Japan has been gripped by what has been called a fever of excitement as breeders have embraced Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year Deep Impact with a zeal matching the passion of fans who still revere the horse even after his retirement from racing.
With the Japanese industry continuing to wait for a dominant successor to perennial leading sire Sunday Silence, who died in 2002, much of their hope seems to have fallen on Deep Impact’s bay shoulders.
The compact five-year-old son of Sunday Silence out of Wind in Her Hair, by Alzao, served about 230 mares in his first season at stud, said Eisuke Tokutake, a spokesman for the Shadai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido.
That number is equivalent to the largest book ever assembled for Sunday Silence, although it ranks behind the 250 mares that King Kamehameha and Fuji Kiseki have been booked to at Shadai, Tokutake said.
Before the beginning of the breeding season, Tokutake had forecast that 150 to 180 mares would be bred to Deep Impact.
“He had good fertility and handled the season well,” he said after reporting the tremendous response from breeders. Deep
Impact also has made himself a favorite among Shadai grooms as he displays a calm temperament, unlike the typically fiery nature of many of Sunday Silence’s sons.
“All the stallion people say they have never been around a son of Sunday Silence that is so nice,” said Marie Yoshida of Shadai.
With his bay coat gleaming and his eyes bright, Deep Impact posed for photographs with visiting international journalists on Sunday before being led down to a public viewing area for an afternoon appointment at Shadai’s visitor center. Fans holding cameras gathered there after disembarking from tour buses and cars, waiting for the stallion to make a scheduled five-minute appearance.
The domestic and international interest in the horse “is like a fever, particularly in Japan,” Yoshida said.
“We had to turn away many mares.”
Perhaps it is the intensity of the interest that sparked the posting of a uniformed security guard outside Deep Impact’s stall at Shadai. Makoto Kaneko, who raced Deep Impact, reportedly hired the guard.
But Deep Impact’s allure extends far deeper into the economic heart of the Japanese breeding industry.
Teruya Yoshida, owner of Shadai Farm and co-operator of the Shadai Stallion Station with his brothers, pointed out that Deep Impact’s book contained as much quality as it did quantity.
“He had the very top-class mares of Japan,” Yoshida said, scanning through a list of the broodmares he owns and sent to the stallion and reading off the names of European champion Ski Paradise, Canadian champion Magic Code, Daring Danzig, the dam of Grade 1 winner Ecton Park, among additional group I winners and producers. Others in Deep Impact’s book included Japanese Horse of the Year Air Groove and multiple champion Mejiro Dober.
“He’s a super horse, a superstar,” Yoshida said.
Already, even though this year’s Japan Racing Horse Association select sale just opened on Monday with a yearling session, breeders are anxiously awaiting the foal sessions of the 2008 sale, when Deep Impact’s first sons and daughters will make their public debuts.
“The foals are coming, and this will be very good news for the horse world,” Yoshida said. “Next year’s sale will be very successful.”