Some thoughts from Japan
Chad and I were lucky enough recently to gain a real insight into Japanese racing with a visit to Japan alongside Kerry Murphy, chief executive of the European Breeders Fund.
Viewing sales stock at Shadai Farm
A sense of any industry can certainly be gleaned by watching international racing and sales from afar, as we have done for many years, but a true picture can never really formed without an actual visit to the country.
The importance of Sunday Silence and now his son Deep Impact to the Japanese Thoroughbred cannot be underestimated – that much is well known globally and was driven home again on an international stage last year when Deep Impact supplied the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior and Heart’s Cry was well represented in the US by Woodward Stakes winner Yoshida.
And we all know how much Japanese bloodstock, in particular the Yoshida family, has benefitted from an influx of high-performing European and American racemares.
But a visit to Japan revealed much more. An afternoon at the Tokyo Yushun illustrated how the sport has attracted a fan base that is tremendously informed as it is vibrant. And a trip to Hokkaido underlined how the main aim remains the production of a supreme athlete, rather than for a date in the sale ring. Rarely will high end breeders embrace a horse who retires after two seasons of racing. Instead it is a long career, one that invariably includes a strong performance over two miles, that is often influential in dictating a horse’s popularity with breeders.
Below are some thoughts and shots from our hugely informative time in Japan.
The field for the Tokyo Yushun pass by the stands for the first time (pictured right).
Over 110,000 people made the trip to Tokyo racecourse to watch Roger Barows spring an upset and become the fifth Japanese Derby winner for Deep Impact.
His dam, Little Book, was sourced at Tattersalls by Keisuke Onishi of the JS Company after her half-sister, Cheveley Park Stakes winner Donna Blini, had produced Japanese star Gentildonna – such is the small nature of today’s bloodstock world.
Race favourite, the Japanese 2,000 Guineas winner Saturnalia blatantly failed to stay in fourth. However, it was wonderful to see the high regard that the crowd held him in, illustrated by the huge cheer for him as he headed to post.
A tremendous few days visiting Shadai, Northern and Oiwake Farms was naturally highlighted by Deep Impact.
Among those poised to assume Deep Impact’s mantle when the time comes is Almond Eye’s sire Lord Kanaloa, a different kind of animal who excelled over 6f, and Harbinger, pictured below.
It was also a real pleasure to see Kitasan Black (pictured right).
So typical of the array of stallions we were treated to seeing, in that he is a big, strong, scopey horse with the action and balance to go with it, Kitasan Black won no fewer than seven Group 1 races including the Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.
By Deep Impact’s older brother Black Tide, he covered 130 mares in his first season and his first crop of foals are sure to be a major attraction at the upcoming JRHA Select Sale.
Among the sons of Deep Impact waiting in the wings are Kizuna, the Japanese Derby winner who later travelled to France to take the Prix Niel, and Real Steel, who was new to Shadai this season.
There is seemingly a fine word for the progeny of Kizuna, whose first crop made up to 50,760,000yen (£370,000/$470,000) at the recent Chiba 2YO Sale.
And he has duly been quick off the mark as the sire of a winner, Luce Della Vita, on the JRA circuit at Hanshin from just two runners to date. A horse with a fair bit of damsire Storm Cat about him, he’s one to keep an eye on.
As for Real Steel (pictured left), this tough performer enjoyed his finest moment when successful in the Dubai Turf.
A particularly striking individual, he also shuttles to Arrowfield Stud alongside fellow Shadai residents Real Impact and Mikki Isle.
It also doesn’t hurt his chances that he descends directly from Miesque, making him a close relation to leading sire Kingmambo.
Rulership (pictured right), a son of King Kamehameha, won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. He came up with Japanese St Leger winner Kiseki in his first crop and has also had the odd winner in Europe.
As a member of the Kingmambo sire line, he remains a valuable outcross to the Sunday Silence line, which continues to dominate Japanese breeding – look no further than the country’s premier auction, the upcoming JRHA July Select Sale, in which approximately 80 lots catalogued carry inbreeding to the great stallion, up from 63 in 2018.
Similar comments also apply to Harbinger and Lord Kanaloa, both proven outcrosses for Sunday Silence.
Therefore hopes also naturally run high for the prospects of Drefong and Mind Your Biscuits, two real American speedsters who have joined the Shadai roster in the past two seasons. Drefong covered 207 mares last year while Mind Your Biscuits has reportedly been similarly popular in his debut season this spring.
We also had an insightful visit to the Breeders’ Stallion Station.
Many thanks to Naohiro Hosoda and Keisuke Onishi for their kind hospitality.