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BRINGING ASIAN RACING TO THE WORLD
Japan’s greatest sprinter might not be its greatest sire, but as his son Panthalassa is emphasising, he can produce versatile, top-class types, and for now he is the front-runner in the post-Deep Impact stallion rankings.
Almond Eye and Panthalassa have already given their sire Lord Kanaloa some Dubai glory, as winners of the G1 Dubai Turf in 2019 and 2022, respectively, and on Saturday at Meydan, Panthalassa will attempt to take out the big one, the G1 Dubai World Cup.
Such a high-profile victory on the dirt would not only emphasise again the quality and versatility of Lord Kanaloa’s stock, but also bolster his status as a sire of international renown in a year when he has his best chance yet to become Japan’s champion sire for the first time.
Heart’s Cry’s death earlier this month at age 22 was a reminder that the order is changing among Japan’s stallions. The G1 Arima Kinen winner followed the great Deep Impact and King Kamehameha in his passing, making him the last of that storied old brigade of three top-line stallions that all raced in the first decade of this century.
In the three and a half years since Deep Impact and King Kamehameha died, the three Shadai Stallion Station old boys have held their ground in the rankings as their offspring continued to notch up the performances and the prize money to keep them in high position. Deep Impact maintained his champion sire status each year since his death, making it 11 titles in a row overall, while two-time champion King Kamehameha remained a solid top sixer and Heart’s Cry, pensioned in 2021, continued as a strong third-place in the standings.
But as the last of their progeny gradually retire from the system, a new champion will emerge and it is looking like that could well be the 15-year-old Lord Kanaloa, a stallion that has played second fiddle to Deep Impact for three successive years now, and is currently topping the standings.
Lord Kanaloa is regarded widely as Japan’s greatest sprinter. He was brilliant at six furlongs, winning the G1 Sprinters Stakes and the G1 Hong Kong Sprint back-to-back in both 2012 and 2013. He also won the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in 2013 and on Sunday three of his offspring – Buon Voyage, First Force and Kir Lord – will attempt to emulate their sire in that 1200m contest at Chukyo.
Kir Lord, now an eight-year-old and third in last year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen, is from Lord Kanaloa’s remarkable first crop, foaled in 2015. The initial batch of his offspring also produced the outstanding champion race mare Almond Eye, the champion sprinter Danon Smash, and the G1-winning miler Stelvio.
That was no flash in the pan either for the Shadai stallion. His second crop contained the classic winner Saturnalia, his third crop delivered Panthalassa and the Australian-born G1 Blue Diamond Stakes winner Tagaloa, and his fifth gave us the G1 NHK Mile Cup hero Danon Scorpion.
Lord Kanaloa streaks home in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen of 2013 (Photo: JRA)
Blue Diamond winner Tagaloa, by Lord Kanaloa out of Vasilissa. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)
The daring frontrunner Panthalassa is a son of Lord Kanaloa. (Photo by Francois Nel)
His sixth crop is just emerging into its three-year-old spring but it already features Danon Touchdown, second in the G1 Asahi Hai Futurity in December, as well as Bellagio Opera, unbeaten in three races including the G2 Spring Stakes over 1800m at Nakayama last weekend, a win that pegged the colt as a likely classic contender.
Lord Kanaloa was Japan’s champion first-season sire in 2017, a year when he had 32 individual winners of 39 races from 94 individual runners; those numbers continued to rise naturally as he consolidated his status and more of his stock entered the system, so that by 2022, his number of individual starters was up to 585, producing 273 winners of 448 races and prize money of ¥4,298,573,500.
This year, Lord Kanaloa has had 403 starters, with 80 of those horses winning 94 races. The title is determined by prize money and his offspring’s prize money accrued at this early stage comes in at ¥1,016,162,000, placing him top of the standings ahead of Deep Impact with ¥835,623,000.
It looks a lot like the emergence of a new champion stepping into the vast void left by Deep Impact. But is that what we are seeing?
There is a school of thought that should Lord Kanaloa clinch the title, he will be more like his sire, King Kamehameha, or Manhattan Cafe, or Agnes Tachyon, the three that took the champion sire crown in the four years between the incredible Sunday Silence and Deep Impact: a stop-gap champion, just keeping the throne warm until the next superstar stallion comes through.
That might well have been Duramente – another son of King Kamehameha – the champion first season sire in 2020, that produced the classic-winning Titleholder and Stars On Earth, as well as this week’s G1-winning UAE Derby contender Dura Erede, before his untimely passing at age nine in September 2021.
Duramente has proven a significant loss to the Japanese breeding industry. (Photo by Getty Images)
Sol Oriens, a talented son of Kitasan Black. (Photo by JRA)
Yutaka Take and Kitasan Black win the 2017 Japan Cup. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit/Getty Images).
But there are others with the potential to rise to the top. Deep Impact’s son Kizuna was Japan’s champion first season sire in 2019 and has been an eye-catching fourth the past two years; Maurice, up to ninth last year, should not be overlooked; and Kitasan Black, the fourth best freshman in his first year, is already turning heads with his stock.
Kitasan Black, a son of Deep Impact’s brother Black Tide, was only 17th in 2022 and is 14th at present, but his offspring are expected to improve with age and there is a sense that he produces quality over quantity. His standout runner is the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic contender Equinox, Japan’s Horse of the Year, while the G3-winning three-year-old Sol Oriens is a leading contender for the G1 Tokyo Yushun (Derby) in May.
And then there is Contrail, the Triple Crown-winning son of Deep Impact whose first foals are being born this spring and upon whose shoulders rests a weight of expectation that he could be the rightful heir.
What Lord Kanaloa has in his favour for now is weight of numbers, an already proven record, and that he is not one dimensional. While he was an incredible sprinter, he also won Japan’s premier mile race, the G1 Yasuda Kinen, and it has even been mooted that 2000m might have been within his scope; as a son of a Derby winner in King Kamehameha, his sprinting prowess was something of an oddity, even when measured against his dam, a minor stakes winner at 1200m and successful from 1000m to 1600m on turf and dirt.
Lord Kanaloa wins his second straight G1 Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin. (Photo by Neville Hopwood/Getty Images)
Lord Kanaloa at Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido in 2018. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)
The dam, Lady Blossom, was herself by Storm Cat out of Saratoga Dew, the latter being a two-time G1 winner over 1800m on dirt in the US.
That top-class dirt and turf form over a range of distances is clearly manifest in Lord Kanaloa’s offspring, from Almond Eye’s G1 wins at 2400m to the dirt track sprint proficiency of the two-time G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen runner-up Red Le Zele, and Panthalassa’s ability to mix turf and dirt without a bother.
Lord Kanaloa might not be the next Deep Impact, but with no such phenomenon established on the Japanese sire block, at this stage he is ahead of the pack and producing the goods.
Japan’s stallions in 2023: freshman sires to watch, new North American influences and the Deep Impact dilemma
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