Japanese Purchases Give Empire Maker Chance To Strike Back


Of all the stallions exported to Japan, 1989 US Horse of the Year Sunday Silence has to be considered the biggest loss to American breeders. Sunday Silence died in 2002 after establishing himself as a phenomenon in Japan, while his best performer, Deep Impact, has quickly taken over his sire’s mantle as Japan’s outstanding stallion. At the JRHA Select Sale earlier in July, Deep Impact was the best represented sire in the catalogue, was responsible for both the highest-priced yearling and highest-priced foal, and alone accounted for more than 23% of the sale’s total turnover.

Japan continues to welcome sires who have proved surplus to requirements elsewhere, but nowadays their offspring are not necessarily lost for good to the Far East. An interesting development at the same JRHA Sale was the purchase of three colts by US exile Empire Maker – two yearlings and a foal – by John McCormack Bloodstock acting as agent for WinStar Farm. The Kentucky stallion operation has a particular interest in Empire Maker as it stands his Grade 1-winning sons Pioneerof The Nile and Bodemeister (both Kentucky Derby runners-up – like their sire), an interest that’s all the greater, no doubt, now that Pioneerof The Nile has become sire of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah (pictured).

No wonder WinStar have gone halfway round the world to secure some more of Empire Maker’s stock. Pioneerof The Nile and Bodemeister are, in fact, the only two Grade 1-winning sons of Empire Maker. Remarkably, his nine other scorers at the top level in North America are all fillies.

WinStar’s purchases totalled 86m yen or nearly $700,000. The foal (lot 505) is out of a Street Cry mare, Allicansayis Wow, who was placed in listed company in Ireland and at Grade 2 level in the USA. One of the yearlings (lot 44) is out of Jolly Dance, a dual winner of the Group 2 Hanshin Himba over seven furlongs and third in one of Japan’s top mile contests, the Yasuda Kinen, and who is by Sunday Silence’s son Dance In The Dark. The other yearling (lot 106) has a background more familiar in Europe and the USA as he’s out of an unraced daughter of the 1000 Guineas winner Bosra Sham, Reve de Fille. Reve de Fille is by Storm Cat which means the colt is bred on the same cross as Bodemeister (and another of Empire Maker’s Grade 1 winners In Lingerie).

Empire Maker was himself spoken of as a potential Triple Crown winner after wins in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial Stakes made him favourite for the Kentucky Derby. However, turned over by the Wood Memorial runner-up Funny Cide at Churchill Downs, it was Empire Maker who ended Funny Cide’s Triple Crown aspirations (the gelding had followed up in the Preakness) when beating him into third on a sloppy track in the Belmont Stakes.

By champion three-year-old colt Unbridled out of Grade 1 winner Toussaud, one of Juddmonte’s star broodmares, Empire Maker went to stud with much expected of him. He had his share of success as a stallion in the US, but without quite living up to those high expectations, or at least seemingly failing to do so quickly enough. Perhaps his failure to deliver for Juddmonte themselves hastened his departure to Japan.

It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Empire Maker’s early crops featured foals out of the likes of Flute, Jolypha, Yashmak, Banks Hill, Heat Haze, Reams of Verse, Zenda and Intercontinental, among the cream of Juddmonte’s broodmare band, but with very little to show for it. Empire Maker finally sired a Grade 1 winner in the Juddmonte colours from his sixth crop, by which time he was long gone to Japan, with the emergence of four-time Grade 1 winner Emollient, her sire’s only Grade 1 winner on turf, incidentally. Emollient also won the Spinster Stakes in 2013, becoming the fourth daughter of Empire Maker to win the Keeneland race (sponsored, ironically, by Juddmonte) in five years following the victories of Mushka (who was awarded the race), Acoma and In Lingerie. In foal to Frankel, In Lingerie followed her sire to Japan after being sold for $2.4m at the end of her four-year-old season.

Mushka and Acoma were from Empire Maker’s first crop which also turned out to be his most successful, eventually numbering four Grade 1 winners. The others were Icon Project, who was to win the Personal Ensign Stakes (at four), and Country Star who actually got her sire’s stud career off to a bright start with Grade 1 wins at two in the Alcibiades Stakes and Hollywood Starlet. Pioneerof The Nile stood out in Empire Maker’s second crop, winning the Cashcall Futurity at two and the Santa Anita Derby at three.

Empire Maker stood his last season in the US in 2010, and, inevitably perhaps, it was only after his departure to Japan that his best horses revealed themselves. Royal Delta won the first of her two Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classics (Distaff) as a three-year-old in 2011 and went on to win a total of six Grade 1 contests (not to mention three Eclipse Awards), becoming Empire Maker’s second Personal Ensign winner. The same year, two-year-old filly Grace Hall was runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after winning the Spinaway Stakes, while 2012 saw Bodemeister finish second in the Preakness Stakes, as well as the Kentucky Derby, after winning the Arkansas Derby. Last Full Measure was Empire Maker’s other Grade 1 winner, successful (as a five-year-old) in the 2013 Madison Stakes.

From his final US crop, Empire Maker left Juddmonte with another good filly, this time in Europe, in Brooch, a typically late-developing daughter of her sire. She won her first four races, including the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes at the Curragh in May.

Empire Maker’s best Japanese-bred horse so far is probably Federalist, winner of the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen over nine furlongs. He was out of the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner Dance Partner, a daughter of Sunday Silence and a full sister to Dance In The Dark whom we’ve already mentioned as damsire of one of the WinStar purchases.

One of the least expected consequences of American Pharoah becoming a Triple Crown winner must be these purchases of his grandsire’s Japanese stock by an American bloodstock industry which not so long ago seemingly had no place for Empire Maker.

[Image of American Pharoah courtesy of Maryland GovPics]