by Alan Porter
With something of a pre-Breeders’ Cup World Championships lull in many racing jurisdictions, the star of the most recent weekend, as far as the Northern Hemisphere is concerned was Orfevre, who became only the seventh horse to sweep the Japanese Triple Crown after taking the Kikuka Sho (Jpn-I)—the Japanese St. Leger—by five lengths in a near race-record time.
A winner first time out at 2, Orfevre ran twice more as a juvenile, taking second in the Fuyo Stakes (a stakes race in Japan, but not a black-type event by international cataloging standards) and was unplaced in the Keio Hai Nisai Stakes (Jpn-II). This year, Orfevre was beaten in his first two starts, taking second in the Nikkan Sports Sho Shinzan Kinen (Jpn-III) and third in the Kisaragi Sho (Jpn-III). He regained the winning thread in his final classic trial, the Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes (Jpn-II), and since then has been undefeated adding the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas, Jpn-I), the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, Jpn-I), and his St. Leger prep, the Kobe Shimbun Hai (Jpn-II).
Like the most recent previous Japan Triple Crown hero, Deep Impact, Orfevre is a Sunday Silence line horse. His sire, Stay Gold (a son of Sunday Silence), never won a grade I race in Japan, but as a 7-year-old defeated Fantastic Light and Silvano in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-II) in the spring. In December of the same season, Stay Gold ended his career with a triumph in the Hong Kong Vase (HK-I).
Stay Gold has 16 stakes winners, in his first five crops, 11 of them graded, including the other grade I winners Dream Journey(a brother to Orfevre) and Nakayma Festa (a two-time champion in Japan who was also beaten just a head by Workforce in the 2010 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Fr-I). Orfevre’s dam, Oriental Art, won three races over three seasons. As a broodmare, she produced her first stakes winner and first graded stakes winner in Dream Journey four years prior to foaling Orfevre. Dream Journey became Japan’s 2006 champion 2-year-old colt and 2009 champion older horse. Oriental Art is by the top-class Mejiro McQueen—another Japan St. Leger winner and a Japanese-bred horse whose male-line goes back to the 1948 English 2,000 Guineas winner My Babu, through imported Irish-bred stallion, Partholon.
Besides Orfevre and Dream Journey, the family has been a quiet one in recent years, and neither the second, third and fourth dams have produced stakes winners. The third dam, Grandma Stevens, is a U.S.-bred daughter of Lt. Stevens (brother to champion Moccasin, and to Thong, best-know as ancestress of Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev). Orfevre’s fourth dam, Dhow, is a half sister to Wise Exchange, winner of the Tremont, Fountain of Youth and Flamingo Stakes, and subsequently sire of the third dam of Curlin. Dhow is also out of a half sister to the outstanding mare, High Voltage, who produced Bold Commander and Impressive, and is the second dam of Majestic Light.
Orfevre is TrueNicks rated A++, which suggests, the cross of Stay Gold with mares by Mejiro McQueen has been a fruitful one, with just six starters on the cross producing Orfevre, Dream Journey, another current 3-year-old graded winner, Fateful War, and graded placed 2011 2-year-old Gold Ship. Orfevre and Dream Journey are also inbred 4 x 3 to Northern Taste (who is duplicated in two other Stay Gold stakes winners). A group I wining son of Northern Dancer, Northern Taste was an intensely inbred horse as he was 3 x 2 to Lady Angela, the dam of Northern Dancer’s sire, Nearctic. Orfevre also has three crosses of Northern Dancer’s granddam, the third through Cosmah, the dam of Sunday Silence’s sire, Halo.