THE INFLUENCE OF SUNDAY SILENCE ON THE RISE OF JAPANESE HORSE RACING

Japanese racehorses have had quite a run (pun intended) globally beginning with the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in early November.

At the Breeders’ Cup, Japanese horses won a pair of Grade 1 races: Loves Only You in the Filly & Mare Turf and Marche Lorraine in the Distaff.  Previously, no Japanese horses had ever won a Breeders’ Cup race.

Then, at the 2022 Saudi Cup card on February 26th, Japanese horses won four lucrative Grade 3 races: Stay Foolish in the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf; Authority in the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cap; Dancing Prince in the $1.5 Riyadh Dirt Sprint; and Songines in the $1.5 million 1351 Sprint.

But the most impressive performance was yet to come.  At the 2022 Dubai World Cup card on March 26, Japanese horses won five of the nine races—two Grade 1’s and three Grade 2’s.  Shahryar won the Dubai Shenna Classic; Stay Foolish the Dubai Gold Cup; Bathrat Leon the Godolphin Mile; Crown Pride the UAE Derby; and Panthalassa the Dubai Turf in a dead heat with Lord North. 

No one factor accounts for the meteoric rise of Japanese horse breeding and racing.  But the purchase and importation of Sunday Silence to Japan in 1990 was instrumental.  For example, all of the above-mentioned horses have this stallion in their pedigrees.

After winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1989, Sunday Silence was sold in 1990 by Arthur Hancock III to Zena Yoshida for a reported $10 or $11 million.  Sunday Silence would be the leading sire in Japan in 13 years and leading broodmare sire in 8 years.  He died in 2002.

Upon his retirement from racing in 1990, Sunday Silence was not highly regarded as a potential sire in the United States (mainly because of a conformation fault) and likely would not have attracted the top-quality mares befitting his stellar record on the racetrack.  But in Japan he certainly proved skeptics wrong and, in so doing, elevated racing there.

Sunday Silence’s great grandson, Crown Pride, won the 2022 UAE Derby and garnered an automatic entry in the Kentucky Derby.  It would be fitting if he were to win the Run for the Roses 33 years after his great grandsire defeated the mighty Easy Goer in the coveted race!

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