Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: The Global Reach Of Contrail’s Japanese Pedigree

When Contrail accelerated to the lead early in the stretch at Nakayama Racecourse in Japan to win the Group 1 Satsuki Sho by a half-length over the determined chestnut Salios (by the Sunday Silence stallion Heart’s Cry), this was the third winner of the first Japanese colts’ classic for Contrail’s sire, Deep Impact, an exceptional racehorse and world-class sire who was euthanized last year in Japan at age 17.

As a son of U.S. Horse of the Year and classic winner Sunday Silence (Halo), Deep Impact would have been a vessel of hopes for any breeder in Japan, but the athletic bay was also out of Wind in Her Hair (Alzao), winner of the G1 Aral-Pokal in Germany and second in the G1 Oaks at Epsom. Sold by breeders Swettenham Stud and Barronstown Stud for only 15,000 guineas as a yearling at the Tattersalls October sale in 1992, Wind in Her Hair progressed notably at three to compete at the premium level.

Sold to Northern Farm as a broodmare, Wind in Her Hair produced not only Japan’s Triple Crown winner and leading sire Deep Impact, but also his year-older full brother Black Tide. Whereas the latter was “only” a G2 winner on the racetrack, Black Tide became the leading freshman sire of his year and is best known as the sire of Kitasan Black, winner of 12 races and nearly a bazillion dollars ($16.5 million).

In coat color, Black Tide was a closer copy of his sire, the near-black Sunday Silence, than Deep Impact, but the latter proved a transcendent racehorse and sire. A winner in 12 of 14 starts, Deep Impact has been the leading sire in Japan each year since his first crop were 4-year-olds in 2012, and the stallion’s largest sum of progeny earnings came last year, when the dark bay Deep Impact was euthanized on July 30.

The cause of death for Deep Impact was fracture to a cervical (neck) vertebra, and he died a year older than his famous sire. Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Sunday Silence had suffered a leg injury, persistent infection, and eventually laminitis that forced the euthanasia of the hero of horse racing in Japan in 2002. (Sunday Silence officially died of heart failure after receiving a large dose of painkiller.)

Although racing in Japan had come to a very high level prior to the purchase and importation of Sunday Silence by Zenya Yoshida in 1990, the black-coated horse with the stripe down his face made it impossible for breeders and racing people to ignore the excellence of the stock that Japan was breeding and racing.

Sunday Silence cast the breed of Thoroughbred in Japan in his own image, frequently with a dark brown or near-black coat, and the horse’s stock showed enough speed to be good juveniles, but they excelled at three and up over distances of nine furlongs and farther. And, despite the rich purses available to racehorses in Japan, owners there occasionally took their racers abroad.

Sunday Silence’s granddaughter Cesario (Special Week) won the American Oaks at Hollywood Park in 2005, just after capturing the Yushun Himba (Japan Oaks). Sunday Silence’s importance, both as a sire and sire of sires, encouraged some breeders, nearly all European, to send mares to Sunday Silence in Japan, and among other useful results, the Niarchos family got Sun is Up, the dam of Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie (Bernstein), now a promising sire whose first racers are three. The only G1-winning son of Sunday Silence exported from Japan, Hat Trick, sired European highweight Dabirsim, who was leading freshman sire in France.

The trend to breed to Sunday Silence horses in Japan, or to buy and export the racing prospects of this line, has continued, although at a marginal level because of the much greater rewards for keeping those horses in Japan to race. The most famous of the Deep Impact stock to race outside Japan have been Japan’s Horse of the Year Gentildonna (winner of the Japan Cup twice, Dubai Sheema Classic, and a pair of home classics), Beauty Parlor (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches-French 1,000 Guineas), Saxon Warrior (2,000 Guineas), and Study of Man (Prix du Jockey Club-French Derby). The latter three were bred by the Wildenstein family, the Coolmore group, and the Niarchos family (Flaxman Holdings), respectively.

The most famous instance in the States is the new 2020 stallion Yoshida (Heart’s Cry), whom WinStar Farm and partners purchased in Japan, brought the U.S., and raced to successes in the G1 Woodward Stakes and Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. A winner of $2.5 million racing, Yoshida stands at WinStar for $20,000 live foal.

While the great majority of the Sunday Silences have raced entirely in Japan, Deep Impact ventured abroad for the 2006 Arc de Triomphe, where he finished third to Rail Link and Pride, only to be later disqualified to eighth and last after a prohibited substance was found in a post-race urine sample. Deep Impact went back to Japan and won his final two starts: the G1 Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.

At the same time that Sunday Silence had firmly positioned the male line of Halo-Hail to Reason at the head of the table of classic sires in Japan, Unbridled and others had placed that of Fappiano-Mr. Prospector in a similar position among classic sires here in the States.

Unbridled had sired a Kentucky Derby winner from his first crop of foals in Grindstone, the sire of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, and he in turn sired Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird. Unbridled also sired Preakness winner Red Bullet and Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Among the Unbridleds who didn’t win a classic was Unbridled’s Song, who did win the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the G1 Florida Derby before going on to a noteworthy career at stud. There again, however, his offspring were more noted for speed than for classic performance, but a few of his later-crop sons, notably Arrogate (Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus, and Dubai World Cup), Cross Traffic (Whitney Stakes), and Liam’s Map (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Woodward Stakes), served to correct the impression that Unbridled’s Song could not sire a top-class colt capable of showing his form at nine furlongs or farther.

Additionally, the natural speed and scope of the Unbridled’s Song stock worked to help his daughters become top producers, and one of those is the dam of Contrail. Rhodochrosite produced Contrail as her third foal, and she has a yearling full brother to the classic winner, who was also the champion colt of his age last year in Japan. In addition to the BC Juvenile form of Unbridled’s Song, there is considerable 2-year-old precocity in this family.

Rhodochrosite placed at two and is a daughter of Folklore (Tiznow), the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award winner from the first crop by her classic-oriented sire. Folklore is one of two stakes winners out of the broodmare Contrive, a daughter of juvenile Grade 1 winner Storm Cat. The great sire Storm Cat missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile of 1985 and the juvenile championship by only a nose to Tasso (Fappiano). Contrive is out of graded stakes winner Jeano, a daughter of Fappiano, to whom Rhodochrosite is inbred 3×4.

Rhodochrosite was bred in Kentucky by the Bob and Beverly Lewis Trust, which sold the filly for $385,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale to Koji Maeda. Although she proved an unsuccessful racehorse, Rhodochrosite has been a good producer, with three winners from three foals of racing age.

Bred in Japan under the name of North Hills and racing for Shinji Maeda, Contrail completed the 2,000 meters of the Satsuki Sho in 2:00.70, a time that would win just about any Kentucky Derby.

Food for thought, is it not?

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