As the current Japanese racing season ends on December 31, it is terribly sad to have to come to the realisation that the reign, as King of Japanese breeding, by that great horse Deep Impact (2002-2019) has ended.
Yutaka Take aboard Japan's greatest ever racehorse and breed-shaping stallion, Deep Impact. (Photo by JRA)
For an amazing eleven consecutive seasons from 2012 to 2022 Deep Impact was at the top of Japan’s leading sires according to prizemoney won by progeny. In 2023, he will not even run second or third.
To understand why, one must turn to the events of 2019. In that year Deep Impact served only twenty mares because he was having problems with his neck. Deep Impact was withdrawn from stud duties in the hope that he would recover. He did not and at the end of June they laid him down for an operation. It appeared to have been successful. The next day, June 30th, he could not get back up onto his legs. An X-ray revealed that his cervical (neck) spine had been fractured. Deep Impact was then euthanised.
In 2020 those twenty mares produced only twelve foals. Six of them were destined to race in Japan-the rest in Europe. That meant that this year Deep Impact had no 2YOs and only a handful of 3YOs. Next year it will be worse. However, his greatness as a sire shone through with the six that went to Europe. This year Deep Impact has sired the winner of the Epsom Derby, Auguste Rodin. The very same horse also won the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes before going to USA where he won the $USA 4M Breeders (Turf) Cup 12f. All of these were all G1 races.
Last year Auguste Rodin was ranked as one of the best juveniles in Europe after winning the G1 Doncaster Futurity Trophy (8f). Five G1s sculpted from a career of only ten starts. The dam of Auguste Rodin is a triple G1 winning daughter of Galileo- Rhododendron (2014) whom Coolmore Stud had sent over to Japan to be served by Deep Impact. When a stud like Coolmore, with their own powerful stallion roster, is prepared to patronise a sire in Japan that serves as the ultimate measure of the esteem in which Deep Impact was held as a sire.
Deep Impact colt Auguste Rodin (Photo by Seb Daly/Getty Images)
Global breeding over the last thirty years has seen the rise of what might be termed “SUPERSTAR STALLIONS”- sires who can dominate a sires’ list more than ten times. There have only been five such. DEEP IMPACT was one and these are the other four:
SADLERS WELLS (by Northern Dancer) (1981-2011) headed the sires list for UK and Ireland fourteen times- the last time in 2004. In addition, he was leading sire in France three times. He earned seventeen titles.
His son GALILEO (1998-2021) did it twelve times for the sires list for UK and Ireland -the first in 2008 than in consecutive years 2010-2020. He was also champion French sire twice, giving him a total of fourteen titles.
DANEHILL (1986-2003) was three times champion sire UK and Ireland; twice champion sire in France and nine times in Australia, for a total of fourteen titles.
SUNDAY SILENCE (1986-2002), the sire of Deep Impact, dominated the Japanese sires’ list for thirteen consecutive seasons (1995-2007).
(N.B. NORTHERN DANCER the most influential stallion of the last century, only headed the North American sire list once, in 1971. Mostly because his best progeny did not race there. He headed the UK and Ireland sires list four times being 1970, 1977, 1983 and 1984).
DEEP IMPACT’s story begins with SUNDAY SILENCE. He had been the best of his generation in the USA wining two of the three Triple Crown classic races -the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes- and finishing second in the Belmont Stakes. While a 3YO he also won the $3M Breeders Cup Classic (10f). He only ran twice as a 4YO before an injured ligament forced his retirement. Sunday Silence had run fourteen times for nine wins and five seconds.
As a 5YO Sunday Silence began stud duties at Shadai Farms Japan. His record as a sire would have been even better but for his premature death at age 16. In May 2002, he began suffering from laminitis and then a leg infection. He was in constant pain before suffering a heart attack in August that year.
Earlier, on March 25th that same year, was born his most famous son Deep Impact. The Australian Stud Book described Sunday Silence as “bay or brown” but he was closer to black and Deep Impact is more that colour than the “bay” that appears beside his name in the ASB. As his victories and fame are a matter of recent memory it suffices to now state that he had raced fourteen times for 12 wins a second and a famous 3rd from which placing he was later disqualified for retuning a positive swab.
Deep Impact wins his farewell race, the 2006 Arima Kinen at Nakayama. (Photo by JRA)
Deep Impact was a classic performer who won the 3YO Triple Crown. His twelve wins included seven G1s and three G2s. Deep Impact was voted best 3YO in Japan for 2005 and Horse of the Year 2006 and 2007, with an incredible Timeform rating of 135.
There is one record he established that should be considered by Australians wanting to win the Melbourne Cup. As a 4YO when winning the Tenno Sho, he set a world record for 3200m of 3.13.4. The way in which races are timed in Japan is different from in Australia as the race time is clocked from a “flying start” but, even allowing for that, this time is remarkable. The record time for the 3200m Melbourne Cup is 3.16.3 set by Kingston Rule in 1990, at a time before compliant watering of the course became fashionable. In the coming years it is almost certain that there will be a winner of this Cup with Deep Impact in its pedigree. It is worth noting that his grandson After The Impact won a 3000m restricted race at Moonee valley on Friday Dec 16th by eight lengths at start number 13 and is now 3/3 at 2400m and further.
Deep Impact also stood at Shadai farms and began stud duties in 2008. Like his sire, Sunday Silence, it took him only until his first crop were 3YOs to be crowned leading sire, a title he held until late last year.
2023 JAPANESE SIRES LIST (BY EARNINGS)
LORD KANALOA (2008)
DEEP IMPACT (2002-2019)
KITASAN BLACK (2012)
HEARTS CRY (2001-2017)
2022 JAPANESE SIRES LIST (BY EARNINGS)
DEEP IMPACT – by Sunday Silence
HEARTS CRY–by Sunday Silence
KIZUNA– by Deep Impact
The big alteration to this list for the 2023 season is the inclusion of Kitasan Black. He has a most interesting pedigree. He is by Black Tide, a FULL BROTHER TO DEEP IMPACT, born one year earlier.
The big brother to Deep Impact began his career as a December 2YO and showed promise by winning three of his first five races including one at G2 level. At his sixth start, in the G1 Satsuki, Black Tide was injured. This necessitated a long spell from April 18, 2004, until July 23, 2006. He never fully recovered. From his next seventeen starts he recorded no wins and two placings at G3 level and 2 placings at Listed Race level.
At stud he produced only the one top class horse, Kitasan Black. Kitasan Black raced twenty times for twelve wins and six placings including seven at G1 level. The biggest of these was in the Japan Cup 2016 which he won by 2.5L starting favourite. His jockey Yutaka Take described him as “possibly the strongest horse I have ridden.” When Kitasan Black retired at the end of his 5YO season he had amassed prizemoney totalling 1,876,843,000Y, at the time a record for a horse racing in Japan.
KITASAN BLACK winning the Arima Kinen
In 2016 and 2017 Kitasan Black was voted Japanese Horse of the Year, his forte was staying, winning up to 3200m. He went to stud with a fee of 20,000,000 Y. His first crop came in 2019 and has included EQUINOX, last year’s Japanese Horse of the year, and the outstanding winner of this year’s Japan Cup by an incredible 4.5L.
Equinox is now being hailed as the best horse in the world. So Kitasan Black with his eldest only 4YO has made a deep impact (pardonnez moi) on the sires’ list by taking fifth place.
EQUINOX winning the Dubai Sheema Classic
Starting in 1995 and spanning 29 years, Sunday Silence and his son Deep Impact have led the Japanese Sires’ List on all but five occasions. The first of these, in 2008, the leading stallion was Agnes Tachyon (1998-2009) another son of Sunday Silence; then 2009 Manhattan Cafe (1998-2015) was top sire, and he also was a son of Sunday Silence. Following in 2010-11 the champion sire was King Kamehameha (2001-2019) from an altogether different sire line. He was a son of Kingmambo (USA)1990 who in turn was by Mr Prospector (1970). In 2004 King Kamehameha stamped himself the best of his generation by winning five straight including the NHKMile Cup (G1) and the Derby (G1). This winning sequence was brought to a halt when he injured a tendon and was retired. He had raced eight times for seven wins and a second. He is the sire of both Lord Kanaloa and Duramente who occupy first and second spot on the current sires list.
Lord Kanaloa was a specialist sprinter best known for winning the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (6F) in 2012 and again in 2013. He was named Japanese Horse of the Year in 2013 as well as the title of best sprinter-miler. When he retired to stud in 2014 his lifetime record was nineteen starts for thirteen wins and six placings, never missing a place. His first crop went to the races in 2017. Lord Kanaloa had been playing second fiddle to Deep Impact on the sires’ list but now he has arrived. He should be known to Australians because his son Tagaloa, bred to Australian time and out of a Heart’s Cry mare, won the 2020 Blue Diamond.