Bobby Zen

HOKKAIDO, Japan-One thing the Japanese breeders are not short on is patience. It is here where the middle-distance horse is truly admired and cultivated arguably better than any other racing nation. 

That patience will come in handy, according to Shadai Stallion Station’s Naohiro Hosoda, when it comes to getting the best out of Equinox (Jpn) at stud. 

Officially the best horse that the county has ever produced, having retired with a rating of 135 following a four-length triumph in the Japan Cup, Equinox is arguably the most exciting addition to Shadai’s world-famous stallion operation. 

His opening fee of ¥20 million [about $140,000] is a record and puts him on a par with his own sire, Kitasan Black (Jpn). 

While Hosoda acknowledges the huge expectations surrounding Equinox at stud, he pointed to the fact that the six-time Group 1 winner took time to reach his full potential and it was only at four when the horse hit his pomp.

“You know, he is a middle-distance horse and is not the type that will produce two-year-olds,” he explained. “He was a really nice two-year-old, very good at three, but he was just super at four. Unbeatable. Still, he was beaten in a Guineas and a Derby as a three-year-old, because he wasn’t fully developed. 

“I think patience will be key with breeders supporting Equinox. Or, the other plan could be to send him some speedier mares. Maybe if breeders sent him some more two-year-old types, that could help him, I would say. That’s just my opinion. He has covered 200 mares and many good ones.”

New for 2024 at the Shadai Stallion Station in is none other than Equinox, the highest-rated horse in Japanese racing history @theTDN. pic.twitter.com/7BN2QL6Vm5

— Brian Sheerin (@BrianSheerin91) July 7, 2024

He added, “Domestic demand is huge for Equinox. I would say that Coolmore and those guys, they have been in this sport a long time and are very professional. The Wertheimers, for example, chose Kizuna (Jpn) with no hesitations. New things like Equinox, perhaps they appeal more to the domestic market rather than the major owner-breeders. It’s domestic-only pressure, but it is huge nonetheless.”

Hosoda has been in this game long enough to know that not all that glitters is gold. There is of course a certain element of him trying to manage expectations when it comes to a horse like Equinox embarking on his stallion career but keeping a lid on things is easier said than done when you are dealing with Japan’s best-ever racehorse.  

“The new stallions are extremely popular,” Hosoda explained. “There is huge expectation from owners and breeders. Not only Japanese people, but I think the industry loves new things. Always new, new, new. You know, I prefer the proven horses, because I am more safe. Like Kizuna and Kitasan Black for example, they are proven stallions. But owners are always dreaming and that is why they love the newer stallions.”

If some of the recent chat is to be believed, Hosoda and the Shadai team may not have to wait on Equinox in crowning their next champion, as the talk on Contrail (Jpn) is strong. The Japanese Triple Crown-winning son of Deep Impact (Jpn) already topped the foal session of the JRHA Select Sale last year when one of his colts sold for ¥520,000,00 and it seems as though nobody would be surprised if something like that is replicated in the sales ring this week.

Hosoda said, “There is big domestic pressure behind him as well. He is a Triple Crown-winning son of Deep Impact and he has been very popular but then his first foals were very impressive and so two are his second crop. I mean, did you see him walking? Like a cat. You barely even hear a sound. It’s like his feet do not touch the ground he walks so well. I have seen a lot of his foals-not just here but on smaller farms as well-and they are really, really good. Conformation, quality, walk-it seems to be very promising with him.” 

Coolmore is understood to have sent at least one mare to Contrail but, by and large, the international clients seem happier to row in with the proven Shadai stallions.

Kizuna, a Japanese Derby winner himself, is the sire of Bathrat Leon (Jpn) and Deep Bond (Jpn) to name only a couple. He is enjoying a stellar year with 131 individual winners and sits at the head of the sires’ championship in terms of prize-money amassed by his progeny for 2024 on ¥2,687,545,500 (approximately €15.5m). 

Kitasan Black is another who needs no introduction. The sire of Equinox, he is also enjoying another solid season, with 57 individual winners already. Some of his top-class performers this year include the G1 Takarazuka Kinen runner-up Sol Oriens (Jpn), Gaia Force (Jpn) and Wilson Tesoro (Jpn).

Hosoda said, “The Werteimers have sent us a couple of mares and they are in foal to Kizuna. I think he is a future champion sire because his averages are very high. Not only does he get high-class horses, but he also has many stakes-placed horses and Graded performers. It doesn’t matter if the distance is long or short-dirt as well. 

“Coolmore has sent mares to Kitasan Black, Contrail and I think one to Equinox as well. You know Shunsuke, who is [Northern farm boss] Katsumi Yoshida’s son, is a good friend of MV Magnier. They are in regular contact and Shunsuke has sent mares to Coolmore in the past as well. And then the Wertheimers, they have been sending mares to us since the days of Sunday Silence, so it’s a long, long relationship.”

There are some stallions who, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Equinox, start off at stud with much more humble expectations. Take Suave Richard (Jpn), who was something of a surprise leading freshman sire in 2023, for example. He has done it the hard way and those closest to the young stallion, who now stands for more than seven times his initial fee of ¥2 million (€11,500), say that he can continue to surprise people.

“He has been a big surprise package,” Hosoda says. “And not from top mares, either. He has improved by himself and I think there is more to come from him. Generally, the progeny of Heart’s Cry (Jpn) gets better with age. They are slow-developing horses but the damsire of Suave Richard is quite precocious. His two-year-olds did really well last year which surprised us. That is why his fee has gone up to ¥15 million. Considering that he started out at ¥2 million, it is quite the progression.”

Hosoda concluded, “But it’s very exciting with Equinox. His performances on the track-super. For me, his performance in winning the Tenno Sho in the Autumn at Tokyo was super. He’s cruising yet his time is phenomenal. He is setting a record pace. A crazy time. He is one of the best racehorses I have seen in my lifetime. Definitely the best in recent times. You know, we never stop trying to find the next champion stallion and maybe he can be one day.”

The post ‘We Never Stop Trying – Maybe Equinox Can Be The Next Champion Sire’ appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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