It’s not so long ago that including a major Australian stud in a story on a Japanese Group 1 trifecta would have been considered as unlikely as the Japanese rugby team beating the Springboks – which they did at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
There is no longer any surprise, or doubt about Japan’s pre-eminence in global thoroughbred breeding & racing, and Arrowfield’s connections with the first three horses home in Sunday’s Tokyo Yasuda Kinen 1600m G1 are cause for celebration rather than astonishment.
This year’s contest generated more-than-usual excitement and attracted a 74,000-strong crowd keen to see 2018 Horse of the Year Almond Eye (by 2013 Yasuda Kinen winner Lord Kanaloa) take on a quality field headed by Danon Premium (by Deep Impact), Aerolithe (by Kurofune), Indy Champ (by Stay Gold) and Stelvio (by Lord Kanaloa).
The race certainly lived up to the hype without delivering the widely expected sixth consecutive Group 1 victory for Almond Eye, who was badly hampered immediately after the start by Logi Cry’s abrupt move sideways from gate 16, earning champion jockey Yutake Take a one-meeting suspension.
5YO mare Aerolithe set a strong pace in front, stuck on bravely for second and deserves credit for the sensational new race record time of 1:30.9 she shared in a thrilling finish with the winner Indy Champ, who caught her just before the line, and third-placed Almond Eye, who sprinted the last 600 metres in 32.4 and missed victory by a neck and a nose.
The result is a notable triumph for Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Racing which bred all three placegetters, and the Yoshida-managed syndicates Sunday Racing (Aerolithe) & Silk Racing (Indy Champ & Almond Eye).
It’s also notable that fifth-placed Sungrazer was the closest of Deep Impact’s four runners in the race. However, the 7-time Champion Sire is once again in charge of Japan’s General Sires’ Premiership, with prizemoney of almost $A50 million – more than twice the earnings of his nearest challenger Stay Gold.
As for the Arrowfield connections, Indy Champ’s dam Will Power (by King Kamehemeha) is a half-sister to Deep Impact’s dual Group 1-winning son Real Impact, whose first Arrowfield-conceived 2YOs race next season.
Aerolithe’s dam Asterix (by Neo Universe) is a half-sister to the dam of dual Group 1 winner and Arrowfield sire Mikki Isle whose first Australian yearlings sell next year.
Asterix herself has had four foals in Australia for Arrowfield’s joint venture with Northern Farm: city-winning 3YO filly Achondrite (by Lord Kanaloa), stakes-placed 2YO filly Akari (by Snitzel), a Redoute’s Choice yearling colt bought by Katsumi Yoshida for $400,000 at Inglis Easter and a weanling filly by Snitzel.
Arrowfield has sold 7 yearlings by Lord Kanaloa over the past three years and is selling a pair of fillies out of the Japanese mares Dream Tiara (by Heart’s Cry) & Orgueil (by Deep Impact) at this week’s Magic Millions National Yearling Sale.
The Japanese influence in the Stud’s final yearling draft of 2019 does not end there. Four colts and a filly by Real Impact are also on offer, alongside a Scissor Kick filly out of Glamour Stock, grand-dam of Arrowfield’s promising racemare Madame Pauline (by Redoute’s Choice).
The Yasuda Kinen, first held in 1951 and elevated to international Group 1 status in 1993, is a fixture on the list of the world’s top-rated Group 1 races and Arrowfield stands not one, but two distinguished past winners. Real Impact became the first 3YO to win the race in 2011 and Horse of the Year Maurice won it in 2015.