Repole’s In Harmony With Yoshida’s ‘No Borders’ View

American billionaire Mike Repole bought five yearlings for export at the Select Sale at Northern Horse Park on Monday, but in future he’d love to have horses race for him in Japan.

Repole’s In Harmony With Yoshida’s ‘No Borders’ View

American billionaire Mike Repole bought five yearlings for export at the Select Sale at Northern Horse Park on Monday, but in future he’d love to have horses race for him in Japan.

MIKE REPOLE wants to race horses in Japan and is hoping to expand the international scope of his Repole Stable operation with a full-time presence there as a Japan Racing Association (JRA) licensed owner, but he knows that depends on a few things yet. 

“I am hoping to get a licence to race as an owner in Japan, although that is not my decision, that is their decision (to make),” the American billionaire told Idol Horse by phone from the US, just as his agent Alex Solis and the executive director of his National Thoroughbred Alliance, Pat Cummings, were dotting i’s and crossing t’s after a day of Repole purchases at the Select Yearling Sale in Hokkaido.

“I would like to see the blue and orange silks in Japan and race some horses there,” he added half-jokingly, knowing all too well that orange is not one of the JRA’s 13 allowable colours for racing silks. 

“I would like to run a couple of horses in Japan; I would like to send some US bred horses to Japan and some Japanese bred horses here to the US.”

Mike Repole racing colours
IRAD ORTIZ JR, VINO ROSSO / Breeders’ Cup Classic // Santa Anita Park /// 2019 //// Photo by Sean M. Haffey

Repole dipped his toe into the Japanese auction pool with a first sale-ground purchase at the Chiba Thoroughbred Sale in May of this year, a daughter of his own high-class racer Unlimited Budget, which he had sold to Japanese interests a decade ago at Fasig-Tipton. 

But at Hokkaido just two months later he was taking a plunge into the deeper waters of the ‘Select Sale’ and bought five horses for about ¥280 million combined, including a colt from the first crop of Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail.

“I think they (Japanese breeders) have done a better job with the breed in the last twenty years than we have in the States,” Repole said.

“Years of them breeding for racing versus breeding to sell has really paid dividends, both with turf and dirt horses. They have more durability, they are getting speed and getting distance.”

His team’s determination to get their horses in Hokkaido did not go unnoticed by the main man at Northern Horse Park, Katsumi Yoshida, the Northern Farm supremo, who along with his late father and his brothers has shaped the industry in Japan over the last six decades. 

Katsumi Yoshida
KATSUMI YOSHIDA / Select Sale // 2024 /// Photo by Idol Horse

Yoshida gave voice to his opinion that racing nowadays is increasingly international in its trajectory.

“In the future there will be no borders in racing,” Yoshida said. “You can buy horses everywhere; we all know the pedigrees very well and horses are racing each other around the world.” 

Repole has made no secret of his admiration for the sport and industry in Japan and he is impressed particularly with the Yoshida family’s breeding and racing arms, and how they have shaped today’s Thoroughbred. 

“I would like to open up some relationships and business with some of the top people in Japan and my people have been speaking to Northern Farm and Mr Yoshida, and we are very, very impressed with how they conduct themselves,” he said.

Repole, 55, made his fortune as the co-founder of Glaceau, famous for producing Smartwater and Vitaminwater, which he sold to Coca Cola for US$4.1 billion; he also co-founded and sold Bodyarmor Superdrink, which was sold to Coca Cola for US$5.6 billion. 

His first high-profile racehorse was the US champion juvenile Uncle Mo, while Mo Denegal won the 2022 G1 Belmont Stakes and Vino Rosso bagged the Breeders’ Cup Classic for Repole Stable in 2019. 

It was Repole’s sale of Unlimited Budget for US$1.3 million that sparked his interest in Japanese breeding and racing and he has purchased privately a couple of Deep Impact mares for his broodmare band. 

Unlimited Budget
UNLIMITED BUDGET / Belmont Park // 2013 /// Photo by Al Bello

“The last five or six years I have been watching their bloodlines and jokingly I have said that the US breed is fine and well, but it’s in Japan,” he said.

There was plenty of evidence of that in the five horses Solis secured on Repole’s say so. Taking the Contrail colt as a prime example, Solis said, “His third dam Lady’s Secret (by Secretariat) was a champion mare, a Breeders’ Cup winner for D. Wayne Lukas.

“Mike was very excited about the idea of getting a Contrail, and this horse is great physically, and with enough speed to go to the US. He’s just a beautiful physical specimen but I would expect him to be competing on the grass.”

Then there was the filly by the Tokyo Yushun winner Kizuna out of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff heroine Ginger Punch; the Drefong half-sister to Japan’s Dubai World Cup champion Ushba Tesoro; another Drefong filly whose mother raced in the US for Chad Brown; and a filly by the imported Arkansas Derby winner Nadal out of a Japanese-bred and raced daughter of the US G1 winner Lilacs And Lace, knocked down for ¥78 million (US$484,473).

“I keep watching the horses come to the States like Forever Young, and the horses that ran second and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Repole continued. 

“I am enamoured in what they are doing and I kind of feel like it is going 360 (degrees) now; they came here years ago and saw what we were doing; it started with Sunday Silence, then after that coming here and buying some of the best-performed mares. Their bloodlines are recogniseable to us. It’s just very impressive. 

“The sires in the States match up well with Japanese mares, and I have some mares that match up well with Japanese sires.” 

Contrail Tokyo Yushun
CONTRAIL / G1 Tokyo Yushun // Tokyo Racecourse /// 2020 //// Photo by Kyodo News

Repole’s purchases came at a good time for US buyers with the Yen recently falling to its lowest value since 1986, while the US dollar has strengthened.

“I can honestly tell you I didn’t pay attention to that,” he said.

What he is paying close attention to is the strength of Japan’s horses and the success they are having globally as well as domestically and he is eager to get in on the game. 

David Morgan is Chief Journalist at Idol Horse. As a sports mad young lad in County Durham, England, horse racing hooked him at age 10. He has a keen knowledge of Hong Kong and Japanese racing after nine years as senior racing writer and racing editor at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. David has also worked in Dubai and spent several years at the Racenews agency in London. His credits include among others Racing Post, ANZ Bloodstock News, International Thoroughbred, TDN, and Asian Racing Report.

View all articles by David Morgan.

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