JAPAN CUP (G1)
Tokyo, Turf, 2400m
25 November 2012
If you think that the frequency with which we revisit the achievements of the Sunday Silence-line reflects an obsession, you’re right. But the truth is, it’s because members of the tribe keep thrusting themselves into the international limelight, and it was no different in Asia’s richest horserace, the $5million Japan Cup (Gr.1) on Sunday. Four of the first five home were grandsons of the great stallion, and toiling in their wake was last month’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr.1) heroine, Solemia, as well as the second and third in the recent Melbourne Cup (Gr.1).
The emergence of Japanese racing in recent decades owes just about everything to Sunday Silence, as well as to the Yoshida family who stood him at their Shadai Stallion Corporation headquarters, and whose Sunday Racing syndicate owned the first three past the post on the weekend. The winner by just a nose, was the Fillies’ Triple Crown ace, Gentildonna (by the all-conquering Deep Impact), ensuring a second consecutive defeat for the Japanese star, Orfevre, who had “winner” written all over him in the Arc when he was nabbed on the post by Solemia. The extent to which the “Arc” result distorted their merits, was reflected in Sunday’s outcome, when Orfevre was decidedly Solemia’s superior. Himself a Triple Crown hero a year before Gentildonna annexed the fillies’ version, Orfevre looks every inch the world class racehorse, and will doubtless find his way to the Shadai Stallion Station when his time comes.
The signs of Japan’s growing status as a source of genuine international racehorses have been evident for decades now, and it’s an arguable proposition that they are today, pound-for-pound, the bastion of the finest mile and a half performers in the world. I spoke personally with Teruya Yoshida on an aircraft one day between Hyderabad and Mumbai, about the policy behind their acquisition of the best European Derby and “Arc” winners. He explained that it was a formula that had served Europe and Britian so well for centuries, yet they’d reached a stage where they were discarding them in favour of the speedier American types like Sir Ivor and Nijinsky. This presented Japan with an outstanding opportunity to poach the best European horses at those distances for their own purposes, and to rewrite the Japanese racing programme to suit their progeny. These days, the Japanese revere their leading performers at those trips, and they are never short of a willingness to give their St Leger winners (at a mile and three quarters) and even further, a shot at stud. A good case in point is the excellent sire Manhattan Café (by Sunday Silence no less), who ranks perennially in their top five stallions. The Japanese have always been good at spotting a gap, and in this one, they’ve outplayed the world. They gave us Toyota, remember.