Contrail Steals the Show as Maeda's Gift Horse Tops JRHA

Yuichi Fukunaga, Koji Maeda and the sale-topping first-crop son of Contrail | Emma Berry


HOKKAIDO, Japan–Don't say we didn't warn you. Contrail (Jpn) has been the name on most people's lips around the sales ground at the JRHA Select Sale and when the first foals by the Triple Crown-winning son of Deep Impact (Jpn) took to the ring on Tuesday it wasn't long before the hype became reality.

What's really important, of course, is what happens in two or three years' time when these youngsters make it to the track, but the first test, on the commercial market, has been passed with flying colours. Graduating at the head of his class was lot 360, the Northern Farm-bred colt out of Argentinean Grade I winner Conviction (Arg) (City Banker {Arg}), who made Monday's yearling trade look almost abstemious when bringing a sale-topping price of ¥520 million ($3.7m).

“This is my gift to the new trainer,” said buyer Koji Maeda of North Hills, who bred the sleek, near-black Contrail and posed with the trainer-to-be, Yuichi Fukunaga, who is better known for now as the jockey who steered Maeda's star Contrail to five Grade I victories, consisting of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Japan Cup, and the Hopeful S. as a two-year-old.

A brother to two winners to date, the Contrail colt became the third-most expensive foal ever to be sold at the JRHA Select Sale and he was not the only foal by the Shadai stallion to carry a hefty price tag.

With an average of ¥128.6m ($915,000) for 20 foals sold, Contrail's offspring at the Northern Horse Park included eight who changed hands for more than $1 million. Shinji Maeda, the brother of Koji in whose name Contrail raced, bought lot 329, who was consigned by Grand Stud and is out of Bye Bye Baby (Ire), a Group 3-winning daughter of Galileo (Ire) and sister to the Derby winner Serpentine (Ire). His second dam Remember When (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) is closely related to Dylan Thomas (Ire) and Homecoming Queen (Ire).

With several hours of trade left on Monday a new record aggregate for the foal session had been set, and by the time the 219 foals to have changed hands had all been rung through the till, the tally came in at ¥14.78 billion (£81.5m/€95.6m/$105.2m), which was up 11.5% on last year's trade. The day's clearance rate was 94.8%.

It follows then, with records achieved in each individual session, that the overall turnover was also at a new high of ¥28.1 billion (£155.2m/€182.1m/$200.4m)), from ¥25.8 billion last year. The average of ¥64.7 million (£356,820/€418,738/$460,793) was up from ¥57.6 million in 2022, and the clearance rate for the two days was 96%.

Throughout both sessions, only four horses were sold to non-Japanese owners. A new buyer from Hong Kong, Karson Ka Ching Cheng, signed for two foals, and Sheikh Fahad of Qatar Racing, bought a yearling filly by Suave Richard (Jpn). The extraordinary level of trade for both yearlings and foals is yet another emphatic indication of the extraordinary interest and investment in racing and breeding in Japan.

Another Commercial St Leger Winner…

There were of course plenty of other stallions of note besides Contrail represented at the sale, and those with the most significant results were almost all racehorses who plied their trade at the highest level at a mile and a half-plus. 

The Japanese St Leger and Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia (Jpn) now has not just his half-brother Saturnalia (Jpn) but also his son, the 2021 JRA Horse of the Year Efforia (Jpn), alongside him at the Shadai Stallion Station. Epiphaneia proved from the outset that he could get a good one when his first-crop daughter Daring Tact (Jpn) won the Fillies' Triple Crown, and he remains popular in Hokkaido. 

Among his best-selling foals was lot 417, a half-brother to the Grade I-winning miler Schnell Meister (Ger) (Kingman {GB}) out of the G1 Preis der Diana winner Serienholde (Ger), a daughter of Soldier Hollow (GB).

Oh to live in a country where you can send an Oaks winner to a St Leger winner and have a hugely commercial foal. That's not uncommon in Japan, and Serienholde's colt sold for ¥300 million ($2.1m) to Tabata Toshihiko. He wasn't the most expensive foal by Epiphaneia, however. That honour went to lot 332, Northern Farm's son of Pixie Hollow (Jpn) (King Halo {Jpn}) who is already the dam of champion sprinter Pixie Knight (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}). He was sold for ¥330 million ($2.3m) to Susumu Fujita.

…And Another 

Kitasan Black (Jpn) played a leading role in Monday's yearling session, and he opened the batting for the foals in similar style when his elegant young son out of the Monsun (Ger) mare Fadillah (Ger) sold for ¥280 million ($2.65m). 

The 10-year-old mare, a dual winner in England, was bought from the Tattersalls December Sale by Katsumi Yoshida for 700,000gns and her family continues to thrive. Her second dam Sacarina (GB) (Old Vic {GB}) established a notable dynasty in Germany where she is the dam of the Classic winners Samum (Ger), Schiaparelli (GB) and Salve Regina (Ger), who are all by Fadillah's sire Monsun. Another of their full-siblings is Sanwa (Ger), the dam of German Derby winner Sea The Moon (Ger), who last weekend sired the winner of that same race, Fantastic Moon (Ger). The family has also been represented this season by the Derby Italiano winner Goldenas (Ire) (Golden Horn {GB}), a great grandson of Sacarina.

The final foal of the day to breach the million-dollar mark came when lot 499, the last by Kitasan Black to grace the ring, was knocked down after a boisterous exchange of shouting bid-spotters at ¥290 million ($2m). The colt in question is out of the treble winner War Chronicle (Jpn) (War Emblem), whose half-siblings Chrono Genesis (Jpn) and Normcore (Jpn) are both Grade I winners.

She Still Reigns

The aforementioned Saturnalia, the half-brother to Epiphaneia whose win in the G1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) earned him the title of champion three-year-old of his generation, had his first yearlings on sale on Monday.

From his second crop came a filly foal out of the Golden Slipper winner and Australian champion juvenile filly, She Will Reign (Aus). The daughter of Manhattan Rain (Aus) has had just one foal to race to date, and that is the G2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai runner-up Danon Tornado (Jpn). Her youngest daughter will eventually race in the same colours, having been bought for ¥200 million ($1.4m) by Masahiro Noda of Danox Co Ltd.

Gentildonna's Sister for HK Owner

If you're planning to get involved at the pricey JRHA Select Sale, it helps if your name is Ka Ching. Karson Ka Ching Cheng, to use the new buyer's full name, is no stranger to top-class winners on the track as his father Keung Fai Cheng raced the Hong Kong Derby winner Designs On Rome (Ire), whose success on the island was legion.

Cheng Jr made his first visit to the sale worthwhile with the purchase of a filly foal with one of the best pedigrees in the book. He bought the half-sister to dual Horse of the Year Gentildonna (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) for ¥210 million ($1.5m). The daughter of Drefong is the final foal of Donna Blini (GB) (Bertolini), winner of the G1 Cheveley Park S. in her racing days in England and also the dam of G3 Sekiya Kinen winner Donau Blue (Jpn). The latter is a full-sister to the six-time Group 1 winner Gentildonna and both sisters are now stakes producers. Gentildonna's daughter Geraldina (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}) won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November. The family also includes Japanese Derby winner Roger Barows (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), who is out of Donna Blini's half-sister Little Book (GB) (Librettist).

Cheng, who plans to race the Drefong filly in Japan eventually, said, “I was underbidder on Donna Blini's yearling yesterday. I liked her on type and I love the foal, too.”

The mare's yearling filly from the final crop of Duramente sold for the same price (¥210m) to TN Racing. 

Cheng returned later to buy a Lord Kanaloa (Jpn) half-brother to G2 Kinko Sho winner Gibeon (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) from Shadai Farm for ¥200 million ($1.4m). The colt's dam Contested (Ghostzapper) won the GI Acorn S. and is out of a half-sister to the GI King's Bishop S. winner Pomeroy.

That's a Wrap

Teruya Yoshida, acting chairman of the JRHA and head of Shadai Farm, was out photographing foals during the inspection session at 8am, and almost 12 hours later he gave a televised address to the media as two days of frenetic action came to a close.

“The market was surprisingly strong and we welcome the many new buyers,” he said. “The yen is quite weak at the moment, which was why some more foreign visitors attended, and we hoped that they would be more involved, but I think that the increased prices were beyond what they were expecting.”

Thirty-five foals sold for more than a million dollars on Tuesday, including six by Kitasan Black and eight by his younger stud-mate Contrail. Across the sale as a whole, 63 horses surpassed that mark.

Yoshida continued, “Kitasan Black has of course had the champion Equinox and Satsuki Sho winner Sol Oriens this season, so that has enhanced his popularity.

“Contrail is not a big stallion but his foals are well balanced with good conformation, and in addition to that many people think favourably of him as a Triple Crown winner, so that has increased their desire to buy his stock.”

In an earlier interview with TDN, Yoshida had spoken of Deep Impact's great influence in succeeding his own dominant sire Sunday Silence at Shadai Stallion Station.

“Maybe Contrail will come next,” he said. Maybe he's right.

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