Pedigree Insights: Maurice (Jpn)

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Maurice | Horsephotos

By Andrew Caulfield

Only last week, in my column on the Japanese 2-year-old Air Spinel (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) , I mentioned that Northern Taste, a speedy son of Northern Dancer, was Japan’s champion sire 10 times in 11 years, prior to the reign of Hail To Reason’s brilliant grandson Sunday Silence. The latter, a winner of the GI Kentucky Derby, GI Preakness S. and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, put himself into the Sadler’s Wells league by notching up 13 consecutive championships.

It was only natural that daughters of Northern Taste would be

sent to Sunday Silence and among the resultant 194 foals were some of Sunday Silence’s fastest representatives, such as the two-time Mile Championship winner Daiwa Major, the leading sprinter-miler Durandal and the six-furlong Group 1 winner Admire Max.

One of this nick’s less successful representatives was the twice-raced filly Running Heroine. In 2003 she visited Grass Wonder, an American-bred who had shown admirable versatility during his racing career in Japan, where his victories as a 4-year-old included the G2 Keio Hai Spring Cup over seven furlongs and Group 1 races over 1 3/8 miles and 1 9/16 miles. It is easy to see why Running Heroine’s owners were tempted to send her to Grass Wonder. With Roberto and Danzig as his grandsires, Grass Wonder created a pedigree featuring 4x 4 inbreeding to two phenomenally influential stallions–Hail To Reason and Northern Dancer.

There was every reason to expect that the resultant foal would be tough. After all, Hail To Reason had packed 18 starts into a 1960 campaign which earned him the title of champion 2-year-old, while Northern Dancer had been durable enough to race 18 times in the space of 11 months.

Sure enough, Running Heroine’s Grass Wonder colt–named Screen Hero–was able to face the starter 23 times during his four years in training. Although the emphasis in Japan is largely on turf racing, six of Screen Hero’s first seven starts were on dirt–with his connections possibly recalling that Hail To Reason and Northern Dancer were predominantly dirt performers. Screen Hero won two of these six dirt races, but eventually became a full-time turf performer.

I would be lying if I said that the transition to turf brought an instant transformation in his fortunes. It wasn’t until he was four, after an 11-month absence, that he finally registered his first turf success, at his seventh attempt.

He quickly confirmed he was on the upgrade, notably winning a JPN-G2 handicap, the Copa Republica Argentina, to earn a place in the line-up for the 2008 Japan Cup three weeks later. The betting public weren’t convinced he was up to the task, sending him off at 40-1 in the Japan Cup. The betting was dominated by the last two winners of the Japanese Derby–the colt Deep Sky and the outstanding filly Vodka–but neither could match Screen Hero in the closing stages.

Unfortunately, that proved to be Screen Hero’s final success and he reached the first three in only one of his six subsequent starts, when second in the 2009 Tenno Sho (Autumn). His final figures stood at just five wins from 23 starts and his disappointing final season can’t have helped when he retired to Lex Stud in 2010.

Although the likes of Deep Impact and King Kamehameha regularly sire crops numbering more than 150 foals, the Japan Bloodstock Information System records that Screen Hero had 54 registered foals in 2011, 43 in 2012 and only 34 in 2013. In other words, he has only 131 foals of racing age.

His yearling crop is also on the small side, at 46 registered foals, but you can be pretty sure that he is going to be much more popular now that his progeny have had a chance to prove themselves. He has four graded stakes winners to his credit this year, thanks to Musee Alien (G3), Guanciale (G3), Gold Actor (who recently followed in his sire’s footsteps by winning the G2 Copa Republica Argentina) and Maurice.

Maurice has been something of a revelation this year. Although he won twice over seven furlongs from three juvenile starts in 2013, he didn’t take the progression into graded company in his stride during the first part of 2014. However, he didn’t race after May 31 last year and he has clearly benefited from the break. Returned to action in January, he has won all five of his starts this year and became only the sixth horse to win both the G1 Yasuda Kinen and G1 Mile Championship in the same year, another being the previously-mentioned Daiwa Major.

It will be fascinating to see how Maurice fares if he travels to Hong Kong in three weeks’ time for either the Hong Kong Mile or the Hong Kong Cup over a mile and a quarter. As he has done nearly all his racing at up to a mile and an eighth, the Mile looks the more natural option–especially in view of the acceleration he was able to produce in the final quarter of the Mile Championship.

The Hong Kong bettors have learned to treat Japanese raiders with respect, as there have been Japanese winners of all four of the major events at Sha Tin in December, including Hat Trick and Eishin Preston in the Mile, Lord Kanaloa in two editions of the Sprint, Stay Gold in the Vase and Agnes Digital in the Cup.

Despite his record, there is no reason on pedigree why Maurice shouldn’t stay at least a mile and a quarter. In addition to being by a winner of the Japan Cup, he is out of a mare by the 1994 Arc winner Carnegie. His second dam Mejiro Monterey was another smart performer at up to a mile and a half, notably winning the G2 Copa Republica Argentina, so Maurice is bred well enough to eventually become yet another stallion for the Yoshida family.

Sunday, Kyoto, Japan

MILE CHAMPIONSHIP S.-G1, ¥195,460,000, Kyoto, 11-22, 3yo/up, 1600mT, 1:32.80, fm.

1–MAURICE (JPN), 126, c, 4, by Screen Hero (Jpn)

1st Dam: Mejiro Frances (Jpn), by Carnegie (Ire)

2nd Dam: Mejiro Monterey (Jpn), by Mogami (Fr)

3rd Dam: Mejiro Quincey (Jpn), by Fidion (Fr)

O-Kazumi Yoshida; B-Togawa Farm; T-Noriyuki Hori; J-Ryan

Moore; ¥103,822,000. Lifetime Record: 12-7-0-1,

¥313,008,000. Werk Nick Rating: D+. Click for the

eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the Racing Post result or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. JRA VIDEO.

 

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