ORFEVRE, as widely expected, has been crowned Japanese Horse of the Year, in addition to champion three-year-old colt.

In the Horse of the Year category the Sunday Racing-owned colt received all but one of the 285 votes cast by members of Japan’s horse racing press club. However, in the three-year-old colt division the decision was unanimous.

This time last year there was little indication that Orfevre would be Horse of the Year. As a two-year-old he won his first start, but could do no better than tenth in his first attempt in a blacktype race. Indeed, despite three starts, the handicapper didn’t include him among Japan’s top 50 two-year-olds.

Though he was placed in his first two starts in 2011, both graded races, it wasn’t until late March that he visited the winners’ enclosure after a three-parts of a length victory in the Group 2 Spring Stakes. It was enough to earn him a starting berth in the Group 1 Satsuki Sho (2000 Guineas) which he won impressively.

Orfevre followed up with an awesome win on a soft track in the Derby, and became only the seventh Triple Crown winner in Japanese racing history following an imperious performance as the odds-on favourite in the Group 1 Kikuka Sho (St Leger). On Christmas day he increased his winning streak to six, and confirmed his superstar status, by beating Japan’s best older horses in the Group 1 Arima Kinen.

Last year Orfevre earned a whopping €8,200,000 in prize money, the second-highest earnings in a single year in JRA history. The Shadai Group-bred son of Stay Gold has been awarded a 123lb rating by the Japanese handicapper, which is 6lb higher than the next highest-rated three-year-old.

Deep Impact, in his three-year-old year, received a rating of 124lb.

Orfevre will remain in training this year, and connections have been very clear that his main target will be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

He is trained in Ritto by Yasutoshi Ikee, who also trained his full-brother Dream Journey to win three times at Group 1 level. Kenichi Ikezoe has partnered the Horse of the Year in all his 11 races to date.

[Orfevre raced 10 more times over two seasons, and Christophe Soumillon was in the saddle on four occasions, twice finishing runner-up in the Arc, to Solemia and Treve. In both seasons he was rated the champion older horse in Japan, and was champion older horse in Europe in 2013.

He retired to stud at Shadai Stallion Station having won 12 of his 21 starts and been placed on seven occasions. He won more than €14 million in his racing career. At stud he has enjoyed Group/Grade 1 success with last November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Marche Lorraine, leading Japanese juvenile and dual Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Lucky Lilac, and the Japanese 2000 Guineas winner Epoca D’Oro]

Invincible from start to finish


THE freshman sires’ championship is often a closely-fought affair, but in 2006 the likely champion could be named by midsummer. Invincible Spirit (Green Desert) established an early lead and, once in front, was only on one occasion headed briefly.

He established a new international record for the number of first crop juvenile winners, his tally of 35 beating the prior record of 34, which had been set by End Sweep and matched by Fasliyev.

In doing so, Invincible Spirit notched up an impressive 51% winners to runners ratio.

Invincible Spirit’s first runners also yielded four stakes winners, with two of those, Captain Marvelous and Conquest, successful at Group 2 level. His progeny notched up a total of 60 wins in addition to 125 places.

Little wonder therefore that the Irish National Stud’s rising star has had his fee increased greatly for 2007 [from €10,000 to €35,000, and it more than doubled a year later to €75,000].

Kildangan Stud’s Noverre (Rahy) had been the main challenger to Invincible Spirit for most of the year, and it was he who briefly headed him at the top of the table.

His 27 winners (46%) included listed scorer Elhamri, and by the end of the year he finished in third position. This is a promising start and we can expect to see him figure prominently on the second crop sires’ table this year.

It was in the final few months that Rock Of Gibraltar’s (Danehill) results really began to take off, and he finished so strongly that he accumulated progeny earnings in excess of €570,000. Mount Nelson and Eagle Mountain gave him Group 1 and Group 2 successes respectively.

His 20 winners (32%) also included listed scorer Roxan, and several who were placed in listed or pattern company. This young Coolmore sire is standing the 2007 season in Japan, but is clearly one of the most promising stallions in this cohort. With his race record, initial stud record and pedigree, it will be a disappointment if he does not become a classic sire.

[Invincible Spirit is now the sire of 20 Group/Grade 1 winners, and many of his sons and daughters are responsible for top-level winners. He will stand the 2022 season at the Irish National Stud at a fee of €60,000.

Rock Of Gibraltar is available in 2022 at Coolmore for just €5,000, in spite of siring 16 Group/Grade 1 winners. His daughters are also responsible for top-level winners Poetic Flare, Kameko, Breeders’ Cup winners Belvoir Bay and Line Of Duty, as well as Mikki Isle and Photo Call.

Noverre stood five seasons at Kildangan and another five at Sohna Stud Farm in India, where he died at the age of only 14.

His Group 2 winning daughter Miss Lucifer bred the 2021 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and new Kildangan Stud sire Space Blues].

Dowling oversees Australian shipment


A REMARKABLE collection of livestock left Shannon Monday in a Boeing 747, bound for Australia. This is the first time that a Jumbo jet has been totally chartered for this purpose.

It started the journey at Gatwick, and under the watchful eye of BBA (Ireland) shipping manager Mike Dowling a further 18 horses went on board at Shannon.

This brought the total to 93 horses and they were accompanied by 33 dogs, 11 cats, 11 pigs and 701 ferrets. Included were two useful flat performers in Kiwi Slave and Triumphal March, and they will now be trained by Colin Hayes in Australia.

The flying ark safely reached its destination on Tuesday evening.

[The American-bred Kiwi Slave won four races before his export to Australia. There he won five races including a pair of listed races, and he was runner-up in the Group 1 W S Cox Plate at Moonee Valley and third in the Group 1 LKS Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington.

Also bred in the USA. Triumphal March was a five-time winner before he went to Australia. There he won eight races including the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup and the Group 3 Easter Cup at Caulfield. His placed efforts included finishing third in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes, also at Caulfield]

Case for women riders made again


THE case for women riders is being pleaded again, it having been brought forward in the correspondence columns of some sporting newspapers, and being commented upon accordingly by writers whose immediate concern is racing.

This time the suggestion is for a two-mile race on the flat in England at one of the meetings over which Messrs Pratt have control. Should the latter agree, and should, of course, the National Hunt stewards grant permission, a purse for the winner would be put up instanter, we are told.

So far the suggestion has been received coldly. There seems to be no particular wish on the part of the public to see an event of this kind being brought off, even if it be admitted that the novelty of a women’s race would be, or rather might be, an outstanding attraction in an average afternoon’s programme.

Most people feel, however, that the case for women Corinthian riders is essentially weak, no good proof to the contrary ever having been forthcoming. That being so, the National Hunt stewards have had no option other than to disregard it. In fact, a revolution of opinion would have to occur before the stewards could look favourably upon the request.