Jungle Pocket, winning the Japan Cup.

Jungle Pocket, winning the Japan Cup.

Bill Selwyn

Jungle Pocket Japan's Horse of the Year; Wagering Suffers Declines

Japan Cup (Jpn-I) winner Jungle Pocket was voted Horse of the Year in Japan for 2001, a year in which wagering dropped for the fourth consecutive year and is at its lowest level in a decade.

Jungle Pocket's 2001 campaign included three wins in six starts, including the Tokyo Yushun (Jpn-I), or Japanese Derby. Bred by Northern Farm in Japan, the bay colt by Tony Bin was produced from Dance Charmer, a daughter of recently deceased Nureyev. Jungle Pocket reportedly is being considered for a 2002 European campaign that could include stops in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) in July and the International Stakes (Eng-I) in August.

American-breds Timber Country and Secreto, both exported to Japan, sired Japan's 2-year-old champions. Admire Don, a son of Timber Country, went unbeaten in three starts, including the Asahi Hai Futurity (Jpn-I) to win top honors. The Secreto filly Tamuro Cherry won two stakes from six starts, including the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (Jpn-I) en route to her championship.

Jungle Pocket, who was Japan's leading earner in 2001 with nearly $4.5 million in purses, also was named champion 3-year-old colt or gelding. T.M. Ocean, the 2000 champion 2-year-old filly, won a pair of group I races in 2001 and added the title for 3-year-old fillies.
She is by Dancing Brave out of River Girl, by Rivlia.

Best older male was the American-bred Agnes Digital, a son of Crafty Prospector bred in Kentucky by Catesby W. Clay and Peter J. Callahan. Agnes Digital won four of seven starts in 2001, including the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) over reigning Horse of the Year T.M. Opera O and the Mile Championship Nambu Hai (Jpn-I). Agnes Digital also traveled to Hong Kong in December, capturing the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I).

Champion older female was Northern Farm-bred To the Victory, who finished second to Captain Steve in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), then returned to Japan to win the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (Jpn-I). To the Victory is a daughter of 1989 North American Horse of the Year Sunday Silence out of Fairy Doll, by Nureyev.

Another American-bred, Kurofune, was named best dirt horse of 2001, mostly on the strength of his track-record performance in the Japan Cup Dirt (Jpn-I). Bred in Kentucky by Nicholas M. Lotz, Kurofune won four of six starts in 2001, but he bowed a tendon after the JC Dirt victory and was retired to stud. He will stand the 2002 season at the Shadai Stallion Station, which in 2000 purchased Kurofune's sire, French Deputy, from Three Chimneys Farm. Kurofune was produced from the Classic Go Go mare, Blue Avenue.

Trot Star, a son of Damister, was Japan's leading sprinter, winning the Sprinters Stakes (Jpn-I) and two other races during the year. Gokai, by American-bred Judge Angelucci, was champion steeplechaser. The Japan Racing Association also bestowed a special award to Stay Gold, a son of Sunday Silence who won major races in Hong Kong, Dubai, and Japan as a 7-year-old in 2001.

Sunday Silence was leading sire in Japan with 6.6 billion yen in progeny earnings (approximately $52 million), with Tony Bin second and Brian's Time third. Sunday Silence also was leading sire of 2-year-olds. The Yoshida family operation, Shadai Race Horse, was leading owner, and the family also dominated the breeding ranks, with its Shadai Farm Chitose first, Northern Farm second, and Shadai Farm Shiraoi third. Leading trainer was Kazuo Fujisawa, with 68 wins, followed by Hideyuki Mori. Leading jockey was Masayoshi Ebina, with 133 victories, followed by Yoshitomi Shibata and Yukio Okabe, the latter of whom ended 2001 sidelined with an injury.

JRA reported that its total handle of 3,258,696,881,300 yen was down by 5.1% from the previous year, the fourth consecutive year of decline and a drop of 19% from its peak in 1997, when total handle exceed four trillion yen. JRA handle in 2001 was at its lowest level since 1991.