By Andrew Caulfield
It was business as usual two days ago for Japan’s supreme stallion Deep Impact. For the third time in four years the son of Sunday Silence was responsible for the winner of Hanshin’s G1 Asahi Hai Futurity S., a juvenile race which virtually guarantees the winner champion status. And the Futurity prizemoney, worth the equivalent of nearly £500,000, extended Deep Impact’s lead on Japan’s general sires’ table to around ¥1,500,000,000 (roughly £10,000,000), with only two Group 1 races still to be contested (the Arima Kinen and the upgraded Hopeful S. at Nakayama). He therefore looks guaranteed to land his sixth consecutive sires’ championship (even though he has had 3-year-old runners for only seven years).
The question now is whether Deep Impact’s latest Group 1 winner, Danon Premium, will fare any better at classic level than his previous Futurity winners.
Satono Ares, his 2016 winner, missed the last two legs of the Triple Crown after finishing only 11th behind another Deep Impact colt, Al Ain, in the Satsuki Sho (the misleadingly-subtitled Japanese 2000 Guineas, which is contested over a mile and a quarter). His 2014 Futurity winner Danon Platina also finished only 11th in the Satsuki Sho before reverting to a mile.
It must be said that Danon Premium was much more impressive in taking the Futurity than either Danon Platina or Satono Ares, who respectively scored by only three-quarters of a length and half a length. Danon Premium, on the other hand, surged 3 1/2 lengths clear of runner-up Stelvio, looking very much the best horse in the 16-runner field.
He had also been chased home by Stelvio, at a distance of just under two lengths, when he won the G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup at Tokyo in October. His record now stands at three wins from as many starts, as he had also made a winning debut as early as June 25. The fact that his debut victory in a newcomers’ race at Hanshin was gained over nine furlongs is a reminder that Japanese racing still tends to favour long-term stamina over precocious speed.
Danon Premium looks the one to beat in next year’s Satsuki Sho, in which he would be bidding to become Deep Impact’s third consecutive winner. One of his predecessors, the 2016 hero Dee Majesty, is out of a granddaughter of Roberto, by GI Florida Derby winner Brian’s Time. Deep Impact also sired Admirable, the 2017 Japanese Derby third, from a mare by Symboli Kris S., a grandson of Roberto, so he is no stranger to success with Roberto line mares.
Danon Premium is the latest example, as he is out of Indiana Gal, an Irish-bred and -raced filly by Roberto’s grandson Intikhab. You can gain some idea of Indiana Gal’s prowess as a racemare from the fact that she failed to find a buyer at only 10,000gns as a yearling in 2006 before fetching 160,000gns as a 5-year-old, when she was purchased by Danon Premium’s breeder K.I. Farm.
In the interim she had packed 46 starts into four busy seasons with trainer Patrick Martin. Although she won only six of the 46, her victories included a pair of listed races over an extended mile and a quarter over Dundalk’s Polytrack. She was also second twice at Group 3 level on turf.
Unfortunately, Indiana Gal’s sire Intikhab wasn’t able to show the same durability. A son of the lightly-raced Red Ransom, Intikhab showed very useful form during the first part of his career, when in the care of David Morley. He triumphed in two of his three juvenile starts and then rounded off his six-race 3-year-old season with a hat-trick of victories, including two listed successes. Intikhab was then recruited to the Godolphin team, and promptly showed remarkable improvement.
After starting his 1998 campaign in Dubai, he returned to Britain to record dazzling wide-margin victories in the G3 Diomed S. and the G2 Queen Anne S. Intikhab appeared to have the 1998 miling division at his mercy but a troublesome splint was to keep him off the track for 11 months and he fractured his pelvis on his return as a 5-year-old.
The compilers of the 1998 International Classifications were so impressed that Intikhab was the highest-rated European horse of any age, with his rating of 130 placing him 1lb below America’s champion Skip Away. Timeform was even more impressed with him, rating him Horse of the Year with a figure of 135, 1lb above Skip Away.
Bearing in mind that Intikhab proved delicate during the latter part of his career, it is remarkable that his name is now linked to some extraordinarily tough performers–none tougher than his daughter Snow Fairy. In four years on the track, this admirable mare won six G1s in four different countries, taking the Oaks, Irish Oaks, Japan’s Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (on two occasions), the Hong Kong Cup and the Irish Champion S.
It is worth adding that all three of Intikhab’s Group 1 winners were fillies and it is Intikhab’s daughters who are ensuring that his name lives on. Another of Intikhab’s Group 1 winners, Red Evie, completed a sequence of seven victories with her win in the G1 Matron S. and she later added another Group 1 success in the Lockinge S. Even so, Red Evie has been outshone by her daughter Found, who landed the Arc on her eighth appearance of a very demanding 2016 season. She had also been a Group 1 winner at the ages of two and three, when she got the better of Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Another of Intikhab’s daughters, Boa Estrela, never made it to the races but that hasn’t stopped her becoming the dam of Gordon Lord Byron, one of the most durable and popular performers of recent years. At the age of nine, this Group 1 winner in Britain, France and Australia is now a veteran of 83 starts and it was as recently as May that he gained the latest of his 10 stakes victories, when he won the G2 Greenlands S.
Intikhab also figures as the broodmare sire of Igugu, the Australian-bred Galileo filly who became a star in South Africa, where she won 10 of her 12 starts, including the G1 Durban July. Of course, it was Galileo who also sired Found and her Group 3-winning sisters.
Deep Impact is one of the few stallions worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Galileo and the Shadai star also has a promising record with daughters of Intikhab. Danon Premium is the second black-type winner from only six foals bred this way, his predecessor being Satono Rasen, a Group 2 winner over 11 furlongs in Japan.
All three of Indiana Gal’s three foals by Deep Impact have won this year. Interestingly, neither of the other two has won beyond nine furlongs, but Danon Premium finished the Asahi Hai Futurity with such gusto that it is hard to imagine that he won’t stay middle distances.