with lame horses, but let me point out that he strongly believed in the use of natural medication over other forms of treatment or drugs. He was big on the use of nutrition and had different methods of dealing with an affliction. There was never any set thing with him and he would deal with each problem a horse might have, although it might be the same problem, in different ways. Following a thorough examination of a particular problem, my father sought to treat each problem with the utmost care after close scrutiny. This was his special way of getting the results he did. I was fortunate enough to be around him from early in my life, after school and during the holiday periods, and I have stored all the information I have received from my father for future reference so that I can perhaps adjust and apply this information in my own way. My father was an 'out-of-the-box' thinker; he was something of a scientist with his combinations of nutrition to get workable and positive results. Seeing him at work, my young mind was always questioning whether what he was doing would work, and to my amazement from what I saw, 99 per cent of the time whatever he did worked. I must reiterate his big thing was nutrition. Once the animal is kept healthy and fed properly by the supplements prescribed for the particular need of the ailment then the horse will go on to recover. As a result, in the early days vets hardly ever came to our stables and we had quite a few lame horses then. Most of the concoctions that he developed worked for us as we got the job done.”

Outside of racing, what was your father like?

“As a father he was always fun to be around and he was very caring. He was quite knowledgeable: a well-rounded person who could have discourse on varying subjects. He was a footballer and an avid sportsman who played for Cavaliers as goalkeeper. I can remember going the National Stadium to see him play in goal, fat and all that. He also fancied himself a better than average domino player. On a personal note, let me emphasise that he was a very good and caring father, grandfather and friend who loved his family dearly. He was passionate in his every undertaking, so much so that anything he was involved in became a part of him; and he was always keen on imparting what could be understood as wholesome advice not only to his family, but to those around him who could benefit from his counselling.”

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