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From celluloid to sales for first-time Keeneland buyer Yamamoto

Former colleague of Francis Ford Coppola paid $550,000 for a Tapit colt

Mataichiro Yamamoto: 'Prices of horse in Japan are getting higher'
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After working with the creative geniuses behind The Godfather and Star Wars movies and building up his own profile in the entertainment business, Mataichiro Yamamoto has jumped galaxies into another fast-paced realm: horse racing.

While he is sticking with big names, he is trying to avoid the biggest budgets in his new pursuit. Making his first-ever purchase at Keeneland this week, Yamamoto paid $550,000 for a colt by leading sire Tapit out of 2011 American Horse of the Year Havre De Grace.

“God helped me,” Yamamoto said, laughing, when asked how he was able to acquire the bay colt bred by Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm, who paid $10 million for Havre de Grace in 2012.

“Something is going on here - I don’t know what it is, but I am really happy,” he added, indicating he did not expect to succeed in purchasing the colt, who will join a $100,000 Uncle Mo colt also acquired at Keeneland in being shipped to Japan for racing careers there.

Yamamoto is in the early stages of building a racing stable and he said he has six two-year-olds that are preparing to run this autumn in Japan. He intends to rely on American and European sales in order to acquire some new prospects.

“Because the prices of horses in Japan are getting higher, we may have to find a new way to bring good horses from Europe and America. That’s my plan,” he said.

Yamamoto said he learned to speak English while working with Francis Ford Coppola, the movie maker best known for The Godfather movies. In 1985, they and George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars epics, served as producers of the controversial movie Mishimia: A Life in Four Chapters, about Yukio Mishima, one of the most significant Japanese authors of the 20th century.

A nationalist, Mishima founded a militia group and attempted in 1970 to inspire a coup to overthrow the government and restore the pre-World War II powers of Japan’s emperor. When that mission failed, Mishima took his own life.

The movie that Yamamoto was involved with about Mishima was directed by Paul Scharader, who had screenwriting credits for the Robert De Niro films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Yamamoto also worked with Coppola and Dirty Dancing actress Jennifer Grey on the 1992 film Wind, which focuses on yacht racing.

Since then, he has been involved with numerous entertainment projects, from video games to feature films and television, with some of his production vehicles bearing titles such as “Pet Shop of Horrors,” “Psycho Diver: Soul Siren,” and “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.”

He has been successful in helping develop the acting careers of about five Japanese stars and thus has created enough resources to allow him to pursue his longtime interest in racing, he said.

“I started to buy horses for myself last year, yearlings,” he said. This year, he bought two horses at the Japan Racing Horse Association select sale, topped by a yearling filly from the first crop of European champion Golden Horn and out of multiple Group-placed stakes winner Pearl Of Africa, by Jeremy.

Yamamoto said he does not yet know who will train the newly purchased Tapit and Uncle Mo colts. But he is sure that he would like to return to Keeneland to buy more horses.

“Yes! I want to come back,” he said. “It’s casual and easy; everything is so smooth. I really like it here.”

More from Keeneland September...

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'The buyers had their piggy banks open, and it was quite a show'

Hinkle in heaven as he sells Nyquist half-sister to Godolphin for $1.75m

MV Magnier splashes out $2.4m on well related War Front colt

Something is going on here - I don’t know what it is, but I am really happy
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