The recent loss of Japan’s top two sires came as a great shock to the racing industry this summer, when the death of Deep Impact (JPN, by Sunday Silence) at age 17 on July 30 was followed just 10 days later by the equally sad passing of King Kamehameha (JPN, by Kingmambo) at age 18 on August 9.
Both horses were purchased by Makoto Kaneko at Japan Racing Horse Association’s Select Sale and became Derby winners, King Kamehameha in 2004 and Deep Impact in 2005. King Kamehameha sustained a career-ending injury after just one start following his Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) victory, but Deep Impact went on to become a Triple Crown winner, remain unbeaten in his first seven starts and claim four G1 titles as a four-year-old, although later being tarnished somewhat by testing positive for a banned drug after clearing the wire third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Following his short-lived racing career, King Kamehameha became the champion sire in 2010 and 2011. Although dethroned by Deep Impact in 2012, he went on to produce two derby winners, Duramente (JPN, 2015) and Rey de Oro (JPN, 2017), in addition to many other G1 winners, some of which have proved to be prolific sires themselves, including Lord Kanaloa (JPN), who sired 2018 Horse of the Year Almond Eye (JPN) and two-time G1 winner Saturnalia (JPN), and Rulership (JPN), who sired 2017 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) victor Kiseki (JPN).
Deep Impact, who was the champion sire for seven consecutive seasons until his death, produced five derby winners – Deep Brillante (JPN, 2012), Kizuna (JPN, 2013), Makahiki (JPN, 2016), Wagnerian (JPN, 2018) and Roger Barows (JPN, 2019) – as well as seven-time G1 winner and two-time Horse of the Year Gentildonna (JPN). The 38 G1 winners he produced gave him 51 G1 titles in JRA alone. Deep Impact also produced winners in Europe, including last year’s 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior (JPN) and Prix du Jockey Club victor Study Of Man (IRE).
Although the careers of both Deep Impact and King Kamehameha’s were much too short, their services were so highly demanded that they covered more than 250 mares per season at one stage, enabling a considerable number of horses to carry their illustrious genes. King Kamehameha was taken out of service from the beginning of this season and Deep Impact was withdrawn in March due to a neck injury, which led to rising prices for their offspring at this year’s Select Sales in July. With both sires now gone, the impact on the breeding industry will be huge. Attention is focusing on the question of who will fill their places to meet demands not only in Japan but overseas as well, where Deep Impact’s services also were sought. Lord Kanaloa no doubt will be in higher demand than ever before.
JRA business in 2019 has been strong, marking a 3.8% annual increase as of the first week of October, an improvement over more modest rises in previous years. The municipality-run National Association of Racing (NAR) saw sharply improved sales between January and August, up 13.5%. Both JRA and NAR conduct more than 70% of their total sales through internet wagering.
JRA encountered an incident in June when theobromine, a banned substance, was discovered in a widely used feed, forcing 156 horses that had unknowingly consumed the feed to be scratched from their scheduled races. Later, however, no horse tested positive, so the effect was short-lived.
Three Japanese runners made bids in this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2,400m), the most coveted overseas title, but the results were disappointing. Kiseki (JPN, H5, by Rulership) was the highest finisher in seventh place, followed by Blast Onepiece (JPN, C4, by Harbinger) and Fierement (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) in the last two places, 11th and 12th, respectively. The race was run on heavy goings with the winning time registered at 2:31.97. While many might point to unaccommodating and unfamiliar track conditions, the four seconds recorded by Japanese runners in the past all came under similar conditions. The fact that Japanese runners have been unable to finish no better than fifth since 2014 indicates that Japanese racing is becoming less competitive and needs to reconsider its approach to be successful going forward.
(contributed by Kenichi Nomoto, Nikkei)
Meanwhile, a week after 2018 Niigata Daishoten (G3, 2,000m) winner Suzuka Devious (JPN, H8, by King Kamehameha) finished eighth in the Caulfield Stakes (G1, 2,000m) in Australia on October 12, Mer de Glace (JPN, C4, by Rulership), an improving colt who came off three consecutive G3 victories in Japan, landed his first G1 title in the Caulfield Cup (G1, 2,400m), coming from second to the rear in a field of 18 to show a terrific turn of speed and sweep past his foes for a one-length victory. The Rulership colt, who became the second Japanese winner of this race since Admire Rakti (JPN, Heart’s Cry) in 2014, will be facing a bigger challenge in his next start in the Melbourne Cup (G1, 3,200m) on November 5.
Two-time G1 victor Lys Gracieux (JPN, M5, by Heart’s Cry) came from way behind to mow down the competition and land her third G1 triumph in the Cox Plate (G1, 2,040m) at Moonee Valley on October 26. Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1, 2,000m) runner-up Kluger (JPN, H7, by King Kamehameha) disappointed to 13th.
The Japan Autumn International G1 series will begin with the championship race for female runners three years old and above – the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) – at Kyoto Racecourse on November 10. Scarlet Color (JPN, F4, by Victoire Pisa) landed her first grade-race title on October 14 in the Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m), the main prep towards the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. Lucky Lilac (JPN, F4, by Orfevre) and Crocosmia (JPN, M6, by Stay Gold), who finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Fuchu Himba Stakes, will also face the three-year-old fillies on November 10.
Chrono Genesis (JPN, F3, by Bago), who finished third in both the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m) and the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m), scored an impressive two-length victory in the last leg of the fillies triple, the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m), on October 13. She will face her seniors in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup together with Loves Only You (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), the Yushun Himba champion who had to pass up the Shuka Sho with a minor leg problem.
The Mile Championship (G1, 1,600m) on November 17 at Kyoto will focus on Danon Kingly (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact). The three-year-old was third in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) and runner-up in the Tokyo Yushun (G1, 2,400m) before stepping down in distance to turn in a dominating 1-1/4-length victory against his seniors in the Mainichi Okan (G2, 1,800m). Danon Kingly will be tested over a mile instead of targeting the Tenno Sho (Autumn), where his owner will run another Deep Impact colt, Danon Premium (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact).
Another three-year-old, Admire Mars (JPN, C3, by Daiwa Major), proven at a mile with a victory in the NHK Mile Cup (G1, 1,600m), will need to improve from a ninth-place finish in his fall debut, the Fuji Stakes (G3, 1,600m) on October 19. Normcore (JPN, F4, by Harbinger) won the Fuji Stakes in her first start since returning from a leg injury (chip fracture in left pastern) sustained after her record-breaking victory in the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) in May.
The mile G1 will also include Diatonic (JPN, C4, by Lord Kanaloa), winner of the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400m) on October 26, as well as the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600m) winner Indy Champ (JPN, C4, by Stay Gold) and 2017 Mile Championship victor Persian Knight (JPN, H5, by Harbinger) who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Mainichi Okan.