Horse racing is a popular sport in Japan, and the nation has had a lot of success on the global stage in the first few months of 2023. As the year advances, all eyes will be on the Japanese contenders vying for the upcoming Royal Ascot in June and the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in November. What has Japan already accomplished this year, and what can those who love betting on horse racing in Japan expect to happen in the coming months? In this article, we will take a look at the Japanese horse racing scene, examining the accomplishments thus far and what to expect in the future.
The Most Popular Races In Japan
Japanese racing is capturing the imagination across the world given the success that the horses trained within the nation are enjoying across the world. However, the main races that take place in Japan will still rate highly among those that local connections will be aiming to achieve success in. The most famous of those is the Japan Cup, which is run over a distance of 1 ½ miles on the turf at Tokyo Racecourse. As well as this huge turf race, which offers a purse of $5.6 million, there are also other massive races on the calendar. Those include the Yasuda Kinen, Kikuka Sho, and the February Stakes. Like in the UK, the Japanese Triple Crown is staged every calendar year, with three-year-olds bidding to achieve immortality.
Japan To Target Royal Ascot
One of the biggest flat festivals of the year in the United Kingdom is creeping into sight, as Royal Ascot will once again host some of the biggest international names in the world of racing. The five-day meet is likely to attract runners from the United States and Australia, but the attention could firmly be on the Japanese runners, as the nation looks for a first-ever win at the Royal meeting. One of their main hopes could once again be Shahryar, who lined up in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 2022. However, he couldn’t land that elusive first Japanese win, as he could only finish fourth. Since then, he has finished fifth in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, and a second attempt on British soil could follow after that return effort in Meydan.
Historic Kentucky Derby Bid
One of the biggest races on the international calendar has been targeted by Japanese trainers this season, as there could be as many as two runners from the nation lining up in the Kentucky Derby. Derma Sotogake is the most likely runner after sensationally landing the G2 UAE Derby, achieving an RPR of 121. That puts him among the top performers of the three-year-old runners on the dirt this term. Dura Erede has also picked up enough qualifying points to line up in the field, but he will need to improve before he is considered a leading chance for the race at Churchill Downs. There hasn’t yet been a Japanese-trained winner of the Kentucky Derby, but success on the first Saturday in May would certainly put down a marker for further international glory this year.
Dream Arc Win
While a win in the Kentucky Derby would be celebrated massively, the race that the Japanese crave more than any other is the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomph. The race at Longchamp has been a season target for Japanese runners throughout much of the modern era, but they could firmly have a runner that is capable of achieving a historic win this season. Equinox was one of the star performers on Dubai World Cup night, as the four-year-old finished over three lengths clear of the field without breaking a sweat. The success achieved an RPR of 129 and has firmly put him in contention for some of the biggest races this season.
However, whether an Arc bid is on the agenda remains to be seen, as there would certainly be ground concerns. Therefore, a season-target of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf appears to be the standout chance at this early stage.
Final Thoughts: Potentially History-Making Year
This year promises to be one of the most exciting for those with Japanese connections. Success in the Dubai Sheema Classic and Dubai World Cup only sets the scene for what could follow. It’s unlikely that the Japanese runners will go un-missed in the betting throughout this season, especially when it comes to the big international meetings.