Maurice keeps Screen Hero’s name in lights

Maurice: six-time Group 1-winning son of Screen Star

PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club Maurice stars again on big stage for Screen Hero
By Nancy Sexton 4:43PM 15 DEC 2016

WHEN Japanese raiders strike on the international stage, Sunday Silence invariably features as part of the package. His dominance on the sport in Japan is well documented and grows year on year; of the 123 Graded races run this year in Japan, 74 have fallen to members of the Sunday Silence sire line.

Naturally, that dominance continues to play out internationally. Take this season as an example; three Japanese-bred horses struck in Pattern events across Europe and all were by Sunday Silence's best son Deep Impact (A Shin Hikari, Makahiki and Akihiro).

It was a different story at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on early December, however. Like last year when A Shin Hikari and Maurice scored in the Hong Kong Cup and Mile, Japanese supporters had plenty to cheer.Yet on this occasion neither paid homage to the Sunday Silence sire line.

Satono Crown, who ran down Highland Reel to take the Vase, was bred in Japan by Northern Racing but has a background that is predominantly European. He is one of 11 foals from the final crop of Derrinstown Stud stalwart Marju and is a brother to Cheveley Park Stakes winner Lightening Pearl. Their dam, Jioconda, won the 2005 Silken Glider Stakes for Lady O'Reilly and is a daughter of former Ballyhane Stud stallion Rossini.

On the other hand, Maurice, who followed up last year's successful raid by running out the easy winner of the Cup under Ryan Moore, has a background weighted more towards Japanese influences. By Japan Cup hero Screen Hero, he was bred by Togawa Bokujo out of the Carnegie mare Mejiro Frances and hails from a female family that has been in Japan for the past 80 years. And while Screen Hero is a grandson of Silver Hawk, an important stallion of his era in Kentucky, it is a branch of that sire line that has also been cultivated in Japan.

Mighty Maurice

Maurice is from the first crop of Screen Hero, a group that also includes Grade 1 winner Gold Actor, successful in last year's Arima Kinen, a highly prestigious event staged during the Christmas period at Nakayama. Screen Hero's first crop numbers a relatively limited 58 so the presence of two top-class representatives indicates he needs to be taken seriously.

Screen Hero was a slow burner himself who broke his maiden on dirt in January of his three-year-old career. He looked quietly progressive in nine subsequent starts that year but then a fracture halted his campaign and kept him off the track for 11 months.

The Screen Hero who came back at four for trainer Yuichi Shikato was a stronger and improved animal. He returned a winner in the Shikotsuko Tokubetsu on the turf at Sapporo and three starts later landed the Grade 2 Copa Republica Argentina handicap at Tokyo, a performance that set him up for the Japan Cup back over 1m4f at the same track.

Punters didn't give him much of a chance, allowing him to go off at 40-1 against such heavyweights as Deep Sky and Vodka. A lack of early pace didn't help the cause of various rivals and Screen Hero was kept relatively prominent by his new pilot Mirco Demuro. Once wound up down the outside by Demuro, he showed an admirable attitude to repel a closing Deep Sky by half a length.

There was a suspicion at the time that in light of the early pace the Japan Cup of 2008 wasn't a race to be taken at face value. Indeed, Screen Hero didn't win again in six further starts. But he ran several creditable races, notably when second in the 2009 Tenno Sho at Tokyo.

Screen Hero was raced by his breeder, Teruya Yoshida of Shadai Farm, a colossus of Japanese breeding. However, he has spent his stud career at Lex Farm, which is also home to Matsurida Gogh, fourth behind Screen Hero in that Japan Cup.

Longevity is a welcome attribute readily associated with the Japanese thoroughbred and, although his career wasn't injury free, Screen Hero is a fine example of that as the winner of five of 23 starts.

However, his opportunities at stud have not been gifted to him in the same way as other recent Japanese Grade 1 retirees such as Kizuna and Just A Way.

His sire, Grass Wonder, is an American-bred son of Silver Hawk who was Japan's champion two-year-old colt of 1997 and a two-time winner of the Arima Kinen. Incidentally, he had been bred at Darby Dan Farm, also the birthplace of Sunshine Forever and Brian's Time, sons of Roberto who later found favour at stud in Japan (Brian's Time was particularly successful). As a champion grandson of Roberto, Grass Wonder also promised to fit in well when he retired to stud and duly attracted large books of mares in his early years at Shadai.

However, while he has enjoyed his moments in the sun, only once has he cracked a spot in the top 15 sires in Japan; that was in 2008, the year of Screen Hero's Japan Cup victory.

Hero upholds sire's name

Screen Hero, a stocky chestnut not too dissimilar to his sire, is his best son on the track and the main chance for the Grass Wonder branch of the Silver Hawk sire line to take root anywhere in the world.

Maurice and Gold Actor head that good 58-strong first crop while a second crop of 44 contains Grade 3 winners Musee Alien, Guanciale and Cry Smile. A group of 30 two-year-olds includes recent Grade 3 Sapporo Nisai Stakes winner Trust.

Screen Hero covered 190 mares in 2015 so an increase in prominence has to be on the cards.

Maurice is one of five Group/Grade 1 winners worldwide out of a mare by Sheikh Mohammed's 1994 Arc hero Carnegie. The regally bred son of Sadler's Wells, who was bred by Robert Sangster out of his Arc winner Detroit, initially stood in Japan and later shuttled to Australia, where he left behind leading racemare Tuesday Joy alongside Group 1 winners Perlin and Vision And Power.

He failed to establish a lasting legacy but against that it's a shame only a handful of his progeny made it to Europe, where conditions may have suited better. As it was, a daughter, Quinzey – one of only eight fillies by him to change hands at auction in Europe – bred Italian Listed winner Mrs Kipling, later a US Grade 3 winner.

Maurice is the best of five winners out of the unplaced Mejiro Frances, a half-sister to the Grade 2-placed Mejiro Atlas and daughter of Mejiro Monterey, a Grade 2 winner in Japan at up to around 1m4f.

Maurice is the most notable performer within the immediate generations of his family but his fourth dam, 1966 Japanese Oaks runner-up Mejiro Bosatsu, is also the ancestress of a number of other smart runners, among them 1997 Japanese Oaks heroine Mejiro Dober.

It seems likely that Maurice will now retire to stud, where he will be an interesting option for the volume of Sunday Silence-line mares based in Japan (although trainer Noriyuki Hori would not confirm his retirement, instead saying: "That's what they've been writing in the newspapers anyway.").

At five years old, Maurice boasts a record of 11 wins from 19 starts, including six at Grade 1 level, and Ryan Moore is of the opinion that he is still improving.

Whatever the immediate future holds, this admirable international performer will be remembered as a great bargain, having changed hands for just ¥1,575,000 (£10,800/ €12,800) to Turf Management Co. Ltd as a yearling.

    Read More at Racing Post Bloodstock

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