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Impact a positive for Vegas Showgirl

6 min read
Expectations are high after news that Winx's dam Vegas Showgirl has had a 15-day positive to Japanese super stallion Deep Impact.

Neither the difficulties of sending mares overseas nor the recent Hokkaido earthquake could prevent Winx's dam Vegas Showgirl (Al Akbar) from her match with Japanese super stallion Deep Impact, with the 15-day test confirming Australia's best known broodmare is in foal.

Vegas Showgirl travelled to Japan in August with two other of John Camilleri's Fairway Thoroughbred broodmares, A Time of Julia (Redoute's Choice) and Peron (Husson {Arg}), to Harry Sweeney's Paca Paca Farm, with the purpose of visiting Deep Impact at nearby Shadai Stallion Station.

Segenhoe Stud's Peter O'Brien, who works closely with Camilleri on the breeding plans for his mares, said sourcing a local base was as important as timing and logistics when it came to the decision to send Vegas Showgirl and the two other mares to Japan.

"We wanted to be certain that the mares went to a farm that we know and a person that we know and Harry does an exemplary job. He's very hands on and that was the sealer for us," O'Brien told TDN AusNZ.

"It was also important to have that direct flight from Hokkaido to Australia. I don’t think we would have sent mares up if we would have had to go through Tokyo."

Sweeney, who is President of Darley Japan as well as owning Paca Paca, had a slightly more humorous take on the arrangement.

"This was probably the last chance for (Vegas Showgirl) to go to Deep Impact, given her age," Peter O'Brien.

"I believe that when they were sending the horse to Japan, they used kind of an equine tinder app, and looked for English speaking farms where they could board in Japan and there weren't many matches," he joked. "I think Peter was also impressed that I spoke Gaeilge as well as English."

"The fact that we have a nice farm probably helped to influence the decision as well."

Vegas Showgirl

Last chance for Impact

Had Vegas Showgirl not missed to Exceed and Excel last year, O'Brien says, then the whole Deep Impact mating would not have happened at all.

"She was barren, and she obviously deserves the best we can find for her. John Camilleri always thinks globally, Deep Impact is getting older and this was probably the last chance for her to go to him, given her age," he said.

The plan was hatched to send three mares to Japan, with the idea being they would arrive in August, get in foal, and be back at Segenhoe by November.

Deep Impact

"If you are going to take that risk, you better hedge and send three. It's not a cheap exercise. A Time for Julia and Peron are two stunning mares and Harry had given us good advice on what physically in a mare suits Deep Impact and it seems to be big scopey mares. So they all tick the boxes," O'Brien said.

Quake shook up plans

The coverings for Vegas Showgirl and A Time for Julia went to plan, but a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the Hokkaido region in early September caused a few issues for Peron.

"One of the three mares was scheduled to be covered on the day of the earthquake," Paca Paca's Harry Sweeney.

"Peron was due to be covered the day of the earthquake. You can add that as a new excuse as to why a mare hasn’t been covered," O'Brien said.

Sweeney said Paca Paca escaped relatively unscathed from the earthquake, which left 41 people dead and caused major disruption.

Mares and foals at Paca Paca farm in Hokkaido

"One of the three mares was scheduled to be covered on the day of the earthquake, but unfortunately facilities were down, roads were closed and electricity was out and we had to cancel that," he said.

"When the earthquake struck at 10 past 3 in the morning, I was impressed to see a number of our staff cars pulling up outside our stables at 3:20 to check if those mares were alright. I was a little discouraged that nobody checked I was alright, though."

Peron was subsequently covered and hopes are high for a positive test for her in the next couple of weeks.

The local Impact

O'Brien said a recently-arrived Deep Impact filly from the mare they sent to Japan last year, Unassailed (Fastnet Rock), had heightened expectations for three possible arrivals next spring.

"When you look at Deep Impact's limited exposure here. His horses have performed brilliantly. Obviously Arrowfield Stud have been sending horses to him over the last few years," he said,

The fact that the only two Deep Impact yearlings offered at the Sydney Easter Sales this year sold for over $1 million only added to that sense, said O'Brien

"From John's perspective, we are praying for fillies. I'm guessing if we get any Deep Impact fillies, they will be retained, and the colts will go to sale," he said.

The Deep Impact x Alverta filly sold for $1.1 million at the 2018 Inglis Easter sale

On Tour

Next on the agenda for O'Brien is a trip to Paca Paca Farm to see the mares later this month in a trip which will also take in several farms and studs in Hokkaido as well as the Bledisloe Cup match in Tokyo.

It will be the first trip to the region for Segenhoe's Kevin, Lesley and Suzanne Moloney and O'Brien, who has visited several times over the years, says they are in for something special.

"Japan is mind blowing, the attention to detail, the professionalism, they are just always ahead of the pack when it comes to innovation," he said.

Paca Paca Farm

"We are praying for fillies. I'm guessing if we get any Deep Impact fillies, they will be retained, and the colts will go to sale," Peter O'Brien.

"You can pick up so much, because they are so far ahead of the game. Every visit is beneficial."

No-one is better placed to talk about the evolving nature of the Japanese industry than Sweeney, who divides his time between Paca Paca and his native Ireland,

"I've been in Japan for almost 30 years now, and I'm a great believer and admirer of Japanese pedigrees," he said.

"Japan does a number of things in the racing sphere very, very well and one of them is true testing of sires and true progeny testing of sires."

Sweeney says the longevity of elite racehorses is an important facet in assessing their suitability as a stallion.

"This idea of a horse winning a Group 1 at two and then going to stud, that just couldn’t happen in Japan. Breeders would not support it, even a horse going to stud at the end of its 3-year old career is somewhat frowned upon," he said.

"People like to see horses duly exposed on different grounds in different circumstances. And of course in Japan, we always have large fields anyway because we have effectively no entry fees, so in all the Group races there are 16 and 18 runners."

"It's a true competition, so horses who prevail in the end, we absolutely know that they are elite performers."

"It's led to a fantastic improvement to the Japanese bloodlines over the years."