Hickey said that the farm’s manager at the time knew he had an interest in anything with a Japanese connection and called him to tell him about the Reckless Abandon filly, by this time a yearling niece to a Classic winner.
“She was tiny, she was weak, there was no real substance to her at all and Reckless Abandon at that stage was a dud, so commercially she was valueless to them in the European market, but she was worth something to Japan,” Hickey recalled, with the well-timed emphasis of a good raconteur.
He said he bought her on the spot, along with a foal half-brother by Iffraaj, for a fee that represented good value. But he did not have a buyer. He reached out to a contact and in a short time he was in touch with Jeweler’s trainer Kenichi Fujioka, who to date has trained at least five of Baldwina’s offspring.
They say that ‘fortune favours the bold’ and the fates smiled on Hickey. Fujioka and none other than Jeweler’s owner Yoichi Aoyama were about to embark on a buying trip to Ireland via London. They agreed to meet him and see the young filly and colt.
“They bought the two horses over lunch,” said Hickey. “We got the horses vetted for them, shipped them out to Japan, and I never really thought anything more of it until Champagne Color won a race and I started to follow what he was doing. He was placed in a Group 3 but I never thought for a minute he would win a Group 1.”
Meanwhile, the Iffraaj foal, subsequently named World Watch, went into training and won a newcomer race at Kyoto before failing in three further starts. Aoyama sent Memorial Life unraced to Victoire Pisa for her first covering, attempting to replicate the success he had with Jeweler. The resultant colt, Three Excellent, has a minor win and six placings from 15 starts.
Aoyama was not messing about when it came to the second mating: in 2019 he sent her to one of the hottest young stallion prospects in Japan, Duramente, whose first crop, at that time only yearlings, would feature the Classic winner Titleholder. Since the stallion’s death at age nine in August 2021, five of his offspring have won at least one Group 1, and Champagne Color is the latest.