published: 01 Apr 2017 in Stallion profiles

THE Roberto sire line has had great success in Australia through sire sons like At Talaq (USA) and Red Ransom (USA) and most recently when the latter’s grandson Hey Doc scored a brilliant win in the Australian Guineas-Gr.1 in early March, so it’s good news indeed to find Arrowfield shuttling Japanese champion Maurice (JPN), a member of this male line, in 2017. The six-time Gr.1 winner will stand at $33,000.

JAPAN’S 2015 Horse of the Year Maurice (Screen Hero-Mejiro Frances by Carnegie (IRE)) owns a pedigree featuring the two sire lines that have dominated the country’s breeding industry since 
1982. These of course are Northern Dancer and Hail to Reason and they have been in a league of their own, apart from four years, in the past 35 years.

  Maurice’s sire, the Japan Cup-Gr.1 winner Screen Hero who was bred by the Yoshida family’s Shadai Farm, represents the Hail to Reason line via that horse’s classic-winning son Roberto, while Screen Hero’s dam Running Heroine is a daughter of Kentucky Derby-Gr.1 winner Sunday Silence, Japan’s Champion sire for 13 years from 1995 and a son of Halo (Hail to Reason). Her dam, the top class race mare Dyna Actress, is a daughter of Northern Taste (Northern Dancer), the baldy-faced chestnut who was Champion Sire for 10 of the 11 years from 1982, split only by Partholon (by My Babu’s son Milesian) in 1984. Sunday Silence and Northern Taste also stood at Shadai Farm, now home for current Japanese sire great Deep Impact (Sunday Silence).

  Real Shadai (Roberto) and Tony Bin (Kampala), leader in 1993 and 1994, split the Northern Taste and Sunday Silence (and sons) eras. Real Shadai, a French Derby runner-up, and dual US Gr.1 winner and Preakness Stakes runner-up Brian’s Time (Roberto), were unlucky to run into Northern Taste and Sunday Silence, but they were very good sires just the same and helped cement the enthusiasm the country’s breeders had for the Roberto branch of the Hail to Reason line.

  This prompted a Japanese buyer to seek out a son of successful sire Silver Hawk (Roberto) at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale of 1996, the same ring where legendary breeder Zenya Yoshida had purchased Real Shadai, who he raced to Gr.2 success in France, a few years earlier. Silver Hawk (ex Gris Vitesse by Amerigo) was a Gr.3 winner in England and runner-up in the Irish Derby-Gr.1. He was also third in the English Derby-Gr.1, a race won by his sire in 1972, and he would go on to sire Benny The Dip, also an English Derby winner, and French Oaks winner Lady in Silver among 79 stakes winners.

  Grass Wonder (ex Ameriflora by Danzig) cost $250,000 and proved to be worth every cent when he went racing in Japan. Despite being ineligible for many events because he was foreign-bred, he won nine of 15 starts (four Gr.1) and almost $US6m and was crowned Champion Two Year-Old Colt of 1997.

  He could very well prove to be one of the key names in the pedigree of Maurice as his dam, Ameriflora, is bred on exactly the same Danzig-His Majesty cross as our dominant sire influence Danehill (USA) and mares from his line should suit Maurice. Grass Wonder’s next dam is by Raise a Native, making Ameriflora 4fx4m to Native Dancer (also 5fx5m to Hyperion, a half-brother to Native Dancer’s great grandsire Sickle), while Grass Wonder’s fourth dam is influential broodmare Soaring (Swaps-Skylarking by Mirza), whose dam sire Mirza (Blenheim-Mumtaz Mahal by The Tetrarch) is a brother to Mumtaz Begum (dam of Nasrullah and second dam of Royal Charger, grandsire of Hail to Reason). Mirza is also a three-quarter brother to Mahmoud, dam sire of Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer and third dam of Danehill) and her half-sister Cosmah (dam of Halo).

  Nasrullah and Royal Charger come together in the pedigree of Roberto (3x3), as he’s a son of Hail to Reason and from CCA Oaks winner Bramalea by Nashua (Nasrullah). Those who look at the pedigree of Lonhro, whose sire Octagonal, a male line descendant of Royal Charger, traces to Mumtaz Begum, and whose dam Shadea is by Straight Strike, a son of Mr Prospector (Raise a Native-Gold Digger by Nashua) and the Never Bend (Nasrullah) mare Bend Not, will see lots of line-breeding possibilities by putting his daughters to Maurice.

  After being an unbeaten Gr.1 winner and Champion Colt in four starts at two, Grass Wonder won the 2500m Arima Kinen-Gr.1 at three and at four he was beaten a nose by Air Jihad in the Yasuda Kinen-Gr.1 before collecting the Takarazuka Kinen-Gr.1 (2500m) from Special Week and with seven lengths to third placed Stay Gold. He also won a second Arima Kinen-Gr.1, beating Special Week and T M Opera O. He retired to the Yoshida family’s Shadai Stallion Station in 2001. 

  His best runner is the Japan Cup-Gr.1 winner and Japan’s Champion Older Male of 2005, Screen Hero, sire already of 90 winners, with Maurice from his first crop. Carrying a 4mx4m cross to Hail to Reason (Roberto, Halo) and a 4mx4m cross to Northern Dancer (Danzig, Northern Taste), Screen Hero is yet another descendant of wonderful broodmare La Troienne. Perhaps the best current example of her family in Australia is Vinery’s star shuttler More Than Ready (USA), whose dam sire Woodman (USA) (Mr. Prospector-Playmate by Buckpasser) also traces to, and is inbred to, her as Buckpasser, sire of Danehill’s second dam, also traces to La Troienne. More Than Ready’s sire is a son of Halo and from a mare by Northern Dancer and I don’t think you have to be Einstein to work out his daughters will 
suit Maurice.

  Maurice was purchased as a two year-old for ¥10.5m by Kazumi Yoshida, whose husband, international owner and breeder Katsumi Yoshida, is a member of a family that has shaped Japanese breeding for decades. Trained at two and three by Naohiro Yoshida, he was subsequently transferred to Noriyuki Hora. Maurice won 11 of his 18 starts and $12.3m including two of three starts at two at 1400m and was third and fourth (Gr.2) in two of just four starts at three. He was unbeaten in six starts at four, winning a Gr.3 (1600m) at his third start at that age before three Gr.1 wins in the Tokyo Yasuda Kinen (1600m, 1:32.00), Kyoto Mile Championship (1:32.80) and the HKJC Hong Kong Mile, by two lengths from Great Treasure and Able Friend, all on tracks rated good or firm.

  He started 2016 with another superb win in Hong Kong, collecting the Hong Kong Champions Mile-Gr.1 by two lengths from Contentment on May 1 for jockey Joao Moreira and was then second (1.25 lengths) in the Tokyo Yasuda Kinen-Gr.1 behind Logotype when ridden by Tommy, after fighting for his head when he couldn’t get cover. He was then given 10 weeks off before running second in the Sapporo Kinen-Gr.2 (2000m) to stable mate Neorealism, before ending his career with two superb wins, firstly beating Real Steel in the Tokyo Tenno Sho (Autumn)-Gr.1 (2000m) for jockey Ryan Moore and then a three length demolition of a high class field in the HKJC Hong Kong Cup-Gr.1 (2000m) from Secret Weapon and Staphanos. Trainer Noriyuki Hori again employed the services of Moore, who also won the Kyoto Mile Championship-Gr.1 and the Hong Kong Mile-Gr.1 aboard the horse the previous year.

  After the Tenno Sho win Moore described Maurice as “a very good horse” and went on to add, “He’s strong at a mile and very hard to beat. Today I thought 2000m was probably his best performance 
as he’s strong and got a good turn of foot. He was dominant today and couldn’t have been more impressive.”

  He started favourite in that high-class field at Sha Tin on December 11, 2016 at what would be his final start and went out in a blaze of glory in defeating Secret Weapon by three lengths, running 2:00.95. “When we found room to run, he just let down and he’s improved every time I rode him,” Ryan said after the final HK triumph. “He’s a big, strong horse and he has got better with racing.”

  He was Japan’s Horse of the Year in 2015 (and runner-up in 2016) and also rated Japan’s Best Sprinter or Miler that year (runner-up in that category in 2016) and was given a special JRA Award in 2016, a year when his World’s Best Racehorse Ranking was 127, making him the top rated horse in Japan and fifth best in the world (third on turf).

  Mejiro Frances, the dam of Maurice and four other winners, is by multiple Gr.1 winner and Arc de Triomphe-Gr.1 winner and former shuttler Carnegie (IRE) (Sadler’s Wells-Detroit by Riverman), whose dam, a Horse of the Year and Champion Three Year-Old in France, also won the Arc. His sire, Irish 2000 Guineas-Gr.1-Eclipse Stakes-Gr.1 winner Sadler’s Wells, the dominant sire in Europe in the 
latter part of the 20th century, winning the Great Britain-Ireland sires’ championship 14 times (1990, 1992-2004), a post now held by his son Galileo, is a son of Northern Dancer and his dam Fairy Bridge is by Bold Reason (Hail to Reason) and from Special (Forli), whose dam is by Nantallah (Nasrullah). Carnegie’s dam is by Never Bend (Nasrullah) and he is inbred 4mx4m to Lalun 
(Bold Reason, Never Bend).

  Detroit’s dam Derna (Sunny Boy) is also third dam of champion sire Zabeel and this could be a wonderful cross with Maurice as Carnegie’s sire, the multiple champion European sire Sadler’s Wells, is a three-quarter brother to Zabeel’s dam sire Nureyev. Carnegie’s southern-bred runners include Gr.1 winners Amalfi, Carnegie Express, Perlin, Tuesday Joy and Vision and Power.

  Maurice’s second dam, Mejiro Monterey, a winner of seven races (1200m-2500m) up to Gr.2 level in Japan and dam of four winners, is by the Lyphard (Northern Dancer) son Mogami, a stakes winner 
in France and yet another from the family of La Troienne. She is from the unraced Mejiro Quincey, by another French stakes winner in Fidion (Djakao) and from multiple stakes winner and stakes producer Mejiro Bosatsu, by the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes winner and English Derby runner-up Montaval (Norseman), whose sire is a half-sister to the dam of Australian sire great Wilkes (FR).

  “Nobody could fail to be impressed by Maurice’s extraordinary performances at the highest level,” Arrowfield chairman John Messara said. “We are privileged to have the opportunity to stand the Yoshidas’ charismatic superstar, whose physique, 1600m dominance and Danehill-free status make him a wonderful addition to our roster”. n