Another edition of the Japan Cup was kept at home at Tokyo at the end of November thanks to favourite Kitasan Black. Whilst the product of Japanese-bred parents, scratch the surface of his pedigree and you find that, like many Japanese horses, his origins are from a number of different sources overseas. Although made in Japan, Kitasan Black’s pedigree has both North and South American influences, as well as some British-bred ancestors.
He had previously made a name for himself as a stayer, winning the fifteen-furlong Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) in 2015 and the Tenno Sho (Spring) over two miles earlier this season. Both races were among those also won by the top-class 2006 Japan Cup winner Deep Impact who that year began what has since been an unbroken run of home-trained winners in the Japan Cup. Japan’s current leading sire Deep Impact went on to sire two winners of the Japan Cup himself, the fillies Gentildonna (the only dual winner, in 2012 and 2013) and Shonan Pandora (in 2015).
Deep Impact became the third Japan Cup winner sired by Sunday Silence, after Special Week and Zenno Rob Roy, and the all-pervasive Sunday Silence crops up in the pedigrees of almost all the recent winners of the race. He was also the sire of the dams of Admire Moon, Screen Hero and Rose Kingdom, who won three of the four Japan Cups after Deep Impact. His 1999 winner Special Week sired the 2011 winner Buena Vista, while the 2014 winner Epiphaneia was out of one of Special Week’s daughters.
Deep Impact was responsible for four of the latest Japan Cup field but Kitasan Black is by Deep Impact’s brother Black Tide who bears a striking similarity to his sire, more so than Deep Impact, sharing Sunday Silence’s very dark bay colouring, with a white off-hind sock and blaze. Black Tide was nowhere near as good as Deep Impact who completed the Japanese triple crown, but he wasn’t as modest as suggested by one source (‘failed to win in eight starts’) and perhaps he would have been better still if injury had not intervened. He actually won three races, the last of them a Group 2 trial for the ten-furlong Satsuki Sho (2000 Guineas) in which he beat Daiwa Major, but while that colt went on to win the Satsuki Sho itself, Black Tide finished down the field, sustaining an injury serious enough to keep him off the course for more than two years. He never won another race, though continued racing until the age of seven.
Black Tide was the leading first-season sire in Japan in 2012 when the Group 2 winner T M Inazuma was his leading earner, while he broke into the top thirty sires for the first time in 2014 thanks to Meiner Frost who finished third in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). Kitasan Black’s earnings in each of the last two seasons have taken him higher still. Black Tide and Deep Impact are out of the 1994 (Epsom) Oaks runner-up Wind In Her Hair, a granddaughter of the Queen’s Highclere who won the 1000 Guineas and Prix de Diane and became grandam of the 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Nashwan.
Sunday Silence has been by far the most successful stallion imported to Japan, but previous champion sires in Japan from elsewhere included Tesco Boy and Northern Taste, the two grandsires of Sakura Bakushin O, sire of Kitasan Black’s unraced dam Sugar Heart. Surprisingly, given Kitasan Black’s effectiveness over long distances, Sakura Bakushin O was a dual winner of the Sprinters Stakes (also named JRA best sprinter/miler in 1994) and is sire of Japan’s current leading sprinter Big Arthur. Grandam Otome Gokoro was a speedier type too, winning four times from five to nine furlongs. She was by the triple US Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic third Judge Angelucci, who, like Northern Taste in the top half of Sugar Heart’s pedigree, was out of a daughter* of the 1960 Canadian Horse of the Year Victoria Park who was placed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Kitasan Black’s great grandam Tizly, a daughter of Lyphard, raced in France where she won four races over middle distances at small tracks in the Provinces. She was then returned to her native America where Shadai Farm picked her up for $40,000 at Keeneland’s January sale to go to Japan. By then, she had already foaled Cee’s Tizzy in the States who earned fame later as the sire of the dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. Tizly was a daughter of the Chilean-bred mare Tizna, a prolific stakes winner in California whose successes included two editions of the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap. Although developed latterly in Chile, the family’s South American connection began with the export to Argentina of a British-bred filly. Named Ante Diem (‘before the day’ in Latin), she was unable to race in Britain as she had been born a day too early – hence her name – on December 31st 1877.
*Northern Taste (by Northern Dancer) was out of Lady Victoria, a half-sister to Northern Dancer’s sire Nearctic. Rather than being imported to Japan after his racing career, Northern Taste was bought as a yearling as a long-term stallion prospect but raced first in the Yoshida colours in France where his wins included the Prix de la Foret.
[Images: Kitasan Black – Ogiyoshisan, Sakura Bakushin O – sakurahighspeed]