takaya shimakawa with jrha foal sale top lot 355 neo universe x acoustics
takaya shimakawa with jrha foal sale top lot 355 neo universe x acoustics

Takaya Shimakawa

JRHA Select Sale Foal Session Lot 355 Neo Universe x Accoustics

(Photos : Thoroughbred Daily News) 



No matter how challenging it might be or how unfathomable to people in other markets, Japanese owners still have a yen for buying foals as their primary racing prospects.

They demonstrated their zeal on Tuesday when spirited bidding duels reminiscent of headier financial times broke out in the Northern Horse Park sale pavilion during the foal session of the Japan Racing Horse Association select sale. When the hammer fell for the final time, three foals still at their dams’ sides each had sold for the equivalent of more than $1-million.

Overall, six foals surpassed the top price paid for a yearling on Monday, the ¥66-million (about $733,333) bid for a colt by Deep Impact (Jpn).

More aggressive spending had been predicted by JRHA Vice Chairman and Shadai Farm owner Teruya Yoshida, who said the quality of the foal section of the catalog was superior. Still, with sellers bracing for a continuation of a problematic market, the results were better than anticipated for some, giving a boost to Japan’s elite auction that has declined annually ever since 2006 as global and national economies suffered.

Of the 208 foals offered, 141 were reported sold for a clearance rate of 67.8 percent, up from the 64.7-percent rate in 2009 during two foal sessions that featured 207 sold from 320 offered. The gross reached ¥3.339-billion ($37,100,000) as compared to ¥4,913,200,000 during two foal sessions in 2009. The average price of ¥23,680,000 ($263,121) declined by less than one percent, despite ongoing economic woes, providing a reason for some celebrations.

“This is much better than we anticipated, no doubt - the prices were very good,” Yoshida said. “The main reason that expectations were exceeded is that people love horses and they have money, a little bit of money, to spend.”

The atmosphere in the pavilion, which had been politely quiet other than the rhythmical droning and gavel rapping by the auctioneers, crackled about a quarter through the 214 foal catalogue pages when a Neo Universe (Jpn) colt (hip 355) with a white face and three white legs scampered into the ring.

The second bid boosted the price up to the equivalent of $500,000, making it clear that advance billing from consignor Northern Farm that the colt out of the unraced mare Acoustics (Jpn) (Cape Cross) could be the star of the sale was not just hype.

While the colt, a full brother to 2009 champion Japanese three-year-old male and G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Logi Universe (Jpn), stood calmly, prominent owners Riichi Kondo and Takaya Shimakawa fired bids from opposite sides of the pavilion.

Kondo took his time, but Shimakawa - a jovial health foods entrepreneur who had demonstrated a playful mood by bidding more than $500,000 on another colt moments earlier while casually walking into an office at the rear of the pavilion - retorted immediately during their duel.

Relaxed but determined, Shimakawa prevailed, going to ¥112-million ($1,244,444), which, while markedly higher than the top yearling price, was significantly lower than last year’s most expensive foal. A big half-brother to Triple Crown winner Deep Impact (Jpn) by Daiwa Major (Jpn) elicited a ¥165-million ($1,736,842) bid from Shimakawa in 2009.

“This is not the foal I loved the most, but when I went to Northern Farm, owner Katsumi Yoshida recommended this one very highly,” Shimakawa said of the Neo Universe colt. “I respect Katsumi, and I was happy to take his advice. I was ready to pay more for the colt, so I am happy.”

The Neo Universe colt was just one of many highlights of the sale for Katsumi Yoshida, whose Northern Farm reigned as leading consignor for the 12th time in the 13-year history of the JRHA sale. Five of the eight highest selling foals were dispatched by Northern Farm.

“I am very happy,” a beaming Yoshida said as he hosted a celebratory dinner party while noting that only four horses of the 130 he entered in the sale were not sold. “The prices were very good.”

His son, Shunsuke Yoshida, who manages Northern’s Kuko branch, said the sale of the Neo Universe colt was significant for several reasons, including the excitement factor of the more than ¥100-million winning bid, which he hoped would fire market momentum.

Some of the sale’s 350 registered buyers more than did their part to maintain the momentum. Just 15 hips after buying the Neo Universe colt, Shimakawa jumped back into action, revealing which foal he had really fallen in love with by turning back Kondo again in bidding ¥92-million ($1,022,222) for a Deep Impact (Jpn) colt out of Argentine Group 1-placed winner Data (Arg) (hip 370).

“This was the one I liked the most and wanted to buy,” Shimakawa said while more than 25 members of the Japanese news media clustered around him. The Deep Impact colt is the second foal of Data, who is a half-sister to Group 2 winner Danish (Arg) and to Chilean Group 1-placed Diamond (Arg), and will eventually join the Shimakawa racing empire that currently spans about 150 horses in training.

But Shimakawa wasn’t the only buyer at the top end of the foal market. Shortly after the Deep Impact colt was led out of the ring, agent Nobutaka Tada of Globe Equine Management Co. Ltd. lassoed a Zenno Rob Roy (Jpn) colt (hip 377) out of Festa Delle Donna (Jpn) (Hector Protector), for ¥105-million ($1,166,666), the second highest price of the day. The colt is from the family of Japanese Group 2 winner Tosen Jo O (Jpn) (Timber Country).

“The trainer likes Zenno Rob Roy - he trained him,” Tada said, referring to leading conditioner Kazuo Fujisawa, whose major clients include Hidetoshi Yamamoto, chairman of Tokyo-based Fields Corp., a distributor of pachinko gambling machines.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t win the G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) this year with Pelusa (Jpn) (Zenno Rob Roy), but he’s a really good colt and we bought him at the JRHA sale, so we’re hoping we got another good Zenno Rob Roy today.” Tada continued.

The colt was consigned by Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm, and Yoshida had said he was the best individual in the Shadai foal consignment this year.

While the Yoshida family did very well in both selling the vast majority of their horses and at the highest prices, other breeders and consignors were not so fortunate. An unofficial analysis of the sale results by an independent consignor showed that 61 percent of the horses offered by those not affiliated with the Shadai Group were led out of the ring unsold.

“It means a lot of us will have big yearling consignments next year,” said Irish native Harry Sweeney, who operates Paca Paca Farm, which offered 10 foals on Tuesday. Only one of those foals was reported as sold.

“It’s tough,” he reflected. “We’re suffering from a double whammy - this market is transitioning from a foal market to a yearling market, requiring more investment and a longer wait on possible returns, and it’s happening during a recession.”

Despite the much discussed development of a yearling market in Japan, buyers still seem eager for foals.

“No one has asked me to wait to sell them until they are yearlings,” said a smiling Teruya Yoshida, who replied light-heartedly when asked why buyers still are willing to play in the riskier side of the market with unweaned youngsters : “Foals are prettier – it’s simple. It’s the same as humans. One at three to four years old is nicer than one who is 14, and who can say very bad things.”

Yoshida also said that Shadai Group horses sell strongly even when other consignors are struggling because the family farms have a long record of proven performance with their horses.

“If other breeders have a good horse, it’s no problem, but you have to have established credibility,” Yoshida said. “Not many breeders are strong enough to do that.”

“We work hard,” he stressed. “We choose which horses to sell in this market and we do not just try to sell horses based on our name.”

Overall, the reformatted JRHA sale - which was shortened from two days of foals and one day of yearlings in 2009 to one day each for yearlings and foals this year - yielded a gross of ¥6,496,100,000 ($72,178,889), while 314 horses were sold from 422 offered.

While true comparisons are not possible due to the differing format, the number of horses sold this year was just 15 fewer than in 2009. Average price of all horses sold was ¥20,690,000 ($229,869) or 10.6 percent lower than the average for all horses sold in 2009.







Price ($)



Neo Universe





Zenno Rob Roy

Festa Della Donna




Deep Impact





Deep Impact

Sonic Groove




Heart’s Cry





Zenno Rob Roy





Deep Impact

Shes All Eltish




War Emblem

Cecil Cut





Fusaichi Mignon




King Kamehameha

Via Lactea


Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News