The following article first appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
Among the American stallions who have been sold overseas, which sales would be more lamented by breeders than that of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker? Both Forty Niner and Sunday Silence come to mind, but the latter was not finding any traction among breeders more than 20 years ago when the majority stakeholders in the horse (Arthur Hancock III and partners) decided to sell out to Zenya Yoshida, who already owned a minority share.
Sunday Silence, who won two jewels of the Triple Crown, became the greatest stallion in the history of Thoroughbred breeding in Japan.
While I’m not saying that Empire Maker, who won the only Triple Crown race that Sunday Silence lost, will match his predecessor’s performance at stud, Empire Maker is surely one of the most exciting stallions for breeders in Japan.
As a son of the top classic sire Unbridled (by Fappiano) out of the great broodmare Toussaud, Empire Maker was an exceptional talent and a striking individual on the racecourse. Grand in stature and dramatic in demeanor, Empire Maker was among the few yearlings that breeder Juddmonte Farms left in the States for early training and racing with the operation’s great trainer Bobby Frankel.
A regular talking horse for the Triple Crown, Empire Maker was hampered by a bruised foot before the Kentucky Derby but managed to win the final leg over Funny Cide, who had beaten him at Churchill Downs. The Eclipse Award as divisional champ went to the chestnut son of Distorted Humor, but the allegiance of breeders was unreservedly for Empire Maker, whom they would have favored even if Funny Cide had not been a gelding.
Retired to stud at Juddmonte in Lexington for a fee of $100,000 live foal, Empire Maker made believers of breeders and buyers when they saw his big, scopy, strong yearlings.
So they, as well as legions of racing fans, lament the sale of the big bay son of Unbridled while the breeders in Japan will rejoice.
On Sunday at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap illustrated once more why Empire Maker was so important for breeding and racing domestically, as the winner and the third-place runner were both daughters of the stallion.
Multiple champion Royal Delta won off by five lengths in a good-looking prep for her next start in the G1 Dubai World Cup, and G1 winner Grace Hall was third.
In addition to their high class, both daughters of Empire Maker have gone through the sales ring for seven figures. At the Keeneland November sale in 2011, Royal Delta sold to Besilu Stables as part of the dispersal of horses from breeder Palides Investments, and she brought the high price of $8.5 million just days after winning at the Breeders’ Cup and clinching an Eclipse Award as the leading 3-year-old filly of the year. At the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale last year, the year-younger Grace Hall went through the ring for $3.2 million.
In addition to their rock-solid pedigrees, both daughters of Empire Maker sold as racing or broodmare prospects, and the added dimension of campaigning a proven high-end performer who could also become a major broodmare made them premium offerings at sale.
They are also typical of their sire, whose best stock has tended to be sizable, with considerable scope and quality, all traits that endear them to breeders. In addition, the Empire Makers can be rather strongly built horses, some possessing the physique of élite sales yearlings, which means a lot of muscle.
If one wanted to be critical of Empire Maker, the fault would be that there are more really good daughters by him than sons, but over time, that difference has moderated. And when the stallion left the Bluegrass, he left behind two sons — Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister — who have shown high form, and both ran second in the Kentucky Derby, just like their sire.
Both stand at WinStar Farm and will be covering large books of quality mares. As a result, they should prove a fair indicator of Empire Maker’s prospects as a sire of stallions.
Since his sale to the Japan Bloodstock Breeders’ Association, Empire Maker has stood at the group’s Shizunai Stallion Station on the northern island, Hokkaido. For 2013, the horse stands for a private fee. Unlike most such fees in the States, that does not mean “free.” As a part of one of the departments of the Japanese government, the JBBA does, however, provide stallion seasons to breeders at a rate that would not be considered economic elsewhere.
The trick, of course, is getting one. I somehow think that acquiring a season to Empire Maker is getting more difficult by the day.