The bloodstock world is mourning the loss of Japanese supersire and dual Horse of the Year Deep Impact, who has died at the age of 17.

A statement from the Shadai Stallion Station explained that their flagship stallion was put down on Tuesday after suffering complications following an operation carried out as part of ongoing treatment for the neck problem that had curtailed his breeding season back in March. Although the operation initially appeared successful, Deep Impact struggled to stand the following day, with an x-ray revealing that he had suffered a fracture of the cervical spine.

A Japanese icon on the track, Deep Impact later became the dominant Japanese stallion of the modern era as the sire of 42 Group 1 winners, the majority in his homeland alongside European heavyweights such as Saxon Warrior, Study Of Man and Beauty Parlour. To that end, he has been an integral element in the promotion of the Japanese Thoroughbred to an international audience, arguably in a greater manner than even his outlandishly successful sire Sunday Silence before him.

Deep Impact has been champion sire of Japan every year since 2012 and true to form, is currently out on his own at the head of this year’s leading sires’ list, thanks to the winners of 4,441,785,000yen. They include Roger Barows, who led home a one-two for his sire in this year’s Japanese Derby and is now preparing for a tilt at the Arc, and Japanese Oaks heroine Loves Only Me.

Bred by Northern Farm out of John Hills’ 1994 Oaks runner-up Wind In Her Hair and bought for 70,000,000yen (£530,000) at the 2002 JRHA Select Foal Sale, Deep Impact was turned over to trainer Yasuo Ikee, who saddled him to win 12 of his 14 starts. As versatile as he was supremely talented, Deep Impact’s seven Group 1 victories included the Japanese Triple Crown – namely the Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Yushun and Kikuka Sho over distances ranging from 1m2f to 1m7f – as well as the Japan Cup and Tenno Sho, the latter over two miles.

“Deep Impact was Japan’s answer to Galileo”

However, he is most likely best remembered in this part of the world for his gallant performance in the Arc of 2006, in which he finished a close third behind Rail Link and Pride. Unfortunately, he was later disqualified when a post race sample was found to contain banned substance ipratropium.

Retired to the Shadai Stallion Station for the 2007 season, Deep Impact was understandably extremely popular from the outset, and it didn’t take long for his followers to be rewarded. His first crop of three-year-olds included Japanese 1,000 Guineas winner Marcellina and Yasuda Kinen winner Real Impact, whose subsequent victory in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill secured a shuttle spot on the Arrowfield Stud roster in Australia.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was the Wildenstein family’s homebred Beauty Parlour, whose victory in the 2012 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches set the tone for the European interest that was to follow.

Since then, Group 1 winners have flowed with clockwork regularity. To date, he is responsible for five winners of the Japanese 1,000 Guineas (Marcellina, Gentildonna, Ayusan, Harp Star and Gran Alegria), five winners of the Japanese Derby (Deep Brillante, Kizuna, Makahiki, Roger Barows and Wagnerian) and four winners of the Japanese Oaks (Gentildonna, Mikki Queen, Sinhalite and Loves Only You). On no fewer than 14 occasions has he sired the first two or three home in a Group 1 event.

Unsurprisingly, European interest was quick to gain momentum. In addition to Beauty Parlour, the Wildensteins also bred his first European stakes winner, French Listed scorer Barocci, as well as his first European Pattern winner, Aquamarine (winner of the Group 3 Prix Allez France). Support from the Niarchos family, who have had ties with Shadai since the days of Hector Protector, also bore fruit in the form of Prix du Jockey Club hero Study Of Man.

“We bred to him every year bar one since 2007, starting with a mare called Forest Rain,” says Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family. “Obviously the best progeny is Study Of Man but his brother, Tale Of Life, was also very promising and we have a very nice yearling filly out of Phaenomena [a sister to Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Nightime] in Ireland. And we have another mare, Malicieuse, who is a stakes-placed Galileo half-sister to Bago, now in foal to him.

“He is obviously a very big loss to Japan and his influence is going to continue to be felt around the globe.”

“The task for Shadai to establish an heir to their great stallion has become much more urgent”

The investment of Coolmore, meanwhile, has been rewarded via the likes of Saxon Warrior, winner of the 2,000 Guineas and Racing Post Trophy, Fillies’ Mile runner-up September and Listed-placed Pavlenko. Saxon Warrior was an extremely popular new recruit to Coolmore this season at a fee of €30,000.

In all, Deep Impact was Japan’s answer to Galileo, and as such, was due to command a fee of 40,000,000yen (£303,000) this season. Sadly, the neck injury that ultimately claimed his life meant that he covered only 20 mares; in addition to the aforementioned Malicieuse, it was confirmed in March that one of the group in foal is the Aga Khan’s Azmiyna, dam of the multiple Australian Group 1 winner The Autumn Sun. And given that his nine representatives averaged the equivalent of $1,135,353 at the recent JRHA Select Foal Sale, there is surely no limit as to what his final small crop will command should they even head to auction next summer.

Now the task for Shadai to establish an heir to their great stallion has suddenly become that much more urgent. In that respect, they will take heart from the start made by his Japanese Derby and Prix Niel-winning son Kizuna, whose first crop of two-year-olds already has a Group 3 winner in Bien Fait. Another Shadai-based son, Real Impact, is also faring well as the sire of eight first crop winners.

There are also plenty of sons in the pipeline, notably Real Steel, Mikki Isle and Satonno Aladdin at Shadai and Prix d’Ispahan winner A Shin Hikari at Lex Stud, alongside Saxon Warrior and the Australasian-based Staphanos and Tosen Stardom. With any luck, they will do their bit to enhance this great stallion’s legacy for years to come.