Influence can be deceptive, particularly when it comes to bloodlines.
And there is no better example of that than the past year’s Grade 1 races in Japan.
Deep Impact may have died last summer, but his offspring continue to live up to his name. Japan’s 2005 Triple Crown winner became the nation’s breeding champion for the last eight years. He leads the stallion standings again in 2020 with 103 winners and more than $27 million in purse earnings.
But he is by no means money in the bank in top-level features like this weekend’s Japanese Oaks (G1), in which he will have more than his share of the 3-year-old fillies in the field at Tokyo.
In Japan’s last 20 Grade 1 turf races going back nearly a year, Deep Impact progeny have won only four times, including three as favorites. Seven others were beaten favorites. It is not for lack of volume; 75 Deep Impact offspring were involved.
He will be prominently represented again by the likes of Des Ailes, Miyamazakura, Sanctuaire and Ria Amelia on Sunday at 2:40 a.m. ET in the Oaks, a.k.a. the $2.2 million Yūshun Himba. While those four are among the half-dozen shortest-priced choices in early betting, it is a first-crop filly by a new, young stallion that is already the odds-on favorite.
Examining the Yushun Himba field
Daring Tact (4-5) is the first stakes winner by Epiphaneia. Six weeks ago in the rain at Hanshin she was the first undefeated filly in 40 years to win the Ōka Shō (G1), Japan’s mile-long answer to the 1,000 Guineas. Now she must try to go 1 1/2 miles for the first time.
Since Epiphaneia was ranked the world’s top stayer six years ago, Daring Tact’s jockey Kohei Matsuyama was already expressing confidence right after that last victory. “I’m not worried about the added distance in the Yūshun Himba,” he said.
One obstacle that Daring Tact and all the Deep Impacts will not have to deal with this weekend is Resistencia, the favorite that was finally worn down late in the Ōka Shō in a second-place performance. She just raced back two weeks ago against the boys and finished a favored second again, this time to 28-1 longshot Lauda Sion in the NHK Mile Cup (G1).
The 1 1/2 miles are nearly as uncharted for Yūshun Himba fillies as the 1 1/4 miles are for Kentucky Derby (G1) 3-year-olds. Of the 178 horses that have entered the last 10 runnings of the race, only seven had ever raced that far before. Of the 25 original nominees for this weekend, only two had ever gone 1 1/2 miles, including Lily Pure Heart (50-1), by Deep Impact.
With their early money, bettors have said that they expect closers to figure prominently at the end of Sunday’s race. Daring Tact certainly fits that pattern. So does the shortest-priced Deep Impact filly Des Ailes (4-1). From the stable of Japan’s leading trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, she is 2-for-2 with both her races being this year, both at just 9 furlongs and both closing from 13th at the top of the stretch. This will be her Grade 1 debut.
Pace chasers Miyamazakura (8-1) and Sanctuaire (12-1) also bring in the Deep Impact bloodline. So does Ria Amelia (14-1), a stalker that is out of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Ria Antonia. They are all trying to improve on out-of-the-money finishes in the Ōka Shō.
Daring Tact, Des Ailes and the other closers will be looking for some pace in front of them. Yet another Deep Impact filly – Smile Kana (25-1) – could provide it as she did before being passed late and finishing third in the Ōka Shō. So might Ever Garden (66-1), a two-time, non-stakes winner by 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner I’ll Have Another.
If the early pace or relative lack of it does not create an early lure for the rest of the field, tactical speed should be the most precious commodity Sunday. So might comportment, which has been an issue for Daring Tact.
“She does have issues to work on such as being relaxed,” Matsuyama said last month.
Trainer Haruki Sugayama concurred, saying that Daring Tact “is a sensitive horse and easily upset. She was agitated behind the gate (two starts ago), and she didn’t break very well. And she was a bit ornery in her work (before the Ōka Shō), but we pushed her pretty hard, and she got a solid workout. I just have to take pains to prevent that while getting her ready.”
Whether that becomes the reputation for Epiphaneia colts and fillies is still way too early to judge. So, too, is whether they will be as productive over the long term as the offspring of Deep Impact, producer of at least 46 Grade 1 wins – recent slump or not.