It's been quite some time since Japanese horses first established themselves as a force to be reckoned with overseas. To be precise, it was August 1998, when on consecutive weekends Seeking the Pearl captured the Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) and Taiki Shuttle took the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard-Jacques Le Marois (Fr-I). There have been plenty of reminders since then, including the one-two by Delta Blues and Pop Rock in the 2006 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I), and the one-two by Victoire Pisa and Transcend in the 2011 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I).
However, few Japanese runners in international competition have been more impressive than Lord Kanaloa, who took the Dec. 8 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) by five lengths over Sole Power, himself successful in the King's Stand Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot this summer. The victory, which signaled Lord Kanaloa's retirement from racing, was the 13th in 19 starts for the 5-year-old, who has only finished worse than second once (when third in the 2012 renewal of the group I Takamatsunomiya Kinen). Six of Lord Kanaloa's triumphs have come at group I level, including the one-mile Yasuda Kinen, this year's running of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, and back-to-back renewals of both the Sprinters Stakes and Hong Kong Sprint.
Whereas the history-making Seeking the Pearl—the first Japanese-trained horse to win a group I race in Europe—and Taiki Shuttle were foaled in the U.S., both of Lord Kanaloa's parents were conceived in the U.S., sold at auction, and imported in utero. His sire, King Kamehameha, is by Kingmambo out of the Irish-foaled Manfath. That mare had been shrewdly acquired shortly before her Irish-born son The Deputy established himself as one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), with his first four U.S. starts bringing wins in the Hill Rise Handicap, Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II), and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Bred to Kingmambo for a mating that was calculated to maximize her international appeal, Manfath was consigned to the 2000 Keeneland November sale by Margaux Farm, agent, and was knocked down to Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm for $650,000.
The purchase proved to be a bargain, as Northern Farm not only gained a top-class racehorse but also an outstanding sire. The resulting foal, King Kamehameha, won seven of his eight starts including the NHK Mile Cup (Jpn-I) and the Tokyo Yushun-Japanese Derby (Jpn-I), in which he shaved two seconds off the course record. At stud, King Kamehameha has been the leading non-Sunday Silence line stallion of his era, taking the champion sire crown in 2010 and again in 2011. He has sired 32 stakes winners in his first six crops, 21 group or graded, including the Japan Filly Triple Crown heroine Apapane; Rulership, who captured the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I); and Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I) hero Belshazzar.
Lord Kanaloa's granddam, Saratoga Dew, was also a history maker: The daughter of Cormorant become the first New York-bred to earn an Eclipse Award. Making all of her starts at 3, Saratoga Dew was successful in her first five outings, winning maiden and allowance events at Aqueduct, the Over All Stakes, Comely Stakes (gr. II), and Hyde Park Handicap. Unplaced in the Post-Deb Stakes (gr. II) at Monmouth Park on her first trip outside of the Empire State, Saratoga Dew returned to take the New York Oaks at Finger Lakes handily. Beaten a nose in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), Saratoga Dew rebounded to take the Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) by 1 1/4 lengths, then facing a field of her elders for the first time, led throughout to take the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) by six lengths from the accomplished Versailles Treaty. That effort was strong enough to see Saratoga Dew sent off as favorite for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), but making her eleventh start in a little over nine months, she faded from the lead after a half-mile, eventually winding up 12th as Paseana scored by four lengths over Saratoga Dew's Beldame victim, Versailles Treaty. Still, her earlier accomplishments were sufficient to see her voted champion 3-year-old filly for owner Charles F. Engel.
Saratoga Dew was bred by Mrs. Helen B. Chenery (better known as Penny Chenery or Penny Tweedy) and came from the most famous family developed by her and her father, Christopher Chenery, that of Somethingroyal. Dam of the immortal Secretariat and champion 2-year-old and leading sire Sir Gaylord, Somethingroyal is the fourth dam of Saratoga Dew, who descends through Secretariat's sister Syrian Sea, winner of the Selima, Astarita, and Colleen Stakes. Saratoga Dew's second dam, Alada, whose triumphs included the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) and Cotillion Handicap (gr. II), was sired by another Chenery star, champion 3-year-old and champion older horse Riva Ridge. Despite her race record and pedigree, Alada proved to be a disappointing producer, with just three winners from eight foals, none of any particular note as runners.
Saratoga Dew's dam, the In Reality mare Super Luna, never ran and produced only one other winner. She did have one other stakes-producing daughter, Saratoga Smile, who was by Sir Gaylord's son Lord Gaylord, so inbred 3x4 to Somethingroyal. To the cover of Cure the Blues (whose granddam was a three-quarter sister to Secretariat), Saratoga Smile produced stakes winner Saratoga Score, and she is also dam of the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Smile My Lord, a son of Not For Love . Bred to Storm Cat for her first foal, Saratoga Dew was consigned to the 1995 Keeneland November sale in foal to Storm Cat by Brereton C. Jones, agent, and drew a final bid of $850,000 from Osamu Yasuda.
The mating with Storm Cat had, in part, been planned to maximize Saratoga Dew's commercial potential, but there were also sound reasons from a pedigree standpoint. For a start, Saratoga Dew's sire, Cormorant, was by the Ribot stallion His Majesty, and at this stage Storm Cat was already showing an affinity for Ribot line mares. Storm Cat would eventually sire 11 stakes winners from mares by sons and grandsons of Ribot (among them grade I winners Forestry, Sardula, and Mistle Cat), four of those stakes winners, including Forestry, out of mares by Pleasant Colony, who like Cormorant was a son of His Majesty. The mating offered additional interest, as Storm Cat's dam was by Secretariat, so giving that horse and his sister Syrian Sea. Named Lady Blossom, the Storm Cat filly that Saratoga Dew was carrying at the time failed to gain black-type type, but she did win five of 24 races, earning $637,785. In addition to Lord Kanaloa, she is also dam of stakes-placed Brian's Time colt Lord Balius. Saratoga Dew produced only one other winner, but that one, Al Kazan (by the Sunday Silence horse Dance in the Dark), did earn black-type with a win in the Kyoto Nisai Stakes.
Lord Kanaloa (who is TrueNicks rated B+) is the only stakes winner by King Kamehameha out of a mare by Storm Cat, but the cross of Kingmambo and his sons with mares by Storm Cat and his sons has produced 13 other stakes winners, including additional group or graded scorers Penny's Gold, Yulalona, Khancord Kid, Break Water Edison, and King Kreesa. There is also plenty to like about Lord Kanaloa's overall pedigree pattern. The Northern Dancer/Graustark cross that produced the great mare Miesque (here through her son Kingmambo) is echoed in Lady Blossom, who is a Northern Dancer/His Majesty cross (Graustark and His Majesty being brothers). Meanwhile, both Last Tycoon (the broodmare sire King Kamehameha) and Storm Cat are by sons of Northern Dancer out of mares by stallions bred on a Nasrullah/Princequillo cross—Mill Reef and Secretariat, respectively.