37th Annual Darley Awards


By Steve Anderson
Daily Racing Form Correspondent

As featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Arabian Horse World.

RB Mary Lylah (Al Mourtajez x Rich Kinkga) at the Texas Six Shooter Stakes. Coady Media Photo.

Nothing is better for a recently crowned racing champion than to support the honor by returning to the winner’s circle. Again and again. RB Mary Lylah was honored in February as the outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2023 at the Darley Awards held in Houston. She secured the award by winning consecutive stakes last fall at Lone Star Park in Dallas.

To start 2024, RB Mary Lylah swept the three stakes run at Sam Houston Race Park, beginning with a one-length win in the $35,000 Darley Sprint Stakes at seven furlongs on February 16 against males.


In March, RB Mary Lylah was back in the winner’s circle after the track’s two turf races for Arabians – the $63,750 Texas Six Shooter Stakes against males at a mile on March 9 and the $60,500 Texas Yellow Rose Stakes against fillies at 1 1/16 miles on March 30.


No, RB Mary Lylah is not perfect, but she is close. She was second in her debut at Retama Park near San Antonio last August. She has won her last seven starts and collected a sharp $145,800 in her first seven months of racing.


RB Mary Lylah (Al Mourtajez x Rich Kinkga, by TH Richie) races for Dianne Waldron’s Rosebrook Farm and trainer Jerenesto Torrez. Waldron, the legendary Arabian owner and breeder, was honored as outstanding owner for 2023 through Rosebrook Farm and outstanding breeder at the Darley Awards ceremony.


Waldron also bred and races RB Nash Bash (RB Nash x Burnee Gee PW), the champion 3-year-old male of 2023.

RB Nash Bash. Coady Media Photo.

Overall, six horses were honored with Darley Awards, led by Diamond Gem AA (Burning Sand x Triumphs Pearl), the Horse of the Year for the second consecutive year and outstanding 4-year-old male. Other trophies went to RS Jewel Crown (Crown Courage x RS Komella) for the 4-year-old filly, Quick Sand AA (Burning Sand x Triumphs Silkie) for an older horse, and WMA Big Baby (Kasih x Baby Grand CS) for the older mare.


In addition to being honored as 2022 Horse of the Year, Diamond Gem AA won the champion 3-year-old male title that season. He is the first repeat Horse of the Year since Paddys Day won the award for three consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2017.


Diamond Gem AA won two of three starts in a limited American campaign in 2023, highlighted by a hard-fought victory by three-quarters of a length in the $100,000 UAE President Cup at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore last May. The nation’s leading race for Arabians, the UAE President Cup, was held on the same program as the Preakness Stakes, the second of the two races in the famous Thoroughbred Triple Crown.


The same race will be run this year on May 18.

Diamond Gem AA. Katie Jones Photo.
Quick Sand AA. Katie Jones Photo.

iamond Gem AA (Burning Sand x Triumphs Pearl, by Seyvilla Triumph) also won the Texas Six Shooter Stakes in February 2023, when the race was run at seven furlongs on dirt, and was second in the Darley Sprint Stakes that March for owners and breeders Joe and Betty Gillis of Mississippi.


Diamond Gem AA later raced without success in France and the UAE. The Darley Award recognized his American success. Diamond Gem AA has returned to the United States.


At Pimlico last May, Diamond Gem AA beat a field that included the remarkable Quick Sand AA, a 10-year-old in 2023. The 2018 Horse of the Year, Quick Sand AA, has won an impressive 19 of 45 starts in a career that began in 2016 for the Gilleses.


As was the case in 2022, the 2023 Darley champions had Texas-based campaigns. While there has been some Arabian racing at Arapahoe Park near Denver in recent years, there has not been an Arabian race at Delaware Park since 2021.


Delaware Park was the headquarters for Arabian racing for decades, but the track began to have a diminished role by 2019.


In Texas, Arabians have near year-round opportunities at Sam Houston in the early months of the year, Retama Park in late summer, and Lone Star Park in the fall.


Torrez is based in Texas and was honored as an outstanding trainer in 2023. He trained four champions: Diamond Gem AA, Quick Sand AA, RB Mary Lylah, and RB Nash Bash.


RS Jewel Crown is co-owned and trained by Nicole Ruggieri. RS Jewel Crown secured her 2023 championship with consecutive wins in two seven-furlong races – the Yellow Rose Stakes and Darley Distaff at Sam Houston early in the year.

WMA Big Baby. Dustin Orona Photo.

WMA Big Baby had the busiest 2023 of the champions, winning once in 13 starts for owner and breeder Rita Deleon. Her sole victory of the year occurred in an allowance race at Lone Star Park in November, but she was second in the Texas Arabian Stallion Stakes for fillies and mares later that month.


In the Yellow Rose Stakes on March 30 of this year, WMA Big Baby was fourth behind RB Mary Lylah, who has taken command of the early rankings for the 2024 Horse of the Year award.