A classic good news/bad news scenario loomed a day before Japan’s key bloodstock market was to open, leaving both buyers and sellers alike wondering how the Japan Racing Horse Association’s three-day select sale would unfold.
On the positive side, the first foals by Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year Deep Impact are poised to make their public debut. With an incomparable race record, Deep Impact is carrying huge expectations that he could become the heir to his sire, Sunday Silence, who stood atop the general sire list from 1995-2007.
Yet while there is great eagerness for Deep Impact’s offspring, the recent plunge of the main Japanese stock market in the longest series of declines in more than five decades has cast a troubling shadow. Partly due to the challenging economic trends, some major buyers were not expected to be in action. Teruya Yoshida, master of major consignor Shadai Farm and vice chairman of the JRHA, confirmed that flamboyant spender Fusao Sekiguchi would not be present.
During a party on Sunday to welcome sale participants, Yoshida and others addressed both the possible positives and the anticipated negatives. Racing commentator and journalist Naohiro Goda, who served as a master of ceremonies, told the assembled crowd that, “We are very much proud of this year’s catalog, which is the best ever.” He referred to the presumed star of the sale as “Deep Super Impact” and urged foreign-based visitors to take some of his colts and fillies back to their countries.
JRHA Chairman Taro Kono suggested that perhaps the economic problems could offer a benefit. “The Japanese yen has devalued much, so this is the best time to buy Japanese horses,” he said.
Perhaps with that angle in mind, there has been an unexpected surge in people at least curious about the 163 horses that were catalogued for Monday’s yearling session and the 336 foals catalogued for the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions.
“We have many, many lookers—double the number that we had last year,” Yoshida said.
Among those lookers who expressed a willingness to buy was Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, who has the clout to markedly affect the health of any sales arena. Ferguson noted that Japan’s standards have risen dramatically in recent years, with Japanese-bred runners performing well in international events around globe and thus bolstering the nation’s image as a provider of horsepower.
Most of those runners have carried Sunday Silence’s blood, which dominates the catalog on both male and female sides, so people in other countries now find the Japanese sale offerings more appealing, Fergurson and Yoshida agreed.
Another major player who turned up on the sale grounds at the Northern Horse Park, creating a ripple of speculation, was Nathan Tinkler of the new Patinack Farm in Queensland, Australia. Recipient of a windfall when selling mining interests over the last year, Tinkler, 32, has bought dozens of horses in Australia and New Zealand, spending many millions of dollars, and he has also purchased broodmares in France.
The primary spotlight of each JRHA sale falls on the foals, which are most popular with domestic buyers. Both the powerhouse JRHA consignors, Shadai and the Northern Farm of Yoshida’s brother, Katsumi, have indicated that colts by Deep Impact are the best they have to offer this year.
A Northern Farm spokesman predicted that a bay colt by Deep Impact out of 1995 champion Japanese juvenile filly Biwa Heidi, by Caerleon, could top the sale. One asset the colt possesses is a notable resemblance to his sire when he was the same age. Foaled March 21 and due to sell on Tuesday, the colt is a three-quarter brother to classic-placed Japanese group III stakes winner Admire Japan and group II winner Admire Aura.
Shadai’s foals are topped by a bay Deep Impact colt out of the Polish Precedent mare Mill Grain, dam of Japanese group I winner Fine Grain and a full sister to Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I) and Aston Upthorpe Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) winner Pure Grain. Mariko Yoshida, Shadai spokesperson, said Shadai has placed the highest reserve price of its consignment on the colt, who will step into the ring on Wednesday.
A total of 38 Deep Impact foals were catalogued, the second highest number for a first-year stallion in JRHA history behind only the 43 offered in 2006 by Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner King Kamehameha. In that group was a filly out of Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) runner-up To the Victory that sold for a world record ¥600 million ($5,217,391). This year, To the Victory will be represented by a leggy colt by Japan’s leading freshman sire of 2007, Symboli Kris S., consigned by Northern Farm.
There are plenty of other horses of interest in the catalog even from an American perspective, including colts from the first crops of champion Bernardini and multiple grade I winners Aragorn and Henny Hughes. The colt by Bernardini, consigned by Symboli Stud, is out of multiple graded stakes winner Two Item Limit, by Twining.
Other recognizable offerings to those in the United States include a yearling colt from the only crop of 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam out of stakes winner Thrilling Victory, by Event of the Year; colt foals by 2007 leading sire Smart Strike as well as Dynaformer, Johannesburg, Unbridled's Song, Forestry, Medaglia d' Oro, Vindication, Eddington, and Purge; and filly foals by Street Cry and Songandaprayer.