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All eyes on the Arc for Satomi after big spending spree

Founder of Sammy Corp speaks to Michele MacDonald about his recent acquisitions

Hajime Satomi with his Deep Impact colt out of Group 1 heroine Listen
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Hajime Satomi, chairman and chief executive of global gaming giant Sega Sammy Holdings as well as a leading Japanese owner, is pondering setting up a European division of his over 130-horse operation while first aiming to win this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

During a spending spree at the Japan Racing Horse Association Select Sale this week in which the billionaire ranked as leading buyer with five yearlings and 11 foals purchased for a breathtaking total of ¥1.697 billion (about £11,583,576), Satomi made it clear that he is thinking big—and worldwide—about racing.

“I want to win the Arc,” Satomi, 75, said while outlining how he will send two sons of Deep Impact, the world’s leading sire by progeny earnings, to France next month to begin the last part of their Arc preparations.

Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee, who trained Japanese Triple Crown winner and two-time Arc runner-up Orfevre, has had Satono Diamond and Satono Noblesse on a regime designed last autumn to build stamina for the Arc’s 1m4f, often run over soft or boggy ground.

Those runners could spearhead a larger army carrying Satomi’s green and yellow silks in Europe.

“Whenever I have horses that I think are good enough to compete in international races, I won’t hesitate to send them,” Satomi said. “I’m also thinking of keeping some horses in training overseas and trying to win major races.

“I already have business in Europe. In London, we have about 900 employees there, and in France, about 70 employees,” he added of Sega Sammy’s offices. “So, why don’t we have a base for horse racing operations in those countries?”

Satono Diamond, Japan’s champion three-year-old colt of 2016 who conquered eventual Horse of the Year Kitasan Black in the Arima Kinen last December, is viewed in Japan as perhaps the best son of Deep Impact to date.

Produced by multiple Argentine Group 1 winner Malpensa, by Orpen, Satono Diamond also captured the 2016 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger). In two starts this year, he won the 1m7f Hanshin Daishoten and finished strongly for third in the two mile Tenno Sho won by Kitasan Black.

A seven-year-old out of Cry With Joy, by Arc winner Tony Bin, Satono Noblesse is a multiple Graded stakes winner.

Looking beyond the Arc, Satomi reloaded his bloodstock holdings at the JRHA sale, buying 13 colts and three fillies, including the highest-priced yearling, Deep Impact’s son out of Fillies’ Mile winner Listen, by Sadler’s Wells, for ¥270 million (£1.8m/€2.1m).

He also acquired four colt foals by Deep Impact, including a pair out of American Grade 1 winners Contested and Sky Diva, and a pair bred from South American Grade 1-winning mares Candy Nevada and Balada Sale.

He wanted the sister to two-time Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna and a Deep Impact colt out of Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Elusive Wave, but he said bidding went too high on those foals, who sold for ¥370m (£2.6m/€2.9m) and ¥580m (£3.9m/€4.4), respectively.

“I’m feeling this (JRHA) sale is more heated every year. I have some expectations after making assessments about the horses, but at this year’s market, the prices of most of the horses I liked went far above those levels,” he said.

Satomi’s purchases included a Lord Kanaloa yearling filly out of American champion Stardom Bound and a colt foal by champion Gold Ship out of My Jen, a Grade 2-winning half sister to Caravaggio.

Satomi’s wife, Mieko Satomi, and son, Haruki Satomi, who serves as president of Sega Sammy Holdings, also were listed as buyers at the JRHA sale, with combined acquisitions of a yearling Novellist colt and colt foals by Epiphaneia and Henny Hughes.

Although Hajime Satomi became involved in racehorse ownership 25 years ago, he said he was able to get more serious after Sammy Corp., the company he founded after dropping out of university, was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2001 and delivered a windfall prior to its merger with Sega Corp.

He credits his six Grade 1 victories since last autumn—beginning with his first as an owner when Satono Diamond prevailed in the Kikuka Sho—to Ikee and his father, retired trainer Yasuo Ikee, who conditioned Deep Impact. The Ikee team advises Satomi, and he said he also relies on another successful international trainer, Noriyuki Hori.

Satomi received three gold medals from the JRHA at the start of the sale for his three prior sale purchases that won Grade 1 races over the previous year, marking the first time any owner has been triply honoured. In addition to Satono Diamond, those runners were Hong Kong Vase and Takarazuka Kinen winner Satono Crown and Yasuda Kinen winner Satono Aladdin.

Satomi also bred and races 2016 champion juvenile colt Satono Ares, a son of Deep Impact out of the Danehill mare Satono Amazones. He gives his horses names including the word Satono because it indicates he owns the horse.

“To have success in business, you have to work hard and you make the results. In horse racing, all I can do is buy nice horses, select the proper trainer and get a good jockey; we need some luck in addition to hard work. But I was determined to win my first Grade 1 race, so I tried to set up a strong operation. Now those efforts have begun to bloom,” Satomi said.

Whenever I have horses that I think are good enough to compete in international races, I won’t hesitate to send them
E.W. Terms
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