I was eating at a Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn last night when I got a text message from my Lexington-based friend Maria Borell (who’d read a tweet from Thoroughbred Times) that Empire Maker was headed to Japan. He is the latest in a growing list of stallions that will call Japan home in 2011.
The triple Grade 1 winner won the Belmont Stakes to spoil Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid and also took the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial in 2003 and was second in the Kentucky Derby; he will stand in Japan with his son Battle Plan, who was retired earlier this summer after almost handing Blame a loss in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster—a race in which he suffered a career-ending injury when second. Other high-profile horses purchased by Japanese interests over the last year include Harbinger, winner of the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes this year; Conduit, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the King George VI in 2009 and the St. Leger in 2008; and Ashford sire Johannesburg.
The Japanese have long had a penchant for classic winners and stamina horses—exactly the types we’ve devalued over the last decade—and Derby winner Sunday Silence’s breed-shaping influence has led to a plethora of sons at stud over there. The daughters of these sires need fresh blood, and the late Jack Werk presciently addressed this phenomenon in a Oct. 2009 blog post, the essence of which is reproduced below.
This weekend there was an international Group 1 race – although there were no foreign runners in the race, only Japanese-breds – that featured the best 3-year-old filly in Japan, Buena Vista. She had won the Japanese 1000 Guineas and Oaks. The race was the G1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto Racecourse on Sunday at 2000 meters on turf (about 10f). In an amazing finish, the filly Red Desire held off Buena Vista by a nose, but Buena Vista was DQ’d to 3rd and Broad Street was brought up to 2nd from 3rd. Now, here’s the amazing part about this race: The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd were EACH sired by different sons of Sunday Silence – arguably the greatest stallion in Japanese racing history!
Red Desire is by Manhattan Café. Broad Street is by the deceased Agnes Tachyon. Buena Vista is by Special Week! (Click here for the pedigrees of the three.)
Now, take a look at the chart below, which WTC compiles and updates each week. It lists the leading sires in Japan by black type winners (3 or more) per International Cataloguing Standards. Now, this is borderline unbelievable. Eight of the 10 sires on this list are sons of Sunday Silence (Hail to Reason sire line). And, the two non-Sunday Silence stallions, Symboli Kris S. and Tanino Gimlet, are Hail to Reason-line stallions!
Sire of 2009 Black-Type Winners – Japan (thru 10/19/09)
6 –Dance in the Dark (Sunday Silence)
6 –Manhattan Café (Sunday Silence)
5 –Agnes Tachyon (Sunday Silence)
5 –Stay Gold (Sunday Silence)
5 –Symboli Kris S. (Kris S.)
4–Admire Vega (Sunday Silence)
4 –Fuji Kiseki (Sunday Silence)
3 –Gold Allure (Sunday Silence)
3 –Special Week (Sunday Silence)
3 –Tanino Gimlet (Brian’s Time)
This, to me, is absolutely mind boggling for several reasons. First, there are already so many daughters of Sunday Silence entering the breeding shed in Japan that won’t be able to go to these stallions. And second, who are the daughters of these sons of Sunday Silence going to be bred to when they enter stud, fillies like Red Desire, Buena Vista, and Broad Street, to name three?
I believe that this natural concentration of Sunday Silence blood in Japan will create a situation for Japanese breeders to once again start shopping for stallions on the international marketplace, just as they did years ago when they searched for stallions that would cross with Japan’s then leading sire Northern Taste. They struck gold with Sunday Silence!
The time has come to begin the search for new breed-shaping stallions representing different sire lines, but with an emphasis on those that cross with Halo/Hail to Reason-line mares this time. And this explains why they’ve already purchased a major stallion from the US this year in Johannesburg! Not only is the Storm Cat line a favorable cross with Sunday Silence/Halo, but Johannesburg himself has a Werk Nick Rating of A+ with Halo-line mares. I don’t think this is a coincidence. (Note: Multiple G1 winner Tale of Ekati is by a son of Storm Cat out of a Sunday Silence mare)
Japanese demand for new outcross stallions should help our stagnant markets as well as stallion farms looking for cash infusions. It’s all part of the natural cycle of bloodstock markets, and I’m sure owners of legitimate stallions and stallion prospects in the West will soon find new opportunities to sell in the East – “Land of the Rising Sun!”