How many sires’ championships does a stallion need to earn before he can be considered one of those exceptionally rare beasts who could be described as a breed shaper. While Northern Dancer undoubtedly revolutionised the Thoroughbred, he is credited with just four Anglo-Irish titles and one in North America, whereas Bold Ruler topped the American table eight times, three more than his sire Nasrullah, who also had an Anglo-Irish title to his credit. Other stars of American breeding, such as Halo, Mr Prospector, Danzig, Deputy Minister, Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, Smart Strike, Tapit and Candy Ride, all managed only two or three championships (Into Mischief, the current dominant American stallion, is heading for his fourth consecutive title).

It has been a similar story in Britain and Ireland, where the superstar racehorses Ribot, Vaguely Noble and Mill Reef all topped the table two or three times. I mention this simply to provide some perspective to the truly extraordinary tallies of 14 and 12 sires’ championships respectively achieved by the father-and-son team of Sadler’s Wells and Galileo. And we must not overlook Danehill, who notched up nine Australian championships, as well as three in Britain and Ireland and two in France (where Sadler’s Wells and Galileo respectively topped the chart on three and two occasions).

Even allowing for the fact that lengthy reigns are not so unusual for champion sires in Japan, Sunday Silence and his son Deep Impact surely deserve to be considered breed-shapers. Sunday Silence achieved 13 consecutive titles and, at the time of writing, Deep Impact holds a narrow lead in his quest to land an 11th consecutive championship. 

No one can be too surprised that Saxon Warrior has become a Group 1 sire with his first crop

Of course, Deep Impact, Sunday Silence, Galileo, Sadler’s Wells and Danehill are no longer with us, but all five figure among the seven stallions in the first three generations of Saxon Warrior’s pedigree (another of them being two-time champion sire Halo). And it’s not just the stallions in these three generations which are out of the ordinary. Saxon Warrior’s dam Maybe was Europe’s champion two-year-old filly of 2011and his second dam Sumora was closely related to Oaks winner Dancing Rain. Also, with Galileo as her sire and a Danehill mare as her dam, Maybe represented the same cross as Frankel, Teofilo and a host of other Group 1 winners.

No one can be too surprised, then, that Saxon Warrior has become a Group 1 sire with his first crop, thanks to the thrilling Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf win by his son Victoria Road. Already a winner in Ireland, France and the US, the May-foaled Victoria Road has also demonstrated admirable toughness, with his major win coming on his eighth appearance. Saxon Warrior has also been represented by the Group 3-winning fillies Lumiere Rock and Moon Ray, the Group 1-placed Gan Teorainn and the Group 3-placed fillies Thornbrook and Rage of Bamby. There’s a good chance, too, that another of his sons, Greenland, will also make his mark at Group level.

Saxon Warrior: Classic winner was from Coolmore’s second crop of Deep Impact foals. Photo: George Selwyn

Sadly, Deep Impact had to be euthanised in 2019 at the age of 17, after being taken out of service in March because of a problem with his neck. However, he had managed to cover 24 mares in early weeks of the 2019 season and he has at least 12 named foals in his 2020 crop. It isn’t just coincidence that as many as five of them are out of Galileo mares, as the Deep Impact-Galileo nick had been very well advertised in 2018. In Japan, the filly Cantabile had won the Group 2 Roses Stakes prior to a fine third to Almond Eye in the prestigious Shuka Sho, but more importantly Saxon Warrior had won the 2,000 Guineas prior to narrow defeats by Roaring Lion in the Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes. Although classy enough to finish in the frame in both the Derby and Irish Derby, Saxon Warrior’s record suggested strongly that he was better suited by a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter.

The combination of Deep Impact and Galileo clearly had the potential to be something special and the nick had 21 per cent Group/Graded winners by the end of 2018. Although it hasn’t managed to maintain that extraordinarily high strike-rate, it has already produced another potential star in Auguste Rodin, who has been following the example set by Saxon Warrior. Both were successful at Group 2 level over a mile in Ireland before travelling to Doncaster for the Vertem Futurity Trophy (formerly the Racing Post Trophy). Saxon Warrior had to fight hard for his victory, having just a neck to spare over Roaring Lion, but Auguste Rodin had more than three lengths to spare in scoring his third consecutive victory from four starts. The ease of his victory suggests he could become Deep Impact’s third Classic winner out of a Galileo mare, the other being the much-missed Snowfall, winner of the Oaks and Irish Oaks.

Deep Impact’s last crop foals out of Galileo mares also include Bold As Love, who showed plenty of promise for Donnacha O’Brien on her debut. Yet to make their debut are Drumroll, a brother to Saxon Warrior, and Victorium, a filly out of that magnificent filly Minding, whose younger sisters include the classic winners Tuesday and Empress Josephine. The Aga Khan’s filly bred this way is Azmaniya, a half-sister to The Autumn Sun, a top-class performer in Australia.

The ease of Auguste Rodin’s victory suggests he could become Deep Impact’s third Classic winner out of a Galileo mare, the other being the much-missed Snowfall, winner of the Oaks and Irish Oaks

Of the 2020 Deep Impacts which are not out of Galileo mares, two have already made winning debuts in Japan, including Light Quantum, whose dam, the Grade 1 turf winner Illuminant, was bought by Shadai Farm for $1.1 million. It could also pay to watch out for Sahara Mist, a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Wuheida, out of the Fillies’ Mile winner Hibaayeb. Coincidentally, Wuheida’s Breeders’ Cup victory was gained at the expense of Rhododendron, the dam of Auguste Rodin. 

Another coincidence is that Saxon Warrior’s Breeders’ Cup winner Victoria Road and Deep Impact’s Vertem Futurity winner Auguste Rodin come from the same excellent family – the one descending from Indian Ridge’s very fast daughter Cassandra Go, winner of the King George Stakes, Temple Stakes and King’s Stand Stakes over the minimum trip. Incidentally, Cassandra Go has a 2020 Saxon Warrior colt called Change Sings, who was knocked down for €540,000 as a yearling despite his May 10 birthday, but has yet to race. This remarkable mare also has a 2021 filly by Night of Thunder which was foaled when the mare was 25. This filly, Chaumet More, is the 16th foal out of the mare, who numbers three Group-winning daughters among her ten winners from 12 starters.

Auguste Rodin: the latest Group 1 star for Deep Impact. Photo – Bill Selwyn

Cassandra Go stayed well enough to finish second in the July Cup and to break her maiden over seven furlongs. However, she then trailed home in the rear when tried over a mile in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and thereafter never tackled a distance longer than six furlongs. That hasn’t stopped her becoming the ancestress of a wide variety of important winners.

Two of her Group winners, Theann and Tickled Pink, were sprinters. By Rock of Gibraltar, Theann landed the Summer Stakes over six furlongs before becoming the dam of Photo Call, a Galileo mare who became an American Grade 1 winner over a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter, and Land Force, a No Nay Never colt who took the Richmond Stakes.

Tickled Pink, for her part, took the Abernant Stakes over six furlongs and the Coral Charge Sprint over five. With Invincible Spirit as her sire and a sprinter by Indian Ridge as her dam, Tickled Pink is bred to the same pattern as Profitable, a very speedy sprinter with victories to his name in the Temple Stakes and King’s Stand Stakes, and Swiss Spirit, another who gained his Group success over five furlongs. Despite appearing to be a sprinter pure and simple, Tickled Pink is the dam of Victoria Road, who led close home to take the Prix de Conde over nine furlongs before again snatching victory in the final strides of the Juvenile Turf. Clearly Saxon Warrior has dominated Tickled Pink, at least from the viewpoint of stamina. 

I’ve pointed out before that Europeans possibly have a rather false impression of Deep Impact

It appears to be important to remember that Cassandra Go is out of Rahaam, a daughter of a Derby winner in Secreto. When Cassandra Go was mated to Pivotal, a winner of the King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe over five furlongs, it seemed logical to expect a sprinter. However, the resultant foal was Halfway To Heaven, a winner of two Group 1 races over a mile and another, the Nassau Stakes, over a mile-and-a-quarter. Halfway To Heaven has since earned the title of Broodmare of the Year, thanks to her partnership with Galileo. Three of her seven foals by the perennial champion sire enjoyed Group success, with all of them gaining at least one Group victory over a mile-and-a-quarter. That was the most rewarding distance for Halfway To Heaven’s best daughter, the top-notch Magical, but Magical’s year-older sister Rhododendron was fast enough to win both the Fillies’ Mile and the Lockinge Stakes. In truth, Rhododendron was admirably tough and versatile, with seconds in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks among her other achievements, and now she has produced Auguste Rodin as her first foal. This exciting colt should have no difficulty staying a mile-and-a-quarter, just as Saxon Warrior did, but only time will tell whether he will shine over the Derby trip.

I’ve pointed out before that Europeans possibly have a rather false impression of Deep Impact, who gained three of his 12 wins over 3,000 metres or more, while never winning over less than 2,000 metres. What people need to understand is that Japan’s traditional racing programme is geared more towards stamina than its European equivalents. For example, Japan’s equivalent to the 2,000 Guineas is over 2,000 metres, rather than a mile, and the spring edition of the Tenno Sho – arguably the equivalent of the Coronation Cup – is over 3,200 metres. 

Although Deep Impact possessed enough class to shine from 2,000 to 3,200 metres, his pedigree and his achievements as a stallion suggest he would have been effective at somewhat shorter distances had he been trained in Europe. After all, his sire Sunday Silence only once ventured beyond a mile-and-a-quarter, when soundly beaten by Easy Goer in the Belmont Stakes. Deep Impact received an injection of stamina via his dam, the Oaks second Wind In Her Hair, an Alzao mare whose second dam was the 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane winner Highclere.

Cassandra Go wins the King’s Stand Stakes. Photo – George Selwyn

Deep Impact sired four consecutive winners of the Oka Sho, with Marcellina, Gentildonna, Ayusan and Harp Star all taking this 1,600-metre equivalent of the 1,000 Guineas. Gran Alegria later became his fifth winner of this Classic. We have also seen his daughter Beauty Parlour win the French 1,000 Guineas equivalent and his son Saxon Warrior take the 2,000 Guineas. 

Deep Impact has also sired at least two winners of each of Japan’s four other Group 1 mile races for horses aged three or over. He has two winners of the NHK Mile Cup (Mikki Isle and Keiai Nautique), two of the Victoria Mile (two-time winner Verxina and Jour Polaire) and four of the Yasuda Kinen (Real Impact, Satono Aladdin, Gran Alegria and Danon Kingly). His four individual winners of Kyoto’s Mile Championship are Gran Alegria, Mikki Isle, Tosen Ra and Danon Shark, and he even sired a winner of the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes over 1,200 metres.

In addition to Beauty Parlour, Deep Impact has enjoyed Group success over 1,600 metres in France with the Group 3 winners Geniale, Akihiro and Savarin. Also, he has been represented over distances short of 2,400 metres by the likes of by A Shin Hikari (Prix d’Ispahan), Fancy Blue (Prix de Diane) and Study of Man (Prix du Jockey-Club). 

There have also been major successes by Shahryar, Gentildonna, Real Steel and Vivlos in the UAE, with the last two taking the Dubai Duty Free at around 1,800 metres. It has been a similar story in Australia, with Real Impact, Tosen Stardom and Fierce Impact all becoming Group 1 winners at around a mile, while Profondo and Glint of Hope enjoyed Group 1 success over 2,000 metres. 

Although Japanese breeders have lost Deep Impact, they have many of his best sons as well as Kitasan Black, a dual champion sired by Deep Impact’s brother Black Tide. Kitasan Black was in fine form in the autumn, enjoying Graded success with Equinox (Tenno Sho Autumn), Gaia Force and the two-year-old Ravel. These three collectively may point to the future of Japanese breeding, as Equinox is inbred 4×4 to Sunday Silence’s sire Halo, while Ravel is inbred 3×3 to Sunday Silence and Gaia Force 3×4 to Sunday Silence. Ephoria, Japan’s Horse of the Year in 2021, is inbred 4×3 to Sunday Silence and so are 2021’s champion two-year-old filly Circle of Life and 2020’s champion three-year-old filly Daring Tact, so we can expect to see many more top winners emerging with two lines this legendary stallion.

Connections celebrate following the win of Victoria Road in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Photo – Bill Selwyn