Sunday Silence colt brought top price Monday at JRHA sale.

Sunday Silence colt brought top price Monday at JRHA sale.

Sunday Silence Colt, Sold for Nearly $2.8 Million, Tops First Day of Japan Sale

Gross revenue reached a record high of ¥3.792 billion ($32,081,218) Monday, the first day of the two-day Japan Racing Horse Association Select Sale held on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. The figure represented an astounding 29 percent increase over last year and cleared the previous high set in 2000 by nearly ¥270-million. A total of 109 foals were sold for an average of ¥34.79-million ($294,323) each.

As expected, a Sunday Silence colt brought the top price--¥333-million ($2,791,878)--which, though it failed to top the record ¥335-million set last year, topped expectations for this year's sale, especially when seen in light of Japan's still-slumping economy and a decreasing number of owners. The brown Sunday Silence colt, out of Seto Flowerian, by Bellotto, was one of four colts purchased by Fusao Sekiguchi in first-day action at the Northern Horse Park venue. In addition to the day's topper, Sekiguchi's other purchases -- a Sunday Silence colt out of Seattle Delighter, by Seattle Slew; a Kurofune colt out of Fusaichi Airedale, by Sunday Silence, and an Afleet colt out of Ribot's Secret by Danehill--brought his bill for the day to ¥568-million.

''I would have gone as high as was necessary to get that colt,'' Sekiguchi said of his biggest purchase, which he described as a ''convincing'' one. ''I don't like to set limits when I buy, though, of course, I have a rough idea of what I'll spend. If I have my heart set on something, I go to whatever price I have to to get it. Winning is life.''

Sekiguchi, who campaigned Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, landed the brown colt bred by and consigned by Shadai Farm after a showdown with Shigeyuki Okada of Big Red Farm. ''I really wanted that colt,'' Okada, who is also head of Ruffian Racing Club, said with chagrin. ''I had to set myself a limit. I just don't have the funds to lay out that kind of money.'' Okada said. ''They're crazy, the prices. Who has this kind of money?'' Okada has himself topped previous
years' sales with figures over ¥300-million.

Though Sekiguchi said he had no plans as of yet for the colt, he did indicate he would run the horse outside of Japan as well as in the country, if possible. ''If we have the chance, yes, I'd like to go abroad. I'm real cheeky that way. I'll go anywhere,'' Sekiguchi said, as he basked in the sunshine and attention of camera crews and reporters.

Sekiguchi agreed the colt bears a striking resemblance to his sire. Consignor Teruya Yoshida, whose face was alit with delight as the bidding went ever higher, said, ''He has what looks like the suppleness and movement to match and I'm sure that's what Sekiguchi and Okada both saw.'' Yoshida admitted, as did Sekiguchi, that they had expected the bidding to stop well beneath the ¥300-million mark.

Other top sales of the day were a Sunday Silence colt out of Elizabeth Rose, by Northern Taste, also bred by Shadai Farm, and purchased for ¥128-million by Broodmare Inc. The third most-expensive foal was yet another Sunday Silence colt, out of Hishi Vital, by Tony Bin, bred by Yano Bokkujo and sold for ¥100-million yen to Keishiro Kanamori. Kanamori will run the horse under the name of his recently acquired Gold Horse Club, formerly Clover Club Racing Club. The colt will be trained by Japan's perennial leading trainer Kazuo Fujisawa.

Of the 10 Sunday Silence colts offered for sale July 7, three did not meet reserve (one at ¥140-million, another at ¥147-million). Excluding the ¥333-million colt, the remaining six sold for an average of ¥90-million each. The three fillies offered sold for an average ¥55.3-million each.

''The quality of horses this year was very good,'' Yoshida said. ''We had a lot of consignors applying and it was difficult to be selected.'' Yoshida said he was also relieved to see that the offspring of sires other than Sunday Silence were selling as well. ''I was actually a bit worried that we couldn't even have a sale next year without Sunday Silence but today, with a lot of horses going for ¥50-60 million, I was quite relieved,'' Yoshida said.

Yoshida also expressed his satisfaction at seeing the increasing number of breeders bringing their stock to the sale. ''I've been urging them to bring them and they did. They've sold well and they're very happy. And I can say, truthfully, I'm very happy to see that it's not just my horses selling.''

Another trend Yoshida noticed in this year's sale was the presence of more prospective owners, who did their own bidding. ''I think the times have changed. Before, owners just asked the trainers to buy them a horse but now the owners are coming and bidding too. They can set their own limits and surpass them if they like. I think this is a very important development.''

The clearance rate for the sale's first day was 73.2 percent. ''This is not the disaster it may seem in another country,'' explained French bloodstock agent Patrick Barbe. ''This is a very good rate when you consider the high reserves and Japan's huge purses. There are many breeders here who are content to race their stock themselves.''

The Select Sale continues Tuesday with another 143 foals on offer, including an additional eight Sunday Silence colts and three Sunday Silence fillies.