The season is still young but it is a fair bet that we will see few performances, if any, as impressive as the official 10-length victory of A Shin Hikari in the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan over nine furlongs at Chantilly on Tuesday.
Heavy ground may have exaggerated the degree of his apparent superiority over Dariyan, Silverwave and Vadamos – the three who chased him home – and certainly New Bay, Mondialiste and Erupt were below par on the day.
Another factor to note is how the underfoot conditions were handled by the winner as the five-year-old had never previously run on going described as being anything worse than good and most of his races have actually been on firm turf. He would appear to be one of those horses who can excel on any type of ground.
He has won eight of his 10 starts in Japan, including Group 2 and Group 3 contests over nine furlongs at Tokyo last year, he disappointed in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) over 10 furlongs at that venue in early November, and then bounced back to spring a 25/1 surprise in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Cup over that same distance at Sha Tin.
A Shin Hikari was bred by K K Eishindo, he is trained by Masanori Sakaguchi, and he appears to better than ever this year. He is the ante-post favourite for the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at next month's Royal Ascot meeting, and if he wins well there then might he be a candidate for the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
The big question with regard to that race is his ability to stay 12 furlongs. He is a son of the phenomenal stallion Deep Impact (by Sunday Silence), which gives him every chance, and he is out of Catalina, a daughter of Storm Cat (by Storm Bird). She was a sprinter on dirt in the USA, and if she has passed on a speed influence to her son then his stamina beyond 10 furlongs is in question.
Deep Impact is to Sunday Silence what Galileo is to Sadler's Wells; a mighty multiple champion sire son, who was a top-class racehorse, and who looks set to forge a dynasty that could be at least as powerful as that of his father's.
The best of Catalina's siblings is the ill-fated Sir Beaufort (by Pleasant Colony) who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap over 10 furlongs but died due to colic shortly before he was to start a stallion career in Kentucky. Her grandam is Key To The Saga (by Key To The Mint) who won the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes over nine furlongs and also the Boiling Springs Handicap over a half-furlong less.
Cherokee Benji (by Cherokee Colony), a 10-times winning half-brother to A Shin Hikari's grandam Carolina Saga (by Caro), got his listed race wins over eight and a half and seven furlongs, and the plethora of blacktype winners that can be found in the branches of the first few generations of the family include the Grade 2-winning five-furlong specialist The New Yorker (by Lode).
It is an American family so a mixture of speed horses and those who raced at around nine and 10 furlongs is to be expected.
When thinking of speed horses who produced major winners by Deep Impact the horse who comes to mind instantly is Gentildonna. Her first Group 1 win came in the one mile Oka Sho (1000 Guineas) but then she ran away with the 12-furlong Yushun Himba (Oaks), won the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Arima Kinen and two editions of the Japan Cup. Her dam is the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Donna Blini, a daughter of the sprinter Bertolini (by Danzig) and from a speedy family.
Of course that superstar, whose career earnings translate to over £12 million, has no relationship to A Shin Hikari. But she is an example of how a speed mare can get a middle-distance horse to Deep Impact.
So what of those bred on similar lines to him? Do any of those by Deep Impact and out of Storm Cat mares stay 12 furlongs? At least some of them would represent similar types of family background to what A Shin Hikari posseses.
Group 1 Oka Sho heroine Ayusan was only fourth in the Group 1 Yushun Himba on her only attempt at the trip, but Lachesis was a Group 1 winner at 11 furlongs, stayed 12, and is out of a nine-furlong Grade 2 winner from the family of juvenile Grade 1 scorer Prayers'n Promises (by Foolish Pleasure) and dual US classic star Little Current (by Sea-Bird).
Arc fourth Kizuna won the Group 1 Tokyo Yushun (Derby) and was almost Group 1-placed at two miles; his grandam is the eight and a half furlong Grade 1 Delaware Oaks and nine furlong Grade 2 Hempstead Handicap scorer Pacific Princess (by Damascus). And then there's Real Steel, a descendant of the great Miesque (by Nureyev) and who preceded his nine furlong Group 1 Dubai Turf victory in March with a neck second in the Group 1 Kikuka Sho (St Leger) at Kyoto in October.
None of this 'proves' that A Shin Hikari would stay the Arc distance, and we cannot know if he will or won't until he actually tries the trip, but at least we do know that the combination of Deep Impact with Storm Cat mares has a history of getting horses who have that capability, and that is encouraging.
If A Shin Hikari really is as good as he looked at Chantilly then this is the horse who could be crowned European Champion Older Male of 2016, if not Horse of the Year.