When the 17 horses enter the starting gate at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 25 for the 32nd Japan Cup (Jpn-I), nearly every one of them will bring North American bloodlines to the task. The Japanese contestants, in particular, sport U.S.-rich pedigrees.
A good example is Dark Shadow, a 5-year-old horse who has scored all five of his victories at Tokyo Racecourse. Bred in Japan by Yukiko Hosokawa, Dark Shadow descends almost entirely from American-bred runners.
Part of this, of course, stems from the pervasive influence of 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence. The late Zenya Yoshida purchased an interest in Sunday Silence at the beginning of the colt's 4-year-old season in 1990 and eventually bought out his American partners. Yoshida's shrewd move in standing Sunday Silence in Japan began a stallion dynasty that is still felt in Japanese pedigrees.
At the 1991 Japan Cup, when Gary Stevens rode American-bred Golden Pheasant to victory, Yoshida spoke about buying Sunday Silence and other American-breds.
"Many Japanese breeders look to Europe," he said. "I look to America."
It is a strategy that has paid off. As recently as the November fall mixed sales, Yoshida's sons, Katsumi and Teruya, bought several high-priced American-bred fillies and mares. Their purchases included such broodmare prospects as 2011 champion female sprinter Musical Romance for $1.6 million, 2012 TVG Acorn Stakes (gr. I) and Test Stakes (gr. I) winner Contested for $2.3 million, and 2011 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) and Lady's Secret Stakes (gr. I) winner Zazu for $2.1 million.
Dark Shadow is by the Sunday Silence stallion Dance in the Dark, the leading 3-year-old colt in Japan in 1996. The stallion is out of the Nijinsky II mare Dancing Key. Dance in the Dark's foals include 2006 Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Delta Blues, a Japanese-bred runner who finished third in the 2004 Japan Cup and fifth in the 2007 edition.
The bottom side of Dark Shadow's pedigree is even more American. Gainsborough Farm bred his dam, Matikanehatusimada, in Kentucky. A daughter of the Ogden Phipps-bred Private Account, Matikanehatusimada is out of the Danzig mare Yousefia. Matikanehatusimada sold for $100,000 as a weanling at the 1995 Keeneland fall mixed sale and was exported to Japan. There she earned the equivalent of more than $300,000 on the racetrack.
Tomokazu Iizuka owns Dark Shadow, who is trained by Noriyuki Hori and will be ridden in the Japan Cup by Mirco Demuro. Hori said Nov. 23 that Dark Shadow is ready for the 2,400-meter turf race.
"This week I just concentrated on keeping his wind up good," said the trainer. "I instructed Demuro to just push him a bit and not let him lose concentration in the finish, and I think all went well. I kept him sharp so he could handle the extra distance because when it's longer than 2,000 meters, the finish gets a bit dull."
Sunday Silence figures in the pedigrees of seven other Japan Cup hopefuls, including Orfevre, the 2011 Japanese Triple Crown winner who finished second to Solemia in this year's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I). Orfevre is by the Sunday Silence stallion Stay Gold, as is another in the field, Fenomeno. Beat Black is by the Sunday Silence stallion Miscast, and Gentildonna, winner of this year's Japan filly triple crown, is by the Sunday Silence stallion Deep Impact, who won the 2006 Japan Cup and the 2005 Japanese Triple Crown.
Three others in the Japan Cup field descend from Sunday Silence through the bottom side of their pedigree. Jaguar Mail and 2010 Japan Cup winner Rose Kingdom are both out of Sunday Silence mares, while Meisho Kampaku is out of a mare by Dance in the Dark.
Though four Japanese-bred Japan Cup hopefuls do not trace to Sunday Silence, their pedigrees nevertheless have American influences.
Oken Bruce Lee and Tosen Jordan are by the Japanese stallion Jungle Pocket, the 2001 Japan Cup winner. A son of Tony Bin, Jungle Pocket is out of American-bred Dance Charmer. Dance Charmer's dam, Skillful Joy, won the inaugural Hollywood Starlet Stakes and Del Mar Debutante (gr. II) in 1981 for Fred W. Hooper en route to earnings of $792,427. Dance Charmer's sire, Nureyev, was a leading sire in the U.S., getting the likes of two-time Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Miesque and Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Theatrical, both Eclipse Award champions, and Arc winner Peintre Celebre.
Miesque also appears in the pedigrees of Eishin Flash and Rulership as the dam of Kingmambo. Eishin Flash and Rulership are grandsons of Kentucky-bred Kingmambo, who excelled as a miler in Europe before returning to Kentucky for stud duty. Eishin Flash is by the American-bred Kingmambo stallion King's Best, while Rulership is by the Japanese-bred Kingmambo stallion King Kamehameha. King Kamehameha is also the sire of Rose Kingdom.