Look through the results of the main events on the Dubai World Cup card and it is impossible not to be impressed with the achievements of the Japanese raiders.
Thanks to Victoire Pisa they recorded their first victory in the World Cup in 2011, when the runner-up Transcend also represented Japan. The Japanese mare To The Victory had also finished second in the World Cup ten years earlier.
It hadn’t taken Japan nearly as long to make its mark on the Dubai Sheema Classic, with Stay Gold defeating Fantastic Light to win in 2001. A second victory came Japan’s way when Heart’s Cry won easily in 2006 and that excellent mare Buena Vista failed by only three-parts of a length to beat Dar Re Mi in the 2010 edition. Then the Dubai Duty Free saw Japanese colts take first and third places in 2007, thanks to Admire Moon and Daiwa Major, and Utopia triumphed in the 2006 Godolphin Mile.
Bearing this in mind, it is well worth taking note of potential Japanese challengers for the 2012 World Cup meeting, even though Orfevre, who has recently been named Japan’s Horse of the Year for 2011, is not likely to have Dubai on his itinerary. His main international target is said to be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later in 2012.
Appropriately, Orfevre is a son of the previously mentioned Stay Gold, who not only won the Dubai Sheema Classic as a seven-year-old in 2001 but also the Hong Kong Vase. Timeform rated his efforts 127. Stay Gold also had the unusual record of having contested the Japan Cup at the ages of four, five, six and seven, without showing the level of form he displayed in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Stay Gold had the pedigree to make a stallion. In addition to having the peerless Sunday Silence as his sire, he is out of a sister to the smart miler Soccer Boy, who sired winners of such races as the Tenno Sho (Spring), Japanese St Leger and Shuka Sho.
Stay Gold’s first foals were born in 2003. Although there were a couple of Japanese Grade 3 winners in that initial crop, it was his second which put him on the map. Despite the presence in this crop of El Dorado, a three-time winner of the Singapore Gold Cup, its star member was undoubtedly Orfevre’s brother Dream Journey.
Having won Japan’s top juvenile prize, the Asahi Hai Futurity, Dream Journey confirmed his talent by winning the Japanese 2,000 Guineas over ten furlongs. Although his career then stagnated for quite a while, Dream Journey flourished again as a five-year-old in 2009, notably defeating Buena Vista to take the end-of-year Arima Kinen.
Remarkably Orfevre emulated his older brother in the 2011 Arima Kinen, which he won by three-quarters of a length from the 2010 Japanese Derby winner Eishin Flash, with Buena Vista finishing only seventh on her swansong.
This performance capped a tremendous year for Orfevre, as he had won the Japanese 2,000 Guineas in April, the Derby in May and the St Leger in October. He did so despite having a May 14 birthday, so it would be no surprise if he still has improvement in him.
Triple Crown requires stamina
With Japan’s three Classics being contested from a mile and a quarter to 15 furlongs, the Japanese Triple Crown doesn’t demand the same blend of speed and stamina as the British version. Even so, it still takes a very talented and tough performer to win all three legs.
The last colt to achieve this feat was Deep Impact in 2006 and then you have to go back to 1994 to find the previous Triple Crown winner, Narita Brian. The only others to complete the series were Symboli Rudolf (1984), Mr. C.B. (1983), Shinzan (1964) and St Lite (1941).
Dream Journey has now retired after racing at the age of seven in 2011, but it is unlikely that Orfevre will stay in training that long. It would be fascinating to see whether he can fare better than Deep Impact in the Arc, a race which nearly fell to another of Stay Gold’s sons, Nakayama Festa, in 2010.
Orfevre’s dam Oriental Art is by Mejiro McQueen, an unfamiliar name to most Europeans. However, this stamina-packed horse won the Japanese St Leger and two editions of the Tenno Sho over two miles.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Orfevre’s pedigree is that he is inbred 4 x 3 to Northern Taste, a horse who was himself closely inbred. Northern Taste was a smart two-year-old who later won the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs as long ago as 1974.
The flashy son of Northern Dancer had a broad blaze which extended past his left eye, but that proved no hindrance to him. He could justifiably be described as the Sunday Silence of his era, as he took the champion sire title ten times in an 11-year period between 1982 and 1992.
Northern Taste also had the distinction of being inbred 3 x 2 to Nearctic’s dam Lady Angela. This Hyperion mare could hardly have been better bred, as her dam was Sister Sarah (ancestress also of St Paddy, Great Nephew, Flying Water, Balidaress, Workforce, etc), her third dam was Molly Desmond (ancestress of Brigadier Gerard) and her fourth dam was the immortal Pretty Polly.
Falcon poised to swoop
Another leading Japanese horse who is more likely to head for Dubai is Smart Falcon, who will be attempting to follow in Victoire Pisa’s footsteps after his all-the-way win in the Tokyo Daishoten on December 29.
Like Orfevre, Smart Falcon is a grandson of Sunday Silence. Unlike many of this clan, though, he is a dirt specialist and now has the proud record of having 22 victories from 32 starts.
Sunday Silence, of course, won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt. Smart Falcon’s sire Gold Allure was a leading dirt performer in Japan, where his victories included the Tokyo Daishoten, a race won by Smart Falcon in 2010 and 2011. His 2010 win helped him earn second place behind Espoir City – another son of Gold Allure – on the official ratings for Japan’s older dirt performers.
Smart Falcon has a 2011 victory over Transcend, runner-up in last year’s Dubai World Cup, so don’t underestimate him.
Look to German mares to provide outcrosses
With the British and Irish industries becoming increasingly dependent on the blood of Sadler’s Wells, Danehill and Green Desert, the quest for outcrosses is likely to become more urgent over the next decade. Fortunately the likes of Dubawi, Shamardal, Dalakhani and Acclamation all have pedigrees which should make them invaluable, and there are others, such as Nayef, Raven’s Pass, Sir Percy and Canford Cliffs, which could also ride to the rescue.
Alternatively, breeders could consider buying German-bred broodmares, safe in the knowledge that mares by German stallions have produced winners of the Japanese Derby and Kentucky Derby over the last two seasons.
Acatenango, who died in 2005, was Germany’s champion broodmare sire in 2011, just as he had been in 2009. This suggests that this three-time German Horse of the Year could well replicate the enormous success that his sire Surumu enjoyed in this role (11 broodmare championships between 1991 and 2008).
Daughters of Acatenango pulled off the striking feat of producing the winners of both the Kentucky Derby and Deutsches Derby in 2011, thanks to Animal Kingdom and Waldpark. Daughters of Acatenango have already produced Group winners to sons of Sadler’s Wells (Montjeu, Galileo and his brother Black Sam Bellamy), Green Desert (Oasis Dream, sire of the Group 1 winner Querari) and Danehill, so they appear to have plenty to offer British and Irish breeders.
Monsun is another champion German sire and broodmare sire who has followed in the footsteps of his sire, Konigsstuhl. It is worth remembering that Monsun was used comparatively sparingly for much of his career, so he hasn’t a huge number of broodmare daughters. One has already produced a Group 1 winner to a son of Sadler’s Wells (Sholokhov), while another has produced a very promising 2011 German two-year-old to a grandson (the German Horse of the Year Soldier Hollow, sire of the Group 3 winner Pastorius in his first crop). Monsun mares also have Group winners by Danehill’s sons Rock Of Gibraltar and Tiger Hill, so once again they have obvious potential.
Shuffle makes big impact
Big Shuffle became Germany’s champion sire in 2011. As this was his fifth championship in nine years, the Irish six- and seven-furlong specialist has proved a tremendous asset to the German industry since he commenced stallion duties in 1990. His son Areion was champion sire in 2010, so Big Shuffle has exerted a pretty strong grip on the title.
Although Big Shuffle was bred in America and not Germany, he also has an outcross pedigree, with no Northern Dancer blood. The first four generations of his pedigree contains several British Classic winners, including the Oaks winner Homeward Bound, Derby winner Owen Tudor and 2,000 Guineas winners Tudor Minstrel, My Babu and Court Martial. These bloodlines, blended with German mares, mean that many of his broodmare daughters will have plenty of opportunities. Big Shuffle finished third behind Acatenango and Dashing Blade among Germany’s broodmare sires in 2011, with one of his daughters being responsible for Tai Chi, High Chaparral’s promising winner of the Group 3 Preis des Winterfavoriten.
Dashing Blade, another of Germany’s champion sires, has the considerable attraction of having Shirley Heights and Sharpen Up as his grandsires. Over the last three years he has progressed from fourth, to third and now second on the broodmare sires’ table. His potential as a broodmare sire could hardly have been better demonstrated than by Stacelita, a four-time Group 1 winner in France who collected two of America’s top turf prizes for fillies and mares in 2011. Two other Dashing Blade mares made their mark in 2011 with their progeny by sons of Sadler’s Wells. First, Earl Of Tinsdal became a Group 1 winner for Black Sam Bellamy and then Sholokhov’s daughter Monami established herself as a Classic prospect with her victory in the Group 3 Preis des Winterkonigin.
In previous years Dashing Blade mares have produced Group 2 winners to In The Wings and Barathea, plus another Group winner by Black Sam Bellamy, so they have a fruitful partnership with Sadler’s Wells.
Lomitas, Germany’s champion sire of 2001, was mainly in the news in 2011 as the sire of the stunning Arc winner Danedream, but he also cropped up as the broodmare sire of good Group winners in the US (the smart turf filly Malibu Pier) and Italy (the Group 1 Premio Roma winner Zazou).