The ability to stay at least 2000 meters (about 10 furlongs) is a prerequisite to be a leading sire in Japan, where the Triple Crown consists of the 2000 Guineas equivalent (Satsuki Sho) at 2000m; the Derby (Tokyo Yushun) at 2400m, or about 12 furlongs; and the St Leger equivalent (Kikuka Sho) at 3000m, or about 15 furlongs. Because of its racing program, it’s quite possible that in relative isolation the Japanese are producing some of the best 10-furlong-plus stock in the world: the 2000m Dubai World Cup 1-2 finishers this year were Japanese horses, as was the Arc runner-up in 2010, for example.
The Japanese classics are on turf and based on the British model, except the Guineas is at about 10 furlongs in Japan instead of a mile in Britain. And unlike in Britain, where the Triple Crown was last swept by Nijinsky in 1970 and modern-day Guineas and Derby winners eschew the St Leger at a mile and three-quarters for the 2400m Arc, the Kikuka Sho in Japan is still a valued and prestigious target whether or not a Triple Crown is on the line. This year the Stay Gold (by Sunday Silence) colt Orfevre is in line for the Triple Crown, which was last swept in 2005 by the Sunday Silence colt Deep Impact—who has his first three-year-olds in 2011, including the winner of the 1000 Guineas equivalent.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence dominated Japanese classic racing as a sire from the time his first three-year-olds raced in 1995. That first classic crop included Genuine, the Guineas winner; Tayasu Tsuyoshi, the Derby winner; and Oaks winner Dance Partner. All told, through the end of 1995, Sunday Silence was represented by 15 stakes winners (combination of three-year-olds and two-year-olds), 10 of which were Japanese Graded Stakes winners, and five of them Japanese Grade 1 winners. From 1995 to 2007—13 consecutive years—Sunday Silence led the Japanese general sire list, an unprecedented feat. He relinquished the title in 2008 to his son Agnes Tachyon and in 2009 to another son, Manhattan Cafe. In 2010, the leader was King Kamehameha, a son of Kingmambo. All of these sires mentioned stood or stand at Shadai Farm, which selectively bred European staying mares to Sunday Silence to bolster his own stamina.
Most of the leading eight Japan-based sires by stakes winners to date in 2011 are housed at Shadai, and their race records and pedigrees illustrate the importance of classic stamina to breeders:
1. King Kamehameha (Jpn) is by Kingmambo from a Last Tycoon mare. Stands at Shadai. He won seven of eight starts, including the Derby at 2400m.
2. Agnes Tachyon (Jpn) is a deceased son of Sunday Silence from a Royal Ski mare who stood at Shadai. He was undefeated in four starts and won the Guineas at 2000m.
3. Deep Impact (Jpn) is by Sunday Silence from an Alzao mare. Stands at Shadai. Triple Crown winner in 2005 who won 12 of 14 starts. Finished third in Arc and subsequently DQ’d for medication violation.
4. Manhattan Cafe (Jpn) is by Sunday Silence from a Law Society mare. Stands at Shadai. Won six of 12 starts, including the St Leger at 3000m.
5. Stay Gold (Jpn) is by Sunday Silence from a Dictus mare. Stands at Breeders Stallion Station. Won seven of 50 starts. Didn’t become a stakes winner until age six, and won the Group 1 Hong Kong International Vase over 2400m and the Grade 2 Dubai Sheema Classic at 2400m as a seven-year-old.
6. Fuji Kiseki (Jpn) is by Sunday Silence from a Le Fabuleux mare. Stands at Shadai. Undefeated in four starts, was a champion at two and won a Group 2 fixture at 2000m at three before injury sent him to stud. May have been the best colt from his sire’s first crop.
7. Special Week (Jpn) is by Sunday Silence from a Maruzensky mare. Stands at Shadai. Won 10 of 17 starts, including the Derby at 2400m.
8. Tanino Gimlet (Jpn) is by Brian’s Time from a Crystal Palace mare. Stands at Shadai. Won five of eight starts, including the Derby at 2400m.