The Sunday Tokyo Yushun, the official name of the Japanese Derby, was won in a close finish with Suave Richard by Rey de Oro, the winner of the Hopeful Stakes. What is unusual in the pedigree of the son of King Kamehama, himself the 2004 Japan Derby winner, is that it lacks the name of Sunday Silence. It is indeed rather unusual in the major race of the Japanese calendar for three-year-old, namely if we take into account that among eighteen runners in this year’s Japan Derby Rey de Oro was the only Japan-bred horse without Sunday Silence in his pedigree.
Let us add that besides him, the Sheikh Mohammed-bred Best Approach, too, lacks Sunday Silence in his pedigree, but he was foaled not in Japan but in the UK and was the only runner in the race foaled outside the country of the rising sun. Even so the field well reflects the exceptionally strong impact of the former Kentucky Derby winner who went to become the most successful stallion in Japanese history.
He went down to history with his very first crop of three-year-olds in 1995, when his sons Tayasu Tsuyoshi and Genuine took first two places in the Derby. In next two editions of the race Sunday Silence’s progeny took one second place (1996 Dance In The Dark), but next three editions were won by his sons (Special Week, Admire Vega and Agnes Flight) and in 2000 the victory of Agnes Flight was backed for Sunday Silence by the runner-up Air Shakur.
A total of twenty-three editions of the Japan Derby have been run since the arrival of first three-year-olds by Sunday Silence and only eight of them won by horses free of Sunday Silence's blood. The year 2008 was the one in which his grandson triumphed for the first time – it was Agnes Tachyon’s son Deep Sky, followed by Logi Universe by Neo Universe. The third son of Sunday Silence to produce the Derby winner was Stay Gold, the sire of the excellent Orfevre and the last one, but the most successful so far, is Deep Impact, whose seven three-year-old crops boast as many as three Derby winners (Deep Brillante, Kizuna a Makahiki). As a damsire Sunday Silence has had just a single success – in 2015, when the race was won by Duramente by King Kamehameha.
The last time a horse without Sunday Silence in his pedigree won the Japan Derby was in 2010. It was just a couple of days before Workforce won the most prestigious Derby in the world, The Derby, that another son of King’s Best, Eishin Flash, out of the German Moonlade (Platini), triumphed in Japan. Eishin Flash is the grandson of Kingmambo, same as this year’s winner Rey de Oro, whose sire King Kamehameha won the Derby in 2004. Kingmambo’s line is thus responsible for three of eight non-Sunday-Silence-winners. Two were produced by Brian’s Time (Sunny Brian and Tanino Gimlet), the second of his winning sons is, moreover, the sire of the single post-war Derby filly winner Vodka, who won the race in 2007.
If Rey de Oro is an unusual Derby winner, he is equally unusual representative of his family… actually for the same reason – the absence of Sunday Silence’s influence. Alzao’s daughter Wind In Her Hair, the granddaughter of the 1,000 Guineas winner and an excellent broodmare Highclere, whose progeny include the exceptional broodmare Height of Fashion, went down to history as the dam of the most successful Sunday Silence’s son at stud and his successor – Deep Impact. That connection of her blood with the blood of Sunday Silence works is proved regularly not just by Deep Impact and his growing collection of champions, but also by his brother Black Tide who stepped out of the “Deep Impact’s brother” label half a year ago thanks to Kitasan Black. Wind In Her Hair and her daughters and granddaughters have produced so far thirteen black-type horses in Japan and all of them, with the exception of Rey de Oro, have Sunday Silence’s blood.
Without the blood of Sunday Silence, Rey de Oro is not only an unusual winner of the Japan Derby but also an unusual representative of a successful family. In future, this may open up the way for him to many daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters of Sunday Silence for whom the Japanese breeders now search hard for suitable partners if they don’t want to use inbreeding. On the other hand another inbreeding – to the mare Wind In Her Hair – can be the reason why Rey de Oro might one day be tried with the daughters of Deep Impact or Black Tide. But this is a long way to go. Rey de Oro, beaten just once in five races when he finished fifth in the Satsuki Sho (the Japanese 2,000 Guineas), walks the road with self-confidence. Let us cross our fingers for him that he demonstrates class that will secure for him a good opportunity at stud and we will be able to see how this pedigree-wise unusual Japan Derby winner combines with the blood that lacks in his pedigree but that serves as the essential basis of Japanese racing today.