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(Image : Zimbio - Footage : Dubai Racing)
“WORKFORCE HEADING TO JAPAN”
I first met Teruya Yoshida, the present master of his family’s famous Shadai Farm, when we were fellow speakers at an Asian Racing Conference in India in 1995. As we embarked on our aeroplane, he asked me about several aspects of my speech relating to South Africa. In the course of the conversation, we got onto the topic. Starting with his father, of how Zenya had so influenced breeding affairs in Japan to the degree that it had become a world force. I probed him on the subject of what instigated their purchases of the mile and a half winners of the English Derby, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which were fundamental elements in the Shadai stallion band. Teruya was quick to respond. For centuries, these races were the proving grounds for the great stallions of Europe, but since the advent of the likes of Sir Ivor and Nijinsky from America, the emphasis among European breeders was on speed. These “Derby” types, whose metier was a mile and a half, and which had served as the foundations of the breed for so long, became surplus to their requirements.
In other words, the Japanese simply stepped into the space so long occupied by the best breeders in Britain, Ireland and continental Europe. However, the Japanese needed as a result to re-write a race programme which would suit the progeny of these horses, and so they came to revere the 2400m plus event as the testing ground for the best horses in Japan. At a time when the third leg of the British Triple Crown, the St Leger (contested at 2800m or a mile and three quarters) had so lost its lustre that few horses which had completed the Guineas / Derby double, even bothered to subscribe for it, the Japanese developed a new and healthy respect for the winner of their St Leger, and even for those horses that excelled in their Group Ones at 3000m, such as the excellent Sunday Silence stallion, Manhattan Café. The key is class, and most good horses, whatever their stamina attributes, have the speed that goes with it. Witness Americain, last year’s winner of the Melbourne Cup, who despite being beaten in this year’s event, still posted the best speed figures in the race.
That the strategy worked, is evident in the many fine Japanese horses which grace the racetracks of the world today, and which are undoubtedly, by any measure, world-class.
No surprise then, that the highest rated horse in Europe last year, the runaway hero of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Harbinger, was bought by Shadai when his career came to a sad and abrupt end after the King George. And now we have the news that the English Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe ace, Workforce, is the next excellent horse to leave British shores for Japan. Yoshida commented “the sire line of Kingmambo is enjoying success in Japan, as seen in the favourable results by King Kamehameha. The maternal line of King’s Best is also very good (that of Galileo and Sea The Stars). His performance as a racehorse was extraordinary. Not only the record breaking victory in the Derby, but also the fact that he drew clear of his field, these were keys in deciding the purchase”.
That the moment Teruya and I alighted the aircraft in India has turned out to be fortuitous, is evident in the relationship we have forged with his brother, Katsumi and his Northern Farm. The only son in Africa of Japan’s greatest-ever stallion, Sunday Silence, (great by the standards of any country anywhere), Admire Main is here courtesy of that meeting.