If you’ve never been there, the Northern Horse Park on Hokaido’s Northern Farm, is a unique playground dedicated to the horse, the only institution of its kind situated on a stud farm in the world, from whence came our resident stallion, Admire Main.
Not so long ago, Japanese breeding and sales were viewed by the rest of the world as an exotic domain basically inaccessible and mostly incomprehensible. Those days are gone. In the span of only about a decade, Japanese breeders have demonstrated that they can produce, with increasing regularity, horses able to conquer then best of Europe and America in the rich races in Dubai, as well as consistently vie for the top prize in the GI Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. With those resounding results, the Japan Racing Horse Association (JRHA) Select Sale - the premier venue for yearlings and foals in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ - is poised to build on last year’s record gross of ¥11,764,700,000 (R1.2 billion) for 392 horses sold when the two-day auction begins on July 14 at the Northern Horse Park.
“The JRHA hopes to have a stronger market this year than last year,” said Naohiro Goda, who coordinates international buyers’ logistical arrangements for the sale on Japan’s Northernmost island, Hokkaido. He cited increases recorded across the board at Japan’s juvenile sales this year and optimism about the domestic economy as positive factors. Additionally, there seem to be increasing numbers of domestic and international buyers, with both groups encouraged by the Japan Racing Association’s move to relax qualifications for owner’s licenses, thus allowing more competition for lucrative JRA purses. The result has been a 20% increase in new JRA registered owners over the last year compared to the same period for the previous year, Goda said.
On a similar upward arc, the 2013 JRHA sale generated the most activity by international buyers in the 16-year history of the auction, topped by the five horses purchased by Qatar’s Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, who plans to be back this year. Goda indicated that representatives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who continues to build a large racing stable in Japan, also might be on the scene, along with Australians Paul Fudge of Waratah Thoroughbreds and Phil Sly, both of whom have been buying Japanese-breds at this sale since gaining JRA licenses in 2012. Strong, fast horses such as Just A Way (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry) - currently the top-rated runner on the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings after a record-breaking triumph over Vercingetorix in the $5-million G1 Dubai Duty Free are the magnets for buyers.
Bred by the Shadai Corp’s Shiraoi Farm, Just A Way was sold for ¥12 million (about $133,333) to Akatuki Yamatoya at the 2010 JRHA Sale. Just A Way and Mikki Isle (Jpn) (Deep Impact), another sales graduate and Group 1 winner this year, represent what has become a potent formula for the Japanese: matings of their top class sons and grandsons of Sunday Silence with outstanding mares of American, European or other foreign bloodlines. A dozen years after his death, Sunday Silence still stands tall over the sport in Japan; indeed, 82% of the horses in the JRHA sale bear his influence in the male or female lines of their catalogue pages.
Led by brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida and their respective Shadai and Northern Farms, Japanese breeders have invested untold millions in buying elite mares around the globe over the past several years. They now stand to reap the harvest with a goal, as stated by Teruya Yoshida, of no less than producing the world’s best racehorses.
This year’s JRHA catalog, featuring 260 yearlings and 231 foals, appears the strongest in the sale’s history, offering not only some of the best Japanese pedigrees available, but also horses with appeal to buyers anywhere in the world.