First published at Paulick Report before the Belmont Stakes last month.
The Derbys of France and Japan are in the record books as of this weekend, and male-line descendants of Mr. Prospector won each race. In Japan, Duramente (by the Kingmambo stallion King Kamehameha) added the Tokyo Yushun (Japan Derby) to his victory in Japan’s 2,000 Guineas equivalent, the Satsuki Sho. He now may attempt the Japanese Triple Crown later in the year.
In France, New Bay (Dubawi) improved on his second-place finish in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 equivalent) to win the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) over 10.5 furlongs. New Bay’s success came at the expense of Highland Reel (Galileo) and War Dispatch (War Front), and the colt appeared to relish the extended trip in comparison to the mile.
Following those classics, we are focusing our attention on the father of all classics, the 12-furlong Derby Stakes at Epsom in England and on the Belmont Stakes, modeled on the Derby over a mile and a half. Whereas the winner of England’s 2,000 Guineas, Gleneagles (Galileo), will pass on competing in the Derby in favor of racing over a mile at Royal Ascot, all American racing fans will be intent upon the prospect of a Triple Crown winner if American Pharoah can excel over the extended distance of the Belmont Stakes.
One of the central questions about American Pharoah and his potential conquest of the greatest challenge in American racing is stamina.
Does he have it? Does he have enough to win the Belmont?
The short answer is “yes.” This colt certainly has stamina, but he just as certainly has never been tested over this distance.
One of the shortcomings of the American program of racing is that there is nothing available to test a colt or filly at 12 furlongs. I don’t mean very little; I mean nothing.
The Belmont Stakes stands alone, and Grade 1 colts will never test 12 furlongs again, unless they switch to racing on turf.
The inadequacy of the American racing program to offer races that allow breeders and owners to test their horses at different distances means two things. First, breeders have no evidence to base their breeding decisions upon regarding stamina in the vast majority of their stock, and second, it means that buyers or owners do not want racing prospects of great potential stamina because there’s nowhere to race them.
Oh, how different is the situation elsewhere.
Both England and Japan offer a racing program with a wide variety of distances that allow trainers and owners to test horses, to try them and allow the test of the course to set the program for the animals’ training and racing, rather than trying to pound square pegs through round holes.
That’s exactly how the power trainers in America approach the classics. If the colts cannot hit this mark by this date, then a higher mark and a higher, the classic prospects in America are all too frequently burnt up and on the sidelines. The program puts a premium on mental and physical toughness, but it comes at a price.
In contrast, our international brethren of the blooded horse have a much different program available to them, and their results look enticing.
For example, Duramente is now the winner in four of his six starts, with a pair of seconds. His racing has come over distances of 1800 to 2400 meters, approximately 9 to 12 furlongs. He has never sprinted and seems to be a genuinely classic colt.
That is not surprising, considering his forebears. Duramente is the fifth foal out of Japan’s champion older mare Admire Groove, one of a large number of Japanese champions by U.S. Horse of the Year Sunday Silence, who became the best stallion in the history of Japan’s bloodstock industry.
His daughter Admire Groove has produced five winners from five runners, and Duramente’s full brother, Admire Sceptre, is a multiple graded stakes-placed horse with earnings of $1.7 million. Furthermore, Duramente’s first three dams were all champions in Japan. His second dam is Horse of the Year and Japanese Oaks winner Air Groove, by Arc de Triomphe winner Tony Bin, and his third dam is Dyna Carle (Northern Taste), a champion 2-year-old who also won the Japanese Oaks.
This is a pedigree of very high class, and the athletic quality of the horses has been emphasized by success in classic races run over a distance of ground against a large field of competitors. The successive generations have shown speed but have been able to carry it over a distance and against top company.
The simplicity of the practice belies its wisdom and value. Very good mares are bred to good stallions, and the best of each generation is used for the creating the next. That is the recipe for producing great athletes.