Longevity is Key as Adayar and Hukum Join Japan's Stallion Ranks

Adayar is one of four sons of Frankel now at stud in Japan, along with Westover, Mozu Ascot and Grenadier Guards | Racingfotos


The Japanese stallion studs are in the midst of hosting their annual parades in Hokkaido and there will doubtless be plenty of interested onlookers at Darley Japan, where the stallion yard has been boosted by a quartet of new recruits for the 2024 season.

Two of the four are brand new to stud and have arrived from Britain with pretty lofty reputations, and rightly so. Both Adayar (Ire) and Hukum (Ire) are winners of the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S., while Adayar, more pertinently, is a Derby winner. Hukum also triumphed over a mile and a half at Epsom, but in the G1 Coronation Cup as a five-year-old. While that may – unfathomably – count against him in Europe, such longevity is a badge of honour in Japan, so the fact that Hukum's King George win came when he was six is yet another feather in his cap. In addition to their race records, Adayar and Hukum are sons of two of the most celebrated racehorses and successful stallions of the modern era in Frankel (GB) and Sea The Stars (Ire) respectively.

“It's going to be a big week for them and for us,” says Harry Sweeney, the Irish-born president of Darley Japan in anticipation of welcoming visitors to this week's parades. “Breeders don't make mating plans too soon here in Japan. They take their time about it. We have an open house that extends for six days. And over that period we have 600 people booked in to look at our new stallions.”

He adds, “Hukum and Adayar have been here for a little while, they came in last year. So they're well settled in and both of them are being well received.”

There was some gnashing of teeth from those followers of the sport in Europe who still value high-level middle-distance form at the departure of not just Adayar and Hukum but also another son of Frankel, the Irish Derby winner and Arc runner-up Westover (GB). He has joined the Yushun Stallion Station. 

In regard to the respective owner-breeders of these three horses – Darley, Shadwell and Juddmonte – there are of course legitimate reasons for standing them overseas when their British-based operations have each welcomed a new son of Frankel this season in Triple Time (Ire), Mostahdaf (Ire) and Chaldean (GB), and Shadwell already has Hukum's year-younger full-brother Baaeed (GB) at Beech House Stud. Still, such a power-packed trio leaving these shores all at once should be a source of consternation, even though it is not a new development. In the 1990s in particular, Japan recruited a run of Derby winners when the export of Dr Devious (Ire) was followed by Commander In Chief (GB), Lammtarra, High-Rise (Ire) and Oath (Ire). A little over a decade later another Juddmonte homebred, Workforce (GB), started his stud career in Japan. Adayar is the first to leave since 2011.

“Of course, Frankel is a world force,” says Sweeney, emphasising the appeal of Adayar, who became Charlie Appleby's second Derby winner for Godolphin, and a deserved first Classic winner for jockey Adam Kirby.  

“Interestingly, Frankel's very early success actually came in Japan from his first crop. Mozu Ascot won the Yasuda Kinen and Soul Stirring won the [Japanese] Oaks. So from Frankel's very first crop, he had two Group 1 winners in Japan, and subsequently he's had Grenadier Guards. So Frankel has had three Group 1 winners here in Japan and he needs no introduction at all.”

He continues, “Adayar and Hukum are both outcrosses to Sunday Silence and we have so much dominance of Sunday Silence in Japan that to have stallions that can be outcrossed is very welcomed by breeders. 

“Interestingly, in relation to Adayar, some breeders were explaining to me recently that, of course, the Holy Grail for Japan is to win the Arc, and it's something that Japan has gone close to doing once or twice. Someone pointed out to me that since about the last 12 Arcs have all been won by horses from the Northern Dancer line, they were going to breed Sunday Silence-line mares to a son of Galileo, like Frankel, with the hook that they might run well in Europe in addition to Japan.”

The reverse of that idea has also been seen to good effect in European Classics of late, with Coolmore's Derby and Oaks winners Auguste Rodin (Ire) and Snowfall (Jpn), as well as 2,000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior (Jpn) all being by Deep Impact (Jpn) out of Galileo (Ire) mares. 

There has however been a growing trend, which is both mystifying and depressing, for breeders to eschew winners of the races which regularly produce some of the world's top-rated racehorses.  It will not come as a surprise to hear that in Japan, which is currently an impressively dominant force in world racing, this is not the case.

The idea of a horse coming out and winning a Group 1 race at two and then going to stud, that really couldn't happen in Japan because breeders want to see soundness, they want to see longevity

“Derby winners have kudos here, and the major races in Japan are largely middle-distance and staying races,” says Sweeney, who is now in his 35th year in the country. “Our 2,000 Guineas, the Satsuki Sho, is over 10 furlongs. So this is unlike other places in the world. A horse that is an out-and-out sprinter really has nowhere to go in Japan because there are only two Group 1 races at sprint distances in Japan in the JRA. So we want horses that are mile-and-a-half, 10-furlong horses, and that's an incentive to people to use them here in Japan. Even the great Deep Impact, the shortest distance he won over was 10 furlongs. And he won a 10-furlong race at two, that was his introduction. And he never went shorter, but was a brilliant race horse and a very good sire.”

While the wheel is turning in this part of the world, as it has already done in Australia, towards the whisking off to stud of precocious, sprint-orientated stallions, Sweeney says that there is not a desire to follow that example in Japan.

“There is no real move to change,” he says. “The idea of a horse coming out and winning a Group 1 race at two and then going to stud, that really couldn't happen in Japan because breeders want to see soundness, they want to see longevity. And I mean that's one thing that's interesting for both of these horses. Adayar won races at two, three, four and five, but actually Hukum was one step better: a winner at two, three, four, five and six. Japanese breeders appreciate that, because we need soundness.”

He adds, “Japan has a great programme for running older horses. A horse like Ushba Tesoro, for example, who won the Dubai World Cup last year, he stays in training at seven. So we like longevity, and that's one thing that the Japanese breeders will appreciate regarding these horses. They were sound and won over many seasons. There is no rush here to win a big race like the Golden Slipper, or the equivalent, and send them off to stud, absolutely not.”

While Adayar has the 'Frankel factor', Hukum has a number of attributes in addition to his race record that are likely to be of interest to breeders in his adopted country.

“We appreciate the success of Baaeed and I have noticed that a number of mares that have been imported to Japan are in foal to Baaeed, so Baaeed's star is high here,” says Sweeney. “Hukum, of the two full-brothers, was perhaps a little bit less celebrated as a racehorse, I think that would be fair to say. But there's an interesting precedent here in Japan, which has been quite topical recently, and that was between Deep Impact and his full-brother who is one year older, Black Tide. And Black Tide was less celebrated as a racehorse, but now through Kitasan Black, Equinox, Sol Oriens and Wilson Tesoro, he is making a huge impact.”

Hukum remains the property of Shadwell and we are very humbled that Sheikha Hissa has entrusted Hukum to us

Hukum's broodmare sire Kingmambo is also a name with star appeal in Japan. His son King Kamehameha (Jpn) in particular has left a lasting legacy through his own sons, such as Lord Kanaloa (Jpn) and Duramente (Jpn), and also as a broodmare sire, with his daughters crossing well with Sunday Silence-line stallions. 

“It's led to Wagnerian, who's a Derby winner, and it's also the same cross as Ushba Tesoro,” Sweeney notes. “So that's something yet again that breeders will be very conscious of, and of course, both Baaeed and Hukum come from the family of Deep Impact, so it's easy to relate to all that.”

He adds, “Hukum remains the property of Shadwell and we are very humbled that Sheikha Hissa has entrusted Hukum to us. We're looking forward, hopefully, to Sheikha Hissa coming to visit him in Japan sometime.”

The illustrious additions to the Darley Japan roster don't end there, for the operation has in the last week welcomed the arrival of two stallions from America.  The 14-year-old G1 Belmont S. and G1 Metropolitan H. winner Palace Malice, a son of Curlin, has a growing reputation in his new home country, while for Yoshida (Jpn), named in honour of his breeder Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm, it is essentially a homecoming. The son of Heart's Cry (Jpn) was bought as a yearling at the JRHA Select Sale for the equivalent of roughly $750,000 by John McCormack on behalf of WinStar Farm, who raced him with the China Horse Club and Head of Plains Partners. Yoshida stood his first four seasons for WinStar in Kentucky after a racing career which included victories in the GI Woodward S. on dirt and the GI Old Forester Turf Classic.

“Because he's a winner in America on turf and on dirt, we felt that he would have appeal in Japan,” says Sweeney of the 10-year-old. “He's a very attractive, correct horse and he's by Heart's Cry, who's doing very well.”

Extra encouragement is drawn from the fact that the late Heart's Cry provided the leading first-season sire in Japan last year in Suave Richard (Jpn). He is also the sire of Coolmore's St Leger winner Continuous (Jpn).

The signing of Palace Malice is looking something of a coup. Not only did his half-brother Justin Palace (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) win the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) last year, but the former Three Chimneys resident is the sire of Japan's champion two-year-old colt of 2023, Jantar Mantar (Jpn), as well as Noble Roger, who won the GIII Nikkan Sports Sho Shinzan Kinen in January to remain unbeaten. 

“So we have two graded stakes winners by Palace Malice, both three-year-olds, both unbeaten, and both will run in the Classics,” says Sweeney. “That is exciting too. We have a very exciting line-up of stallions this year.”

Outside the walls of Darley, the situation across the Japanese breeding industry appears to be similarly rosy. Stallion fees are on the rise, and the word's top-rated horse of last year, Equinox (Jpn), retired to stand at a fee of ¥20 million (€124,000), which is a record for a first-season sire in the country. As soon as he was announced on the roster at Shadai Stallion Station, his book was full. 

“That's a big price in any market, and [his sire] Kitasan Black has gone up to that price as well,” says Sweeney. “There is no contraction here. Bloodstock sales were good last year. There is still an enormous appetite for horses. Betting turnover was up again last year, and the number of people applying for owners' licences is on the increase as well. So things are good in Japan, I have to say. It's a very good industry here and the racing aspect is well managed by the JRA, and that makes a huge difference.

“To have the leading horse in the world in Equinox and also to have the leading race in the world last year, which was the Japan Cup, Japan should be proud. Japan is proud.”


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