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What do the Japanese Understand that the Rest of us Don't?

Starting with the importation of Turk, Barb, and Arab, also known as Oriental stallions in the mid 17th century, we can begin to track the origins of the modern Thoroughbred racehorse.   English nobles wished to increase the endurance of their swift Hobby, known to be very fast upwards of 600 yards.  Cross breeding some 100 Oriental stallions to Hobby mares produced horses that could carry unusually high amounts of speed over long distances.  The desire for such a horse can be rooted to Charles II who created the King’s Plate, a 4-mile race restricted to 6 year old horses, in the year 1665.

This new cross of Oriental stallion and Hobby mare created the first known thoroughbreds.  The best performing of these offspring were then inbred to each other creating its own distinct breed, or as we know it, the Thoroughbred.  To track this new breed and the success of the bloodlines the General Stub Book (1791) was created.


Thoroughbred. Thorough bred.  Thoroughly bred.  The sheer name of the breed suggests nobility.  The sons and daughters were planned with the intent to carry on a lineage that will better the breed.  This morning, I landed from a business trip to find that I’ll Have Another, the winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, was sold to a Japanese stud.  Like some of his predecessors, Sunday Silence, Charismatic, and Empire Maker, the Japanese breeders had a larger desire to carry their bloodlines than those of the champions’ birthplace.


As disappointing as this is to a US racing fan, it is something that we have been doing with this breed for hundreds of years.  Now Japan is just trying to find new Stallions to mix with their mares, just like their English counterparts did nearly 400 years ago.  But in today’s racing age, does this put the Japanese ahead of, or behind the respective “breeding curve?”


Some people will say the USA lost a potential great stallion.  Some will say the Japanese took a huge financial risk on an unproven stallion.   I will say that the Japanese are just looking to create a “new breed.”  How often do international horse racing debates begin with “the US Thoroughbred” is not designed to compete in the types of races run in Europe?  Or we could equally argue the inverse in that “the European Thoroughbred” cannot compete well in US style races (I’m referring to dirt).  I look at both of these arguments and say they are both right, and both wrong.  Thinking on it, we have just created 2 different breeds of horse.  One is bred for breathtaking speed on dirt and to excel as a juvenile.  The other desires to have greater endurance, an explosive turn of foot, and a love for deep, heavy turf.


So where do the Japanese fit into this?  They import classy European mares, and swift US stallions.  The result, aside from a grumpy population of racing fans confused why owners are “selling out” their superstars for top dollar, are fantastic Japanese racehorses.  I believe the Japanese are either inadvertently or intentionally doing what the whole world should be doing.  They are looking ahead, trying to better the breed, and create a horse worthy of their ancestors that are, in fact, thoroughly bred.



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Older Comments about What do the Japanese Understand that the Rest of us Don't?...

I really enjoyed reading your opinion on the Japanese perspective on breeding. As a horse racing fan, I always prefer our Kentucky Derby winners to stand as stallions in Kentucky. However, the USA isn't the only country who has beautifully, well run horse farms.

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