Bloodlines: How California Chrome's Successful U.S. Runners Project For His Stud Career In Japan - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Bloodlines: How California Chrome’s Successful U.S. Runners Project For His Stud Career In Japan

California Chrome at Taylor Made Farm

In mid-November two years ago, the JS Company of Japan bought one of the most popular American racehorses of the past 20 years, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit), and exported him to stand at Arrow Stud on the northern island of Hokkaido.

At the time of purchase, Keisuke Onishi of the JS Company noted that several of the young stallion's first-crop yearlings had sold well to buyers from Japan (four of the six highest-priced lots, in fact). Other factors that made the chestnut champion a horse of interest for Japanese breeders include the fact that California Chrome was a sound horse who raced effectively from age two through six (although the horse made only a single start in 2017 in the inaugural Pegasus), winning seven G1 races and $14.8 million.

In addition to soundness and high racing class, California Chrome is an outcross to the prevailing lines in Japan, especially that of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence (Halo) and his sons Deep Impact, Heart's Cry, and Stay Gold. California Chrome does have both Mr. Prospector 3×4 and Northern Dancer 4×5, but those will be a generation further back in the younger stallion's foals.

So, as an attractive stallion for Japan, California Chrome presented racing class of a high order, physical quality and soundness over a lengthy career, and a pedigree open to easy matching with the prevailing lines in the Japanese broodmare population. Furthermore, nothing was known about the racing potential of his progeny, except what they looked like.

When the JS Company bought California Chrome, the horse had completed his third season at stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, and his first-crop were only yearlings. The chestnut champion arrived in Japan on Jan. 7, 2020, spent his time in quarantine, and then came to Arrow Stud on Jan. 29 last year. On the basis of race record and physique, California Chrome was greeted with enthusiasm from breeders in Japan, who sent him a large book of quality mares.

Now, the horse's first crop in the States is three, and according to Jockey Club statistics, there are 104 foals from the first crop by California Chrome, 93 current 2-year-olds of 2021, and 96 yearlings from the sire's last Kentucky crop.

From the first crop, California Chrome has four stakes horses, led by Cilla, who became her sire's first stakes winner with a victory in the Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 10, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.07, and another filly by the sire, Decade, was third in the race.

Cilla followed up that show of speed with victory in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 4, becoming the first graded winner for California Chrome.

Scarcely more than a month later, California Angel, a 2-year-old from the stallion's second crop, became his second graded stakes winner on Oct. 13 with a win in the G2 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland.

The latest graded stakes winner contributes two points of interest that offer hope for breeders in Japan that the stallion may be better suited to their condition than to those here in American. First, California Angel won her race on turf, which is the primary racing surface in Japan and the surface over which nearly all the important races are conducted, and also, she won her third outing going a mile and a sixteenth.

California Chrome himself won the G1 Hollywood Derby on turf, as well as racing effectively on all weather surfaces when called to do so. That he has sired a good winner on turf is a point in the right direction for breeders and owners in Japan.

In addition, California Chrome physically is a type that should fit well with the training and racing environment in Japan, with an emphasis on high fitness and racing a distance. The trainers there are historically known for their enthusiastic training methods, believing that their stock should be hard and fit for any amount of racing activity.

And Onishi commented that California Chrome was an average horse in build, not especially large or heavy, but tough in training and determined in his racing. Those are insightful comments because the American commercial market wants young horses that are big, strongly muscled, and rather hefty. These horses appear likely to have speed and early maturity, which are important in any sort of racing, but they are not the principal characteristics sought in Japan.

There, many of the good races are at 10, 12, or 14 furlongs (or their equivalents in meters), and as a result, horses with better balance and efficiency of motion are at a greater advantage there than in most of American racing. These differences will not guarantee that California Chrome will become a great sire in Japan, but his stock should get a fair trial over distances and conditions that should suit their physical aptitudes.

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