Posthumous First Japanese Sires' Championship for Duramente

Fillies' Triple Crown winner Liberty Island was the stand-out in Duramente's champion season | JRA


There's a new king of the Japanese sire ranks and his name is Duramente (Jpn). However, his coronation is bittersweet for the Shadai Stallion Station as the son of King Kamehameha (Jpn) died in September 2021 at the age of just nine.

The winner in 2015 of the G1 Satsuki Sho and G1 Tokyo Yushun – the Japanese 2,000 Guineas and Derby equivalents – Duramente was quick to make an impression following his retirement to stud in 2017. The champion first-season sire of 2020, he has progressed through the senior ranks at an eye-catching rate, finishing 11th in the general sires' table in the year of his untimely death, and then fifth in 2022. 

Duramente's outstanding daughter Liberty Island (Jpn) played a major role in her sire's  first championship. Out of the top-class Australian mare Yankee Rose (Aus) (All American {Aus}), whose exploits on the track included Group 1 wins in the Inglis Sires' and Spring Champion S. as well as finishing runner-up to Capitalist (Aus) in the G1 Golden Slipper, Liberty Island followed up her Grade 1 success as a juvenile by landing the Fillies' Triple Crown of 2023. She then found only the mighty Equinox (Jpn) too good for her in the G1 Japan Cup.

Duramente's leading first-crop son Titleholder (Jpn) was still running for him in 2023 at the age of five, and to his three Grade 1 wins of 2021 and 2022, which included the Kikuka Sho (St Leger), he added the G2 Nikkei Sho, as well as finishing third on Christmas Eve in the G1 Arima Kinen.

With a Classic winner from each of his crops to date, Duramente was also represented in 2023 by Stars On Earth (Jpn), his Oka Sho and Yushun Himba (1,000 Guineas and Oaks) winner of the previous year who was third in the Japan Cup and second in the Arima Kinen behind Do Deuce (Jpn).

Dura Erde (Jpn), the G1 Hopeful S winner of 2022, managed two Grade 1 placings in December, while Champagne Color (Jpn) won the G1 NHK Mile last May. The latter is a rarity in that his dam Memorial Life (GB) is by the subfertile and later gelded Reckless Abandon (GB).

Duramente, who was a son of the dual Grade 1 winner Admire Groove (Jpn), herself a half-sister to the Shadai stallion Rulership (Jpn), owned a pedigree replete with the dominant names of the Japanese breeding scene over the last decades, with his first three dams being daughters of Sunday Silence, Tony Bin (Ire) and Northern Taste respectively. It is easy to see why he succeeded in the short time granted to him at stud, and even easier to see that he will be missed. 

King Kamehameha, who was also champion broodmare sire for 2023, was responsible for the quinella in the table, with another of his sons, Lord Kanaloa (Jpn) finishing a close second – a spot he has occupied for the last four years, the previous three being behind the 11-time champion Deep Impact (Jpn). 

Among the top six sires in Japan for 2023, three were Japanese Derby winners, one a runner-up in that same Classic, and one a Japanese St Leger and Japan Cup winner. Lord Kanaloa is something of an outlier among this elite crew as five of his six Grade 1 wins came over 1,200m, with the other being the Yasuda Kinen over 1,600m. He is best known as a stallion, however, for siring the Fillies' Triple Crown and dual Japan Cup winner Almond Eye (Jpn). In 2023 he was represented by the G1 Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa (Jpn), who has himself just joined the stallion ranks at Arrow Stud, and by his fellow Grade 1 winners First Force (Jpn) and Brede Weg (Jpn).

Kizuna (Jpn), a son of Deep Impact and the leading first-season sire of 2019, has managed a top-five finish in each of the last three seasons and was third overall for 2023. His globe-trotting daughter Songline (Jpn) led the way, completing back-to-back wins in the G1 Yasuda Kinen in June after winning the G1 Victoria Mile. She also won the G3 1351 Turf Sprint at the Saudi Cup meeting of 2022, and that same race was won by another of Kizuna's offspring, Bathrat Leon (Jpn), in 2023.

Heart's Cry (Jpn), whose racing claim to fame was being the only horse to beat Deep Impact on Japanese soil when winning the G1 Arima Kinen of 2005, died in March 2023, three years after being pensioned at Shadai. He added a new Group 1 winner to his list last season, but not in Japan. His major flag-bearer was Continuous (Jpn), trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien and winner of the St Leger in England. Heart's Cry's previous year's Classic winner, the Japanese Derby hero Do Deuce (Jpn), holds similar dragon-slaying credentials of his own, having beaten Equinox in that race, and he was back for more in 2023, which ended with another top-level win for him in the Arima Kinen.

Heart's Cry ended up in fourth place in the table, having finished in the top three in the six years prior to that. Four years after his death, Deep Impact finally relinquished the title, and was fifth in 2023, a year in which he too was represented in overseas Classics by the Derby and Irish Derby winner Auguste Rodin (Jpn), who is a member of his final crop of just 14 foals.

Justin Palace (Jpn), from Deep Impact's penultimate crop, was his leading scorer in Japan and won the G1 Tenno Sho in the spring. That success has doubtless contributed to the move of his 14-year-old half-brother, the GI Belmont winner Palace Malice (Curlin), to Darley Japan after he spent eight seasons at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. Incidentally, along with the brand new recruits Adayar (Ire) and Hukum (Ire) from Europe, Darley Japan has also taken in another former American-based stallion for 2024 in Heart's Cry's son Yoshida (Jpn), a name which is certainly not unfamiliar in Japanese breeding circles and beyond.

Sixth in the general sires' list for 2023 was Kitasan Black (Jpn), whose fame reached new heights courtesy of his son Equinox (Jpn), the highest-rated horse in the world last year. Kitasan Black, who is by Deep Impact's full-brother Black Tide (Jpn), is the kind of horse who simply wouldn't get a look in at a Flat stud in Europe these days, but that's a pity. His seven Grade 1 wins came between 2,000m and 3,200m and just about everything in between. His back-to-back wins in the two-mile Tenno Sho (Spring) were not off-putting to Japanese breeders, however, and he was the busiest stallion in the country in 2023, covering 242 mares. His load may well be eased somewhat during this coming season, with his son Equinox now having retired to stand alongside him at Shadai. Father and son are the two most expensive stallions in Japan at ¥20 million (€124,000) and the 'book full' sign went up for Equinox as soon as his fee, which is a record for a first-season sire, was announced. 

Up and Coming

Suave Richard (Jpn), who was runner-up to Rey De Oro (Jpn) in the 2017 Japanese Derby before winning the G1 Osaka Hai at four and the Japan Cup (under Oisin Murphy) as a five-year-old, was the champion first-season sire in Japan for 2023.

The stand-out among his 21 winners is Regaleira (Jpn), who beat Sottsass's brother Shin Emperor (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) to win the G1 Hopeful S. on December 28. She owns a special pedigree, her dam Roca (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) being out of a three-parts-sister to Deep Impact. Regaleira's recent victory was also the first at Grade 1 level for Harbinger as a broodmare sire. The King George winner of 2010 finished 11th in the general sires' table. 

While Suave Richard, by Heart's Cry, was also responsible for G2 winner Corazon Beat (Jpn) and was the easy winner on progeny earnings, he was not the most prolific when it came to number of winners. That honour went to Moanin, the Grade 1-winning dirt miler by Henny Hughes who was represented by 44 winners, a staggering number by Japanese two-year-old standards, and all recorded on dirt. In fact, the second, third and fourth in the table were all American-bred stallions. Giant's Causeway's son Bricks And Mortar finished runner-up with 14 winners, including the G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup scorer Gonbade Qabus (Jpn), and New Year's Day, whose career started in Kentucky but whose first Japanese-bred runners came last season, was represented by 23 winners. 

The aforementioned Japanese Derby winner Rey De Oro was fifth with 13 winners, the same number recorded by the dual Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow (Ire), who was seventh, just behind Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero California Chrome, who is another to have been moved from America to Japan.


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