After the Christmas and New Year festivities, just about everyone understands that it is indeed possible to have too much of a good thing. But does this apply to the world of bloodstock breeding? Evidence from three different continents suggest that the answer is an emphatic “no.”

In Australia, where Danehill landed nine sires’ championships in the space of 11 seasons, he was succeeded by his sons Redoute’s Choice, Flying Spur, Fastnet Rock and Exceed And Excel. They collectively landed seven of the next 11 championships, the only interlopers being Encosta De Lago, Lonhro and Street Cry. Then it was the turn of the next generation, with Redoute’s Choice’s son Snitzel topping the table for four consecutive years.

Thanks to the great Frankel, there have now also been three generations of champion sires from a branch of the Northern Dancer male line in Britain and Ireland. In fact, the Sadler’s Wells branch has exerted an even stronger stranglehold on the title than the Danehill line has done in Australia. It almost goes without saying that Sadler’s Wells topped the table 14 times in 15 years, to overtake the 13 titles won by Highflyer, the previous record holder back in the 18th century. Although Danehill then took over for three years, he lost top billing in 2008 to Sadler’s Wells’s son Galileo, who proved unconquerable in 12 of the next 13 years, before having to give best to his son Frankel last year.

The Japanese industry has also demonstrated that you can’t have too much of a good thing,

Sunday Silence: inbreeding to the Japanese supersire has become a common trend. Photo – T Jones

The Japanese industry has also demonstrated that you can’t have too much of a good thing, if that good thing is Sunday Silence. The 1989 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner was unwanted in his native country, largely because of the plebeian nature of his dam,  the thoroughly tried and tested Grade 2 winner Wishing Well. However, the Japanese have long been prepared to forgive racemares who outran their pedigrees and Sunday Silence became champion sire in 1995, with the help of just two crops, and he held onto prime position for 13 consecutive years, ending in 2007. In the ensuing 14 years, sons of Sunday Silence have taken the championship 12 times, the only interruption coming when King Kamehameha landed the title in 2010 and 2011.

Needless to say, the dominant force has been Deep Impact, the Japanese Triple Crown winner of 2005 who landed his tenth successive title in 2021. He owed his latest title to an impressive team which featured no fewer than eight Grade 1 winners, namely Akaitorino Musume (Shuka Sho), Contrail (Japan Cup), Danon Kingly (Yasuda Kinen), Gran Alegria (Victoria Mile and Mile Championship), Killer Ability (Hopeful Stakes), Lei Papale (Osaka Hai), Shahryar (Japanese Derby) and World Premiere (Tenno Sho Spring).

There were also several Group 1 successes for Deep Impact outside Japan. That fine mare Loves Only You took a pair of Group 1s in Hong Kong, in addition to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and Glory Vase also hit the Group 1 target inthe Hong Kong Vase.

Then there was the Australian colt Profondo, who justified his high yearling price with a victory in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes, and the ill-fated Snowfall, who ran away with the Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks, to follow Saxon Warrior, Study of Man, Fancy Blue and Beauty Parlour as a European Classic winner for the Shadai superstar.

This is a sire line which merits the greatest respect from European breeders

Clearly this is a sire line which merits the greatest respect from European breeders. It is going to be fascinating to follow the stallion careers of Saxon Warrior and Study of Man, with their first runners appearing in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Each of them represents one of Deep Impact’s most potent partnerships.

Saxon Warrior and Snowfall are among the five Group winners from 34 starters out of Galileo mares, whereas Study of Man ranks as one of nine Group 1 winners among the 69 starters out of daughters of Storm Cat. The Deep Impact-Storm Cat alliance has flourished the world over, with A Shin Hikari winning the Prix d’Ispahan, Kizuna winning the Prix Niel, Loves Only You winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and Real Steel winning the Dubai Turf.

Mention of Kizuna brings us to Deep Impact’s record so far as a sire of sires. Kizuna, who also won the Japanese Derby and finished fourth in the Arc, ranks as the most successful of them. Despite starting his career at the comparatively modest fee of ¥2.5 million (£16,000), he took the title of champion first-crop sire in 2019, since when he has finished 12th among Japan’s leading sires in 2020 and fourth in 2021.

Kizuna defeats Epiphaneia in the 2013 Tokyo Yushun. Photo – JRA

His daughter Akai Ito finally provided him with his first Group 1 success when she defeated Stellaria, another of Kizuna’s daughters, to land the Queen Elizabeth Cup in November. Kizuna’s first two crops, numbering 322 foals, have produced a total of ten Graded winners. His third crop, which – at 113 foals – is smaller than its predecessors, has already produced a couple of youngsters tried at Group 1 level, so there is reason for optimism.

His fourth crop is smaller still at 107 foals, but Kizuna’s success with his first crop resulted in 166 foals in 2021. They were sired at an increased fee of ¥6 million (£38,400), and his fee has continued to rise, firstly to ¥10 million (£64,000) and then to ¥12 million (£77,000). One of his 2021 foals topped the JRHA Select Foal Sale at ¥410 million (£2.6 million).

Part of this rise has been brought about by the recent loss of several of Shadai’s proven stallions. Deep Impact died at the age of 17 in 2019, after having to be taken out of service, and his final crop is small. However, it does contain Coolmore-bred colts out of Galileo’s top daughters Hydrangea, Minding and Rhododendron, plus a sister to Saxon Warrior. His half-dozen last-crop foals in Japan included a colt out of Go Maggie Go, which sold for ¥300 million (£1.9 million) and another out of Sweep Tosho, which made ¥200 million (£1.3 million).

Heart’s Cry, sire of such as Just A Way, Lys Gracieux and American Grade 1 winner Yoshida, seemed likely to be one of the chief beneficiaries from Deep Impact’s death. However, he had only 35 foals registered in Japan in 2021 and he had to be pensioned at the end of the 2021 breeding season aged 20. We were subsequently reminded of Heart’s Cry’s talents by the success of Do Deuce, winner of the Asahi Hai Futurity, one of three Japanese Group 1 two-year-old races contested in December.

Another of the three, the Hopeful Stakes, saw Killer Ability and Justin Palace land first and second places for Deep Impact. As Deep Impact and Heart’s Cry are no longer available, this helped turn the spotlight onto Epiphaneia, the stallion responsiblefor Circle of Life, winner of the other Group 1 contest, the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies.

Epiphaneia comes from the same male line as Sunday Silence

Epiphaneia comes from the same male line as Sunday Silence, his sire Symboli Kris S being a great-grandson of Hail To Reason, the grandsire of Sunday Silence. What’s more, he is out of a granddaughter of Sunday Silence, sired by Special Week, one of Sunday Silence’s Japanese Derby winners. That means that Epiphaneia is inbred 4×5 to Hail To Reason. Significantly, Epiphaneia’s daughter Circle of Life is out of a granddaughter of Sunday Silence and is therefore inbred 4×3 to the great stallion. Indeed she has three lines to Sunday Silence’s sire, the notoriously bad tempered Halo, and her dam Sea Breeze Life is inbred 3×4 to Caerleon, who also had Hail To Reason in his pedigree.

Epiphaneia: has got off to a swift start at stud. Photo – Nancy Sexton

I mentioned earlier that Kizuna, a contemporary of Epiphaneia, has sired just one Group 1 winner from his first three crops. Epiphaneia, though, has already notched up three Group 1 winners – quite an achievement considering that Japan, unlike Australia, doesn’t stage a huge number of Group 1 races. Epiphaneia and Kizuna met several times during their four years on the track. Epiphaneia came out on top on their first meeting, having Kizuna in third place when he won the Group 3 Radio Nikkei Hai Nisai Stakes over 2,000 metres. Unbeaten in three juvenile starts, he ranked third on the  Japanese Classification.

However, it was Kizuna who came out on top when it mattered in the Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun), beating Epiphaneia by half-a-length. Kizuna also finished first, to Epiphaneia’s third, when they met at Grade 2 level at four, but it was Epiphaneia who ranked higher at that age, rated 129 to Kizuna’s 121. His high rating reflected his four-length victory in the Japan Cup. With stamina being so unwelcome in today’s Anglo-Irish industry, it is worth pointing out that Epiphaneia never raced over less than 1800 metres and won the Japanese St leger (Kikuka Sho) over 3,000 metres on heavy ground.

However, Epiphaneia has sired Graded stakes winners over all distances from 1,600 to 2,500 metres, with two of the Group 1 wins over 1,600 metres. Epiphaneia is now ahead of Kizuna in another important area. His fee has increased from ¥5 million (£32,000) in 2020 to ¥10 million (£64,000) in 2021 and now to ¥18 million (£115,000) in 2022, which makes him Shadai’s highest-priced stallion. So far he has had very few representatives outside Japan, but that is surely going to change before long.

One of Epiphaneia’s three Group 1 winners, Daring Tact, completed a difficult treble in 2020, landing the Japanese 1,000 Guineas and Oaks in addition to the Shuka Sho. The other, Efforia, won the 2021 edition of the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) and later pulled off a major double in defeating the older horses in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Autumn and Group 1 Arima Kinen.

All three of his Group 1 winners are inbred 4×3 to Sunday Silence

Remarkably, all three of his Group 1 winners are inbred 4×3 to Sunday Silence. Indeed Epiphaneia has become the poster boy for inbreeding to Sunday Silence, as no other stallion has a Group 1 winner inbred to Sunday Silence (Mikki Isle, Screen Hero, Kizuna, Orfevre, Karakontie and Smart Falcon have Group 2 winners).

Of his three Group 1 winners, Efforia has a dam by Heart’s Cry, whereas Daring Tact has a second dam by Sunday Silence. Aristoteles, a Group 2 winner who was second in the 2020 Japanese St Leger, is yet another with this 4×3 inbreeding, his dam being a daughter of Deep Impact. Deep Impact also features as the broodmare sire of Epiphaneia’s Group 1-placed son Orthoclase, his Group 1-placed daughter Divine Love and his Group 2-placed daughter Musica. This 4×3 inbreeding to Sunday Silence runs through nearly all of Epiphaneia’s other Graded-placed horses, including Season’s Gift, Clavel, World Revival, Sky Groove, City Rainbow, Varuna, Bella Nova, Ten Happy Rose and Sonnet Phrase.

Arguably, it would be much more noteworthy if he were to sire an important winner not inbred to Sunday Silence. Of course, his record may just be an indication of how difficult it is to avoid Sunday Silence inbreeding in today’s Japanese industry. There are already nearly 4,000 named horses inbred to Sunday Silence within five generations. The majority of Shadai’s stallions have Sunday Silence somewhere in their pedigree, including Contrail, whose total of five Group 1 wins makes him the most successful of Deep Impact sons. Contrail starts his stallion career in 2022 at a fee of ¥12 million (£77,000).