Japan’s rising sons

Horse of the Year & Champion Sprinter-Miler Maurice is one of two 6-time Group 1 winners on the Arrowfield roster. (PHOTO: Bronwen Healy)

Arrowfield has never been afraid of left-field thinking when it comes to stallion selection.

The Stud’s history offers good reasons to be confident about the decision to launch a quartet of Japanese stallions, with three of them, Maurice, Mikki Isle & freshman Real Steel on the roster in 2019, and Real Impact living up to his name with his first 2YOs in Japan.

Supersire Danehill and leading sires Hussonet and Not A Single Doubt were far from obvious choices when they joined the Arrowfield roster in 1990, 2003 and 2005 respectively.  

The Stud’s Japanese stallion project may well be closer to centre-field, given the astonishing rise of Japanese breeding and racing from obscurity to global dominance in less than four decades.

The remarkable international record of Japanese horses confirms both the quality of the country’s domestic competition and the class of their best performers in diverse racing conditions. In fact, since 2010 Japanese-bred and -sired horses have won at least 34 Group 1 races in Hong Kong, France, Great Britain, Dubai, the United States and Australia.

Eight of those wins have been achieved in the past 18 months: Almond Eye’s Dubai Turf, Study of Man’s French Derby, Saxon Warrior’s Newmarket 2000 Guineas, Win Bright’s Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Brave Smash’s MRC Futurity Stakes & MVRC Manikato Stakes and Yoshida’s Churchill Downs Turf Classic & Saratoga Woodward Stakes.

Yes, it’s true that the primary goal of Japanese breeders is to produce great Classic and weight-for-age performers, rather than the brilliant juveniles and powerhouse sprinters so highly prized in Australia. However, their obsession is with class rather than mere stamina, which explains horses like Lord Kanaloa, Maurice, Real Impact, Almond Eye, Brave Smash, Hana’s Goal, Just A Way, Karakontie, Real Steel, Vivlos & Yoshida, all international Group 1 wfa winners from 1200 to 1800 metres. 

With a collective record of nine Group 1 victories (four of them offshore), Horse of the Year Maurice, Champion Sprinter-Miler Mikki Isle and Dubai Turf winner Real Steel represent the very best work of the Japanese thoroughbred industry.

This trio have the advantage of a spear-bearer in dual Group 1-winning miler Real Impact who, like Mikki Isle and Real Steel, is a son of Japan’s supersire Deep Impact. With rising 2YOs, yearlings and foals-to-come in Australia, Real Impact is not shuttling this year but is already making his mark in Japan with seven 2YO winners and an early-season lead on both the 2YO Sires’ and First Season Sires’ premierships. 

Real Impact’s first Australian runners are currently learning their trade with trainers such as Paul Perry, Neville Parnham, Matthew Smith, Peter & Paul Snowden, Clare Cunningham, Joe Pride, David Payne, Robert & Luke Price, Bjorn Baker & Clarry Conners.

Eight first-crop weanlings by Maurice were offered for sale in Australia this year and all found new homes, with the colts out of Golden Eagle at Magic Millions and Ausbred Friend at Inglis making $130,000 and $105,000 respectively. Maurice’s first Japanese yearlings averaged almost $340,000 at the JRHA Select Sale earlier this month.

It was a similar story for Mikki Isle with eight weanlings offered and sold in Australia, and an average price of almost $290,000 paid for his three JRHA Select yearlings. The first Australian yearlings by Maurice and Mikki Isle will be offered at the 2020 Sales.

There’s no doubt that luck plays a part in stallion selection as it does in every aspect of horse-breeding and racing, but the recipe for repetitive success is a good deal more complex.

One essential ingredient is the Stud’s support for stallions through the early phase of their careers. Arrowfield sent a total of 125 mares to Maurice and Mikki Isle in their first two seasons, and has committed 85 mares to them and Real Steel for this coming Spring.

Add Arrowfield’s outstanding record as the vendor of 43 stakeswinners by 10 stallions since 2014 and the Japanese option begins to look like an obvious choice for breeders willing to travel a little ahead of the curve. 

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