Hope continues to spring in abundance, if perhaps not eternally, at the Shadai Stallion Station in Japan that War Emblem will overcome his mysterious disdain for breeding.
With the dual American classic winner notching his first Japanese group stakes winner Feb. 11 and his limited number of progeny performing well enough to place him among the leading third-crop sires, Shadai officials will persevere with the temperamental stallion this year.
“We want to try to get him to serve mares this year,” Shadai spokesman Eisuke Tokutake said Feb. 13. “My understanding is that we are going to keep trying, at least for this season.
"War Emblem is proving himself to be a very good sire for his progeny results. We all wish he would improve as a stallion. That would make everyone happy and probably make him happy, too.”
Although offers for the horse have been received from international interests, Shadai has opted to hold on to War Emblem, a $17 million acquisition, in hopes that he eventually will perform in the breeding shed. A variety of tactics has been tried to stimulate his interest, with more planned this year.
“It is early in the season so we haven’t started much yet, but we are considering moving him to somewhere else in our group of properties, and we are considering some other options,” Tokutake said without revealing details. “It’s a very important issue and those things are discussed only among the owners and the veterinarians.”
War Emblem refused to cover any mares in 2007. During the previous breeding season, he was bred to one mare successfully, but she did not become pregnant.
Shadai has previously tried moving War Emblem from its main stud farm on the island of Hokkaido to a nearby location in hopes a change of scene would alter his attitude. Other attempts to coax him into breeding have included allowing him to choose from several in-season mares presented to him simultaneously.
Specialists from the United States and Britain, including a chiropractor, have been brought in to examine and work with War Emblem, although not in recent months. Other than his lack of desire to breed, he is “100% healthy,” another Shadai spokesperson said, adding, “He looks well and is enjoying the Japanese winter and a lot of snow in his paddock.”
While Japanese bloodstock records show that War Emblem has been able to sire only 43 sons and daughters since he began his stud career in 2003, he already has six stakes runners to his credit.
From his first small crop of four, all colts that are now 4-year-olds, half have won stakes, according to the Japan Bloodstock Information System. Riichi Kondo’s Admire Million captured two stakes last year, one on a muddy dirt track at 2,100 meters and the other at 1,800 meters on turf. The colt out of the Tony Bin mare Prima has earned $458,501.
Another 4-year-old colt, Sunday Racing Co.’s Clan Emblem, produced by the Sunday Silence mare Azusa Yumi, also won two stakes last year, both over turf at 1,800 meters, and has earned $444,594.
War Emblem’s largest crop, 34 colts and fillies that recently turned three, are beginning to make their mark.
In addition to stakes-placed runners Air Pascale, King’s Emblem, and Peace Keeper, he has sired Shonan Alba, a bay colt out of the Great Commotion mare Xianlang who won the Kyodo News Service Hai Stakes over 1,800 meters on turf, which the JBIS lists as a Japanese group III event, on February 11 at Tokyo Racecourse. Bred by Kuwata Bokujo and raced by Tetsuhide Kunimoto, Shonan Alba has won three of four career starts and has earned $539,962.
In 2008, War Emblem’s 21 runners have made 49 starts, with nine offspring winning 11 races through Feb. 12, a Shadai spokesperson said. According to statistics provided by the Jockey Club, which might be incomplete, War Emblem’s starters have earned an average of $116,159.
When available, the stallion’s offspring have been well accepted by the commercial market in Japan. Of the 10 foals that have been sold at the elite Japan Racing Horse Association select sale, with eight in 2005 and two in ’06, average price has been 44.9 million yen, or $397,981. Three yearlings sold, with two in 2006 and one in ’07, have averaged 59,666,667 yen, or $514,170.
War Emblem’s final crop to date is made up of five 2-year-olds of 2008, four colts and a filly.
Nine-year-old War Emblem (Our Emblem--Sweetest Lady, by Lord At War) won the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) his championship season.