Japanese Breeders Discover a Need for Speed

Many breeders and owners of thoroughbreds in Japan, after long prizing turf horses that possess stamina above all else, are finding the need to add a dash of speed on dirt.

Teruya Yoshida combined with his brothers, Katsumi and Haruya, to buy the champion sprinter Drefong last year on behalf of the Shadai Group, their top-tier breeding operation. Teruya Yoshida acted independently this year to acquire Mind Your Biscuits, another horse with tremendous acceleration. He was retired from racing on Nov. 14, to stand at his Shadai Farm, beginning in 2019.

According to Yoshida, the philosophical shift represents an effort to keep up with the times. “Up to now, turf races are very popular,” he said while attending the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this month. “Now, things are changing to American style, I think.”

Yoshida expects the prominence of dirt races to keep increasing, bringing greater purse money and enhancing the value of horses that excel on that surface. He had that in mind when he huddled with Eugenio Colombo, his bloodstock adviser, to issue a directive once unthinkable while distance-loving Sunday Silence, who died in 2002, reigned as Japan’s leading stallion.

“I asked Eugenio to find a good sprint sire on dirt,” Yoshida said.

In May, Colombo delivered Mind Your Biscuits, a former $47,000 yearling largely spurned by American breeders even though he is a two-time winner of the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen and the leading New York-bred with more than $4.2 million in earnings.

Many American bloodstock advisers rank pedigree far ahead of performance in projecting a stallion’s quality. Posse, who sired Mind Your Biscuits, is in Uruguay after failed stints in Kentucky and New York. Jazzmane, his unraced dam, is a broodmare in Korea.

“He doesn’t have a sexy pedigree,” said the breeder Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall Farm in Paris, Ky. “He doesn’t have a sexy sire. He’s just a stone-cold runner, and sometimes that is hard to sell in an American market.”

Mind Your Biscuits has won eight of 25 starts, at distances ranging from six-and-a-half furlongs to a mile and an eighth, with 10 second-place finishes.

Chad Summers, the trainer, says he believes the 5-year-old horse can profoundly influence Japanese bloodlines. “We think he can be the next Sunday Silence,” he said.

That is a huge statement, considering that Deep Impact, Sunday Silence’s greatest son, remains a premier sire. But neither Sunday Silence nor Deep Impact approached the kind of burst Mind Your Biscuits possesses.

“They want a more flexible racing machine, not just kind of a diesel engine,” Colombo said. “They try to make a Ferrari.”

That pursuit extends beyond Drefong and Mind Your Biscuits. The Japanese, Brogden said, “are buying all of our fast mares.”

Drefong was perfect through four starts in 2016. His victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint ensured the Eclipse Award as leading male sprinter in North America. Mind Your Biscuits has shown greater range with a pair of solid finishes at a mile and an eighth.

He took second to Diversify on a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course. He rolled by 4¾ lengths in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 29 in what Colombo described as a “public workout.” The horse appeared to finally show distance limitations when he finished 11th among 14 starters in the mile-and-a-quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3.

Consecutive victories in the Dubai Golden Shaheen sold Colombo because he sought an American speedster that displayed brilliance without benefit of race-day medication. In the United States, Lasix is a diuretic commonly administered to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

“If you are a bleeder,” Colombo said, “you do not belong in competition.”

Mind Your Biscuits proved he could run drug-free when he dominated the Dubai Golden Shaheen by three lengths in March 2017. A year later at the Golden, he set the track record for six furlongs at Meydan. He launched a furious rally to nail X Y Jet by a head.

“It was unreal,” Colombo said. “He’s a very special horse. Unique, I say.”

Although Mind Your Biscuits was unimpressive as a youngster, he developed into an imposing physical presence with a powerful will to win.

“He is fast, but it is the way he can do it,” Summers said. “He is a light switch. He is fast when he needs to be fast. He knows where the wire is.”

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