Better Times for Harbinger ahead?

The purchase of Harbinger seems to be the biggest Japanese breeding acquisition in this century. Shadai Farm bought him in August 2010, just a few weeks after he defeated the competition in the King George by a class, winning by eleven lengths from Cape Bianco. At the time he was the best-rated horse on the planet. Today, seven years later and as a stallion, Harbinger is very far away from such a position. His first two crops of three-year-olds disappointed. In the past few days, however, there were some marks that Harbinger’s third three-year-old crop could be better.

The Tokyo racecourse hosted the Gr.2 Sho Flora Stakes for three-year-old fillies on Sunday. The race was won by Harbinger's daughter Mozu Katchan, with another of his daughters, Yamakatsu Grace, finishing second. It was not just for the first time that Harbinger’s progeny took the first two positions in a stakes race, but also for the very first time that any of his progeny won a Gr.2 race. This achievement, moreover, came only a week after another three-year-old by Harbinger, Persian Knight, this year already successful in the Gr.3 Airlington Cup, placed second in the Japanese edition of the 2,000 Guineas, Satsuki Sho, and was thus not only the first progeny of Harbinger to place between the first three in a classic race, but also the first one to place in a Gr.1 race. During a single week Harbinger achieved more than during his whole career at stud.

He launched his stud career in 2011 and from Harbinger’s first season at stud, the Japanese Stud Book registers 146 progeny. Sadly, only a single one of them was successful in a stakes race, Beruf, the winner of the Gr.3 Keisei Hai, placed in three more Gr.3 races. More five of his progeny (Tosen Basil, Lord Felice, Roca, Jazz Funk and Claudio) placed in stakes races. Even a cursory look on their pedigrees show, why the Japanese breeders selected Harbinger, a stallion 6 times inbred to the legendary Almahmoud. Each of black-type progeny from Harbinger’s first crop is out of a dam with a significant influence of the Japanese multiple champion sire Sunday Silence, whose sire Halo is the grandson of Almahmoud.

The second crop of Harbinger included as many as 165 progeny and three black-type winners – Prophet, Dreadnoughtus and Jealousy, with two more (Agnes Forte and Winkle Salute) placed in stakes races. Again, each of his stakes-successful progeny is out of a dam with the influence of Sunday Silence but the high share of these horses among stakes progeny of Harbinger should come as no surprise. As we said two years ago, it was because of mares with the blood of Sunday Silence that Harbinger was bought; and indeed, in the first three seasons at stud, 83% of progeny was out of broodmares with the influence of Sunday Silence in their pedigree.

The third Harbinger’s crop had “just” 112 registered progeny (in 2015 the number of his progeny dropped as low as 86), but this crop seems to be the most successful one. We are still at the beginning of the season but two of Harbinger’s progeny have already won group races (the aforementioned Mozu Katchan and Persian Knight), Yamakatsu Grace, Deirdre and Invicta placed in black-type races. The improvement against previous crops is proved by the statistics. While so far Harbinger placed best twelfth among Japanese sires, when he achieved also the highest Average Earnings Indexu (AEI) 1.32, this year he already occupies the eleventh position with the AEI of 1.58. The 2014 crop has already earned more than half of what the 2012 has earned in total and while the previous crop had AEI of 1.11, this year’s three-year-olds have AEI of 1.84.

True, the current statistics are much impacted by the achievements of the past week which do not have to necessarily be repeated, but still, it is a new impulse. So far, Harbinger failed the expectations and the total number of six black-type winners plus nine more stakes placed progeny in three crops (of 381 runners) is not definitely impressive. Perhaps it is, too, the case with him that stallions of the Danehill line, able to stay a mile and a half, usually are not successful sires. The recent days, however, have brought some hope that he could eventually succeed in Japan and not end like many other European stars who returned from Japan to Europe as National Hunt stallions.

Miloslav Vlček

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