Visiting Silver Charm in Japan

by Kate Hunter,

One of the bi-products of being an American racing fan in Japan is that I get to check in on some of my favorite racers that have been purchased by Japan over the years; as a racing blogger in Japan, I also get asked a lot of questions about US horses who were bought by the Japanese. While I have not been able to check on all of them, I do make it a point to see my favorite race horse of all time: Silver Charm.

I first visited Silver Charm in August 2009 at the JBBA Iburi Stallion Station, a very small and relaxed little breeding farm in Southern Hokkaido. There were 3 thoroughbred stallions there: Silver Charm, Japan-bred sprinter Sunningdale (by Warning), and champion French horse Bago (by Nashwan). Viewing hours there are 9 to 11am and 1 to 3pm. I got in at around 12:30, but the stable crew didn’t seem to mind, and showed me to Silver Charm’s paddock, where I was allowed to photograph him for hours. He had just finished his daily exercise and had a sweat spot where the saddle or pad had been. I told him all about his GII winner, Miss Isella, of some of his winning progeny Japan, and how people still ask about him, some eagerly awaiting for his return to the US (Which Three Chimney’s Case Clay confirmed will happen at the end of his stud career in Japan). I got to see him gallop playfully around his paddock, roll around in the dirt, come up and greet all of his visitors, and eat a LOT of grass. He was very aware I was hanging around him all day, always looking over at me, coming over to see what I was doing, and sometimes I swear he was posing for my photographs.

Before I knew it it was 4pm, and his groom came over to take him inside for his bath and dinner. He was so shocked that I was still there that he let me come into the barn and watch the rest of Charm’s evening routine. They gave him a good bath, washing every inch of him and scraping his hooves followed by good brush down that scratched all his itchy places. He had a nice dinner and, because it was cool that day, got a warm blanket. I said my goodbyes and promised to see him again next year. The staff was so kind to me, that they gave me some tea to drink, a poster calendar, and a ride to the train station, so it’s only natural that after 5 hours at the Iburi Stallion Station, I was one happy Silver Charm fan!

This past August, it was once again time for my yearly pilgrimage to see my favorite gray Derby winner. This time I was literally going to see ONLY him and maybe another farm IF I had time. I was determined to spend the entire day with him; while the trains prevented me from doing that in the most literal sense, I did spend about 7 total hours with him. The Iburi Stallion Station’s 2010 roster had changed a bit, Bago had had a few big winners so he was moved to the JBBA’s main farm in Shizunai and the European runner David Junior (by Pleasant Tap).

I got there by 1pm, and everybody instantly remembered me. They told me to enjoy the rest of my afternoon at the farm, cause they knew I was going to be there for awhile. I gave him the updates on things relevant to him... like Miss Isella retiring, being sold to Adena Springs, and how she should get some very good choices in mates there. I broke the sad news about his mother passing on, and the lovely story I read on the Blood-Horse about his son Charming Jim’s life after the track. He munched, rolled, galloped and sniffed at me just as before. It was heavenly for a fan like me. When 4pm rolled around again, I got to watch his night time routine, bath, dinner, brush. I said good night and made plans to see him the next day.

The next day, I got to Charm’s farm at about 8:30am and checked in with the stable staff. I had brought them some jelly-rolls for being so kind to an American fan who was coming and going at all hours. Silver Charm had already has his morning exercise when I arrived and was munching away in the morning sun; while Charm and I stood in the shade for awhile, I told his neighbour Sunningdale (who was also in the shady part of the paddock near by) how Charm had won the Dubai World Cup in 1998 with such heart that it is still one of my favorite things to watch on the internet. Yes, I talk a lot to horses, but it was fun, and they were actually listening to me go on and on about racing.

Around 11am the farrier came and gave all the horses a trim. Charm was the last to get worked on, and I was allowed to watch. He wasn’t the easiest horses to trim. He kept putting his foot down and got yelled at a little bit. When it was over, he pranced happily back to his paddock and galloped all around before rolling joyfully in the dirt.

At noon I had to leave to head to the airport and fly back to Tokyo, where I am a english teacher and racing photographer. I said my slightly teary goodbyes to my favorite horse and swore up and down that I’d see him next year. I said good-bye to the staff and thanked them for being no kind allowing me to have the most intimate time with my favorite racehorse. They even offered to take me to the airport again.

While he isn’t being bred to the numbers of mares as you would think he would, that is largely due to the fact that Japan doesn’t breed as many horses as we do in the US, remember the country is only about the size of California. The number of mares he is covering won’t necessarily reflect how soon he will be sent back to the US. Plenty of Japanese stallions cover only a hand full of mares each season. He will be back in Kentucky one day though!

So while he might not be coming home as soon as some might hope, I want you all to know that our beloved champion is healthy, happy, and well taken care of by some of the nicest people I have ever met. I will watch after him carefully and give yearly updates on him on my blog, where I also keep a list of his Japanese progeny’s race results and post pictures of his babies. There is also a link to my flickr account where you can see photos of Silver Charm in Japan. If you have any questions about US horses in Japan don’t hesitate to e-mail me. I will gladly try to find out some information about them. I can’t promise anything, especially with broodmares who are kept away from visitors, but I can always try.


Leave a Comment:


I know it will probably be difficult, but how about Azeri? I think lots of us would love to know how she is doing!

13 Oct 2010 3:48 PM

Kate, thank you SO much for the update on this great horse! It sounds as though he has a really good life there. I was shocked when I first found out he was sold abroad, how could anyone let that horse go?!

13 Oct 2010 4:19 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  Silver Charm is one of my favorites also and I'm so happy to read about your visits with him.  Now I'm off to check out your blog and see the photos!  Thanks!

13 Oct 2010 4:53 PM

SOunds like Charm's living the good life!  It sounds like he's also being ridden on a daily basis which is good IMO.

Thanks for the update.

13 Oct 2010 5:38 PM
KC in Washington State

Thanks, Kate, what a lovely update on my favorite living racehorse.

I recently contacted Three Chimneys about his status and they were kind enough to email me several times. Jen Roytz informed me that, because Japanese stud farms are government run, they are obligated to keep Silver Charm available for stud duty if even one mare is to be bred to him. Sigh. So he bred 8 or 9 mares in 2009 and I don't know how many this year, but this could delay his return for some time.

Thank you so much for visiting him and giving us this great update. I am happy and relieved that he is well and under such good care.

13 Oct 2010 5:55 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Kate, thank you so much for a well written article about one of the best horses of his era. I know you mentioned that the broodmares are kept away from visitors but maybe they would make an exception for Azeri.

13 Oct 2010 5:57 PM

Glad you got to see the big fellow. He was always great to watch on the track. He had a great big heart and always gave his best. Thanks for the update.

13 Oct 2010 6:14 PM

It was wonderful hearing this update on SC.  When I visited Three Chimneys the day NBC filmed the Special on Smarty, all I wanted to do was look at SC.  Then he was walking away, to his paddock, and the next day he flew to Japan.  I was so upset.  I've followed the pictures posted on the farm website.  Cannot wait to look at yours.  

13 Oct 2010 6:50 PM

Kate thanks for the article.  Great to hear about the champion.  Will look forward to more.

13 Oct 2010 6:52 PM

Just found the pictures!!!  They are wonderful.  I hope the Clays, Bob Baffert, and the gal who has Charming Jim will find them.  

13 Oct 2010 7:03 PM

Oh thank you for the update on Silver Charm.  One of my favorites (seems like I say that about all the horses though).  I do love the grays.  Silver Charm and Free House were two very fine ones.  (RIP Free House!) Charm looks well and happy!  Hooray!

13 Oct 2010 7:31 PM
Barbara W

Thank you so much. The pictures are great! I am so glad he'll be coming home.

Your description of him with the farrier reminds me of our horse!

13 Oct 2010 8:18 PM

What a wonderful story! Silver Charm was such a champ! I am so glad he is taken care of so well.

13 Oct 2010 8:25 PM

Thanks so much for the wonderful update on Silver Charm. Very lucky to get so up close and personal with that star! Love all of the pictures too!

Also, didn't Bushfire get sold to Japan? Do you think we could get an update on her some time?

13 Oct 2010 9:41 PM
needler in Virginia

A lovely and welcome report on one of my favorites, Kate. Thanks very much for the update; I could only hope for some photos!

It's good to know that Charm is doing well; he is sorely missed on this side of the Rim and I can hardly wait for him to come home.

Cheers and safe trips.

13 Oct 2010 10:57 PM
Kate Hunter

I am so glad you all liked it. I enjoyed every second I spent with him over the past two years. I can't wait to see him next year and the year after. As long as I am in Japan I will be making plans to visit him. :) Adding to my already very very large collection of photos. haha

14 Oct 2010 1:06 AM
Kate Hunter

For those of you concerned about Azeri, mares are amazingly hard to get access too, but hopefully as I worm my way into the sport here, I'll be able to get permission one day to visit her, or be able to get a verbal update. I will write about her Japanese babies though! Including the little Distorted Humor foal I am assuming she popped out sometime this spring.

14 Oct 2010 1:12 AM
Fran Loszynski

I had the priviledge of meeting Beverly Lewis at the Saratoga Turf Writer's Dinner when I was a  guest of Afleet Alex's owners, they both received the Vanderbilt Award. She was a lovely and "charming" lady. I've found racehorses are great alot due to their "great" owners and breeders.

14 Oct 2010 8:13 AM

So excited to see the pictures of my boy.  Three Chimneys has been more than gracious when I E Mail them about Charm.  Bought by the Japanese or not Charm's contract with them is he will be returned to Three Chimneys when his stud career is over.  Can't wait to see him back home one of these days.

14 Oct 2010 9:18 AM


Would love to hear how Charismatic's doing...loved that horse...

Boston Harbor was a favorite of mine, too.

Also Forty Niner,   Roses in May, Came Home, Squirtle Squirt and of course...War Emblem

...and how's our dear Azeri they love her?

14 Oct 2010 9:30 AM

Hope all the Thoroughbreds their owners sell to Japanese interests get back safely to the USA when their breeding days are over, no matter how successful or unsuccessful they have been. 75% of Thoroughbreds are slaughtered in Japan according to a recent Blood Horse article. This is appalling, but all too true. We can't ignore this and have to keep tabs on our horses that go over there. I am glad to read that Silver Charm is doing well and I hope all the others are doing well too.

14 Oct 2010 11:28 AM

Enjoyed your encouraging & happy update on "The Charm". What a breathtaking runner he was!!  Is there anything positive to report on the whereabouts or possible (Hopeful) return to the U.S. of Charismatic or War Emblem?  Looking forward to our "treasures" coming home.  Thanks to people like you & horses like them.

14 Oct 2010 12:36 PM

Love the pics of Silver Charm.  He's one of my all time favorites as well.

As for other horses, I agree with the first comment.  My first thought was Azeri, it would be wonderful to see how she is doing!!!

14 Oct 2010 12:42 PM

What a wonderful visit with Silver Charm, and thanks for all the pictures from 2009 and 2010.  

He looks like he's lost some weight and muscle mass between the 2 visits.  Do you think so?  He is a grand looking horse, and I'll always remember his racing days.

14 Oct 2010 1:14 PM

What a great read!  Silver Charm is my favorite as well and this article just made my day.  Thanks so much!!

14 Oct 2010 2:55 PM
barry aksarben

I loved Silver Charm also but have a special place in my heart for Roses in May who my mother loved to watch as she was born in may and always loved a black horse. Hope he is doing well also.

14 Oct 2010 4:40 PM

Thanks for the update on SC! I'd love to hear about Charismatic, as well. I've almost lost track of which American stallions are over there so I need to think over that to have a better idea of who to ask about. Could we get a running list going?

I know it's a lot to ask for this particular blog but for those traveling abroad, if anybody out there goes over to South Korea, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia at some point, we have some prominent stallions there it would be great to hear about. Strike the Gold was my first Derby on tv and my first pick so I'd probably start bawling if he ever made it back home. I'm also fond of Volponi.

14 Oct 2010 5:23 PM
Kate Hunter

Charismatic: He is at the JBBA's Shichinohe Stallion Station in Aomori. Just south of where Charm is. Charm spent 2 years there before moving to the farm he is at now. While I have not visited him, he seems to be doing well. He is bred about as much as Charm but he has had a few good runners.

War Emblem: He had a grade one winner back in 2008, Black Emblem. he is doing well and is owned by the very very rich Yoshida family. They bought Sunday Silence. War Emblem never have anything to worry about.

Roses in May: Is a very popular sire right now. One of his top babies is Cosmo Laputa. He is a 3yo colt out of a Tony Bin mare. He will be starting in the Japan's equivalent to the Belmont a week after next! He is owned by Big Red Farm, one of the largest farms in Japan. The owner is known for his love of horses.

Boston Harbor: Also owned by the JBBA is at their best Stallion Station in Shizunai. He has had steady enough success that he has been able to stay at the highest JBBA farm.

Forty Niner: He is alive and is living out his retirement at the JBBA's Shizunai Stallion Farm. I hope to visit there next year.

Chief Bearheart: Also owned by the JBBA and is stationed at Shizunai as well. He is VERY VERY successful here in Japan. He sire the GI winning Meiner Kitz and G3 winning sprinter B B Guldan who has been nose hairs away from winning a GI twice.

Captain Steve: He is current at the same farm as Charismatic, Shichinohe. He is still breeding and has had some decent runners, no superstars though.

14 Oct 2010 7:20 PM

That was wonderful to read about Silver Charm, especially since Real Quiet just died.  I always grouped them together in my mind. I wish I knew how to find your px of SC.  

Thanks for a great article.

14 Oct 2010 11:59 PM

I have to say every time I here about a horse going to Japan I cringe inside remebering what happened to Ferdinand.

15 Oct 2010 7:28 AM

I think when SC comes home, we should all be there at Three Chimneys to greet him.  What a party that would be!  I feel like Sentinel.  RQ and SC will always be paired in my mind.  They had those TB characteristics of heart, and will to win, and were lucky enough to have  inherited speed and stamina too.  On top of it all, they were blessed with good training and care.  

15 Oct 2010 9:31 AM
Kate Hunter

For those of you interested in pictures of Silver Charm, you can find them on my blog's flickr account. There is also a link to it on my blog's home page. :) I have over 200 shots of him. I went a little overboard. :)

16 Oct 2010 12:53 AM
Anne from Paramount CA

I am SO happy to read about Silver Charm!!! Thank you, Kate. He became MY horse just after I got into does my heart good to know he is being treated so well and that you get to spend  time talking with him and that he  poses for you. Next time be sure to tell him hello from me. I think of him a the others have said, the Charm, Free House, Charismatic and of course Real Quiet. Yes, a party at Three Chimneys--count me in!

19 Oct 2010 11:41 PM

OMG! Forty Niner is still alive? I'm so embarrased to say I thought he had passed on! And I've always had a special spot in my heart for War Emblem. I sure wish he could come home for more sex therapy on home ground with the speicalists more readily at hand.

21 Oct 2010 1:44 AM

I am SO happy to hear that Charismatic is doing well! I always have had a soft spot in my heart for him, and thought he looked so much like Secretariat - too bad he didn't get the part in the movie! My most vivid memory of him is after he was injured in the Belmont, how patiently he stood, waiting for the humans to come and help him. Thank goodness they were able to! I hope that he will be coming home to America someday soon. Please publish some photos of Charismatic if you get the chance -and thanks for checking on all these great horses!

09 Nov 2010 3:17 PM

Thank you for the updates on all of the horses you mentioned. I knew Silver Charm, War Emblem and Charismatic were in Japan but I had no idea that Forty Niner and Azeri were!

I hope you can get to see Azeri some day.

13 Nov 2010 9:35 PM

Please try to visit Azeri and War Emblem, two of my favorites and the ones who got me into this sport.

14 Nov 2010 1:27 PM

Oh Yes Please DO go back to report on as many as possible. It's important to let them know that an American spotlight of interest and scrutiny protects the horses sent there.  Thank you also for mentioning BAGO.  I have often wondered and worried about him.  ROSES IN MAY is also there.  Please don't forget him.  

13 Feb 2011 10:24 PM
Tammy in Cal

Thanks for keeping us all posted on the Wonderful Horses now living in Japan. Especially the dearest Silver Charm. It is nice to hear about how well they are being cared for by loving people. Silver Charm ran with so much heart, I cry when I watch his race videos. What a super horse! He happens to be the sire of my sister's beloved horse HURRY HOME HENRY. Henry didn't make it as a race horse, but now as a kid's trusted trail horse. He is such a character and likes to pose too.

17 Apr 2011 7:57 PM

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