Saxon Warrior ensuring Sunday Silence is finally taken seriously in Europe
Martin Stevens on a big year ahead for Japanese supersire Deep Impact
It is decades ago that Sunday Silence first gained international recognition as an outstanding sire and ten years since one of his unheralded sons, Divine Light, beat the odds to supply the 1,000 Guineas heroine Natagora. The emergence of Deep Impact as a celebrated successor to the stallion is old news too.
Yet it is only now that the Sunday Silence sire-line looks like gaining a firm foothold in Europe. Deep Impact is responsible for Saxon Warrior, favourite for the 2,000 Guineas and Derby after his Racing Post Trophy victory, and September, among the leading fancies for the fillies' Classics thanks to her Chesham Stakes success and placed efforts in three Group 1 races.
Dabirsim, meanwhile, ranks as one of Europe's most coveted young sires as the first two-year-old crop by the son of Sunday Silence stallion Hat Trick last year contained a hatful of winners including Albany Stakes heroine and Cheveley Park Stakes runner-up Different League, now in the care of Aidan O'Brien after selling to Coolmore and partners for 1,500,000gns at Tattersalls in December.
Granted, breeders have flirted with using Japan's fabled breed-shaper since late in the last millennium, and with limited access to him and Deep Impact – in enough demand at home, thousands of miles away on the other side of the world – we were never going to see hordes of their progeny in these parts.
But it is hard not to think that in the near 20 years since we had our first glimpse of Sunday Silence's effectiveness in Europe, when Shadai Farm's own filly Sunday Picnic won the Prix Cleopatre and finished fourth to Ramruma in the Oaks for Andre Fabre in 1999, there have been missed opportunities to better establish his influence.
Sheikh Mohammed was a relatively early adopter, and several Sunday Silence offspring carried his silks with distinction in the early noughties. Silent Honor landed the Lowther Stakes in 2001, while Sundrop finished second in the Fillies' Mile two years later and filled the same spot behind Attraction in the 1,000 Guineas at three. In the same season in which Sundrop achieved her Classic placing, the year-younger colt Layman was narrowly beaten in the Prix Morny and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
The Wertheimer brothers were also rewarded for sending their high-class racemares Danzigaway and Pas De Reponse to Japan to be covered by Sunday Silence, as the pair produced Breeders' Cup Mile third Silent Name and Longchamp Listed scorer Sunday Doubt to the matings.
Scant demand for stallion sons
Layman was retired to join the sheikh's French stallion band at Haras du Logis and enjoyed the odd day in the sun with Group winners Boldogsag, Gammarth and Marypop, while Silent Name has developed into a useful sire at Adena Springs in Canada.
Bloodstock agent Patrick Barbe – an associate of Teruya Yoshida, whose family owned Sunday Silence and now holds the keys to Deep Impact – was instrumental in introducing a rash of exotically named sons to the French stallion ranks in the first decade of the new millennium, such as Agnes Kamikaze, Born King, Divine Light, Great Journey, Legolas, Millennium Bio, Rosen Kavalier and Samson Happy.
They achieved varying degrees of popularity and success, with Divine Light's first French-conceived crop yielding the Cheveley Park Stakes and 1,000 Guineas winner Natagora before the sire was sold to Turkey, where he died four years ago.
Great Journey's import was not in vain either, as he left the Lonsdale Cup winner Max Dynamite, twice placed in the Melbourne Cup – a race won by Japanese raider Delta Blues, a grandson of Sunday Silence via Dance In The Dark, in 2006.
Another Sunday Silence stallion brought to France, Peer Gynt, has fielded dual Santa Anita Grade 2 winner Flamboyant and has a legitimate Classic candidate on his hands in Francesco Bere, who scored in the Listed Prix Omnium II at Fontainebleau on Thursday.
The few Sunday Silence sons who made it to Britain or Ireland – Vita Rosa at Lanwades, who arrived in the wake of Natagora's Classic triumph, and Six Sense at Bridge House Stud – were met with scant demand and did not last long on their respective rosters.
All the while, the improving nature of Sunday Silence in Japan's gene pool allowed the country's domestic runners to shine on the world stage. Stay Gold took the Dubai Sheema Classic in 2001, on the same card at Nad Al Sheba in which his paternal half-sister To The Victory was a gallant second to Captain Steve in the World Cup.
Stay Gold went on to sire the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runners-up Nakayama Festa and Orfevre.
Then there was Sunday Joy, successful in the Australian Oaks in 2003; Zenno Rob Roy, denied just a neck by Electrocutionist in the Juddmonte International in 2005; Heart's Cry, a close third to Hurricane Run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2006; and most memorably perhaps, Japanese triple crown hero Deep Impact, sent off the hot favourite for the Arc that year by his legions of fans who had descended on Longchamp before he finished third.
A haul of six Group/Grade 1 winners by Heart's Cry includes Dubai Duty Free hero Just A Way, but it is Deep Impact who has picked up the baton from Sunday Silence as Japan's dominant sire, supplying countless top-level winners at home and away – including A Shin Hikari in France, Dubai World Cup night scorers Gentildonna, Real Steel and Vivlos and Australian stars Real Impact and Tosen Stardom.
The Wildenstein family got into Deep Impact at ground level, sending mares to be covered by him in Japan, including the Listed-winning Giant's Causeway mare Bastet in the sire's first two seasons at Shadai to produce the Listed winner Barocci and Poule d'Essai des Pouliches heroine Beauty Parlour. The Wildensteins' Prix Allez France winner Aquamarine was another from Deep Impact's debut crop.
The Wertheimers, who bred Silent Name from Sunday Silence, have also supported the son and have been rewarded with last year's Listed winner and Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris second Akihiro, who was recently sold to race in Hong Kong.
A deepening influence
Perhaps Deep Impact's female family – he is out of Oaks runner-up Wind In Her Hair, a daughter of Alzao, and is thus closely related to Nashwan and Nayef – means he is even more compatible with European racing than his sire was.
It is no surprise, then, that Coolmore have jumped on the bandwagon, especially when the operation so desperately needs high-calibre outcrosses for its many broodmares by Sadler's Wells and Danehill and their sons.
In 2013 and 2014 Coolmore sent the Group 1 winners Maybe and Peeping Fawn, as well as Cherokee, a Group 3 winner on debut, to Deep Impact. While the first crop gave the owners the useful winners Pavlenko and Wisconsin, it is the second crop that promises to ensure the sire takes root in Europe. Saxon Warrior, a brother to Pavlenko out of European champion Maybe, is unbeaten in three starts for Aidan O'Brien and September, the sister to Wisconsin out of four-time Group 1 laureate and Oaks second Peeping Fawn, is a Royal Ascot winner and was just touched off in the Fillies' Mile.
It has been reported that among the draft of Coolmore mares sent to be covered by Deep Impact in Japan this year are Minding and Winter, brilliant multiple Group 1 winners by Galileo.
Meanwhile, Dabirsim is set to cover a high-quality book of mares this season at an increased fee of €30,000 at Haras de Grandcamp as Different League looks to be a force to be reckoned with in sprints or perhaps up to a mile this year.
It has taken a long time for Sunday Silence and Deep Impact to be taken so seriously in Europe. Still, better late than never if our gene pool is finally going to be more extensively invigorated by this exceptional wellspring of talent.
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