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BRINGING ASIAN RACING TO THE WORLD
Japanese breeders have sourced top international broodmare prospects for decades but in recent years they have cherry-picked Group 1-winning mares from Australia and the latest rising star is rich reward for that approach.
Liberty Island’s sensational victory in Sunday’s Oka Sho signalled the rise of a new star in Japan but it also shone the spotlight back onto her highly-performed dam, Yankee Rose, and emphasised the broader theme of top-class race mares being sourced from around the world by Japanese breeders, notably the mighty Northern Farm.
The Northern Farm-affiliated Sunday Racing’s latest star filly is following in the footsteps of the same club’s past champion mares, Gran Alegria and Gentildonna in the formidable talent she is displaying. But there are similarities in Liberty Island’s conception too, being by an esteemed Japanese bred and raced stallion out of a G1-winning mare purchased and imported from overseas.
Gentildonna – herself a Group 1-producer – is by Deep Impact out of the British import Donna Blini, while Gran Alegria is by the same super sire out of the durable and top-class American runner Tapitsfly. Liberty Island is from the second crop of the all-too-soon departed Duramente – every passing month seems to emphasise the scale of his loss – and is the second foal of her Australian dam.
Liberty Island’s trainer, Mitsumasa Nakauchida is hopeful that Duramente’s strong ability at a mile and a half, combined with Yankee Rose’s speed and class at 2000m will see her triumph in the G1 Yushun Himba, the Japanese Oaks, over 2400m next month.
“The breeding side is proven quality,” he told Asian Racing Report. “The dam won over six (furlongs) and won over 2000 metres, so she was good over a range of distances, an early-maturing two-year-old but then continued to improve, so there is still room for Liberty Island to improve as well.
“Plus, Duramente has had a handful of Group 1 winners already. Unfortunately, he died when he was only nine years old, but he is a proven sire now and if he was still alive, I’m sure he would have been one of our champion sires.”
Yankee Rose's daughter Liberty Island winning the G1 Oka Sho at Hanshin on Sunday. (Photo by JRA)
Japanese breeders, particularly the Yoshida family, and most prominently Northern Farm’s Katsumi Yoshida, have been buying top drawer breeding prospects from around the world for decades. At first the big headline grabbers were the colts, and in the late 1980s and 1990s that meant highly-prized stallion prospects from Europe like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Tony Bin, the Derby winners from England, Generous, Commander In Chief and Lammtarra, as well as the English 2,000 Guineas winner Rodrigo De Triano and the top-class White Muzzle.
They even took those that others did not want, like the 1982 Derby winner Secreto, and then among those from North America, the ill-fated Ferdinand and the horse that would reshape the breed in Japan, Sunday Silence.
But top-class mares were acquired as well, most notably the 1994 English Oaks runner-up Wind In Her Hair, who when coupled with Sunday Silence produced the now legendary champion racehorse and stallion Deep Impact.
Go back to 1986 and Japan imported only 42 broodmares; by 1989 that was up to 210, rising to a peak of 234 in 1995 when 183 mares for breeding were imported from the US alone. The numbers dipped this century as the breeders became more selective, but since Katsumi Yoshida bought the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Donna Blini for 500,000 guineas at Tattersalls in 2006, the number of highly-performed race mares bought in Europe and the US to join Japanese broodmare bands makes for an impressive and long list, the outstanding North American champion Azeri among them; and in recent years, some of Australia’s finest mares have been selected and added too.
Cheveley Park Stakes winner Donna Blini produced the Japanese champion Gentildonna. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)
The number of breeding mares imported to Japan so far this year stands at 30, continuing from the 136 imported in 2022. Of the total 531 mares imported in the four years from 2019 to 2022, 41 percent were imported from the US, 40 percent from Europe, and just 2.6 percent from Australia.
That distribution has seen variations year on year – in 2018 the 12 Australians accounted for nine percent of imported mares – but for the 15 years from 2008 to 2022, Australian mares made up 3.7 per cent of the 1,696 overseas broodmares imported, US mares were 40 percent of the total and Europeans 43 percent.
But the Australian mares are making their presence felt despite being a minority. In July 2022 the four-time Australian G1 winner Mosheen headlined the Japan Racing Horse Association’s Select Sale when her Maurice yearling colt sold for ¥450,000,000 (AU$4.8 million) and her colt foal by Epiphaneia sold for ¥300,000,000 (AU$3.25 million).
The list of elite Australian-raced mares in Japan includes, but is not exclusive to, the Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign, Shamrocker, Gypsy Goddess, Funstar, Mystic Journey, Southern Speed, Single Gaze, Kirramosa, Amphitrite, as well as the Australian-bred New Zealand Oaks heroine More Than Sacred and the New Zealand-bred but Australian raced King’s Rose.
G1 VRC Oaks-winner Kirramosa and her foal, a colt by Kizuna, Lot 360 in the JRHA #SelectSale in Hokkaido. pic.twitter.com/Q4NiTB1eMJ
— Asian Racing Report (@AsianRacingRep) July 12, 2022
All three of King’s Rose’s offspring to have raced have won, including the dual Group 3 winner Satono Arthur, while More Than Sacred has an exciting son of Duramente catching the eye at present, Durezza, winner of his last two this spring from three career starts.
Mosheen's foals have proven highly sought after in Japan. (Photo by Matthew Mallett/Getty Images)
However, Yankee Rose has elevated the status of Australian mares in Japan to a new level in producing Liberty Island. Trained by David Vandyke in her racing days, Yankee Rose must be seen as one of the bargains of all time considering she was bought by Darby Racing out of the Inglis Classic Yearling Summer Book for AU$10,000.
Yankee Rose is by the relatively unfashionable stallion All American – now standing for AU$5,500 at Geisel Park Stud in Western Australia – out of a non-winning half-sister to a New Zealand Derby winner. Her dam was in turn out of an unraced daughter of the high-class Yorkshire Oaks winner Condessa whose son Biko Pegasus raced in Japan and won the G3 Centaur Stakes.
The quality imbued by the third dam was manifest in Yankee Rose, whose precocity saw her place second in the Golden Slipper at two before winning the G1 Sires’ Produce; at three she won the G1 Spring Champion over 2000m and was third in the G1 Cox Plate.
Yankee Rose’s first foal, by Deep Impact, is a minor two-time winner, while her third, the Lord Kanaloa colt Danon Mont Blanc, fetched ¥370,000,000 (AU$4.48 million) as a foal at the Select Sale in July 2021.
What seems to be apparent with the imported mares, wherever they are sourced, is that their performance on the track carries a great weight of appeal. There is quality in the lineage of all, but some more than others. Donna Blini, for example, was out of a modest handicapper, from a black type family that had fallen out of fashion but her Group 1-winning ability was the draw.
There was a time when Yankee Rose was on the wrong side of fashion. Those days are long past, and Liberty Island’s exploits are ensuring that right now she is the cutting edge of vogue.
Maurice colt out of Group One winner Mosheen secures 450 million yen
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