Then Heart’s Cry was pensioned in 2021 and Duramente’s own untimely death that year already looks a big miss, given that the son of King Kamehameha’s three crops to have raced have given us the Group 1 winners Titleholder, Stars On Earth, Liberty Island and Dura Erede.
But Japan’s stallion ranks look deep despite the losses – the likes of Rulership, Daiwa Major, Orfevre, Henny Hughes, Harbinger and more still provide bolster – and one thing about the men making the plays is that they are never afraid to try a different tack.
It is surely not coincidence that the leading first season sires in the past two years have been speedy North American bred and raced imports: Mind Your Biscuits and Drefong, who has already produced a classic winner in last year’s Satsuki Sho hero Geoglyph. Prior to Drefong’s title in 2021, the last imported sire to top the freshman list was the British racer Harbinger in 2014, following on from the Irish sprinter Johannesburg the year before.
Japanese stud farms import new stallions every year, there is nothing out of the ordinary in that, but there seems to be a revisiting in the past five years of the idea that a dash of North American speed is needed to keep the strong Japanese arm of the breed invigorated.
And there is a whispered hope that while Contrail, who covered his first mares in 2022, might in time be the heir to Deep Impact, there is also a desire to find a North American stallion that could have an influence similar – dare it be said – to Deep Impact’s daddy, the great Sunday Silence.
Taking up the mantle
Deep Impact is a difficult act to follow with his 11 straight leading sire titles and a host of Group 1 winners including the champions Contrail – a Triple Crown winner just like his sire – Gentildonna and Gran Alegria. Then again, the same was said when Sunday Silence died after 13 years of dominance. With Contrail yet to have proven anything in the breeding shed the mantle looks set to pass initially at least to Lord Kanaloa, an exceptional sprinter-miler who has been second in the sires’ table for the last three years.