Thursday, April 12, 2012

Major Impact...

What an exciting week in the Thoroughbred world. From California to New York, a plethora of Kentucky Derby protagonists were putting in their final preps for Churchill Downs. Gemologist (Tiznow), I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) and Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) impressed, and will be tough to beat on the first Saturday in May. Meanwhile, the fillies took center stage on Keeneland’s much anticipated opening weekend, with Karlovy Vary (Dynaformer) springing an upset in the GI Ashland. The Bluegrass has been buzzing on the back of a certain basketball game, and the party just kept on rolling at Keeneland. On top of all that, a half-sister (by Redoute’s Choice) to the mighty Black Caviar created fireworks Down Under, selling for A$2.6 million at Inglis Easter. The TDN has been action packed.

With all that going on, it would have been easy to miss an important development in Japan last Sunday. Gentildonna (Deep Impact–Donna Blini) won the G1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin in determined fashion. The filly bounced back from a fourth-place finish in the G3 Tulip Sho to capture the country’s first Classic of the season. In doing so, Gentildonna was realizing her genetic potential.

Deep Impact was a remarkable racehorse, whose appeal transcended the sporting realm in his native land. Moreover, his participation in the 2006 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Longchamp resulted in widespread media attention. The Deep Impact fan club descended upon the prestigious Parisian venue in their droves, with the Japanese superstar running a gallant third to Rail Link (later disqualified). Unsurprisingly, Deep Impact has transferred his athletic prowess to the breeding sphere and was also responsible for the second-place finisher, Verxina, in the Oka Sho.

Gentildonna was produced by the former Brain Meehan trained Donna Blini, who won the G1 Cheveley Park and G2 Cherry Hinton in 2005. Although Donna Blini failed to fully recapture her sparkle as a three-year-old, she retired to stud with impeccable credentials. Katsumi Yoshida purchased her for 500,000gns ($1,017,240) at the 2006 Tattersalls December Sale. Gentildonna is Donna Blini’s second foal, the first being her Group 3-winning full-sister Donau Blue.

I guess that brings us to the principal reason that inspired this blog. Donna Blini is just one of many talented American/European racemares that have ended up in Japan over recent years. Calling it a mass exodus might be bordering on hyperbole, but Japanese buyers have certainly acquired some high quality stock. Azeri, Dubawi Heights, Ginger Punch, Hilda’s Passion, and Serious Attitude spring to mind. It may be argued that is far from a new phenomenon, and Japanese buyers have always been active at Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Tattersalls et al. However, their appetite for quality broodmare/stallion prospects has definitely increased.

On the stallion front, Harbinger and Workforce were world-class racehorses and could easily have stood in Europe. However, both were whisked off to Japan to commence their stallion careers upon retiring from the track. Likewise, the regally-bred Empire Maker was far from a failed stallion when Shadai acquired him in 2010. Empire Maker’s progeny have lit up the track/ring since his departure, and his loss will be a huge blow to the American bloodstock industry going forward. Harbinger, Workforce, and Empire Maker show that Japan is no longer a dumping ground for stallions that can’t cut it elsewhere.

The Japanese industry will continue to benefit from the substantial investment in international bloodstock, coupled with successful domestic bloodlines. The future looks bright in the Land of the Rising Sun...

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