Learn about the Japanese Derby

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The Stakes Stands Out as One of Racing’s big events

…The Derby is one of the greatest races on the Japanese horse racing calendar, and attendance figures on the day invariably top the 100,000 mark. It represents the second leg of the Triple Crown, after the Satsuki-sho (or Japanese 2,000 Guineas) earlier in the spring, and the final race of the series in autumn, the Kikka-sho (or Japanese St. Leger).

The race starts in front of the packed grandstands, and after taking in just over a circuit of the turf track (the race distance is 2,400 meters), the winning colt on Sunday will flash past the winning post to claim a Derby victory, in probably a little over 2 minutes and 20 seconds, and will become the proud recipient of all the glory that goes with a Classic win, as well as the ¥200 million winner’s check. The post-race ceremony for the winner and connections can really drive home the meaning of what it is to win the race.

The first Japanese Derby was run at Meguro Racecourse in Tokyo in 1932 and was won by a horse called Wakataka. It wasn’t long after that construction started on the racecourse at Fuchu, and since the early ’30s, this has been the spiritual home of Japanese horse racing, hosting other big races like the Emperor’s Cup (Tenno-sho), the Japan Cup and the Yasuda Kinen, as well as the Derby. Japan is lucky enough to enjoy a buoyant horse racing industry, with breeding farms in Hokkaido playing a big part, and in recent years, attendances at racecourses have been increasing, together with sales turnover. Japan-bred horses are known to the world, and just in the past few months, the filly Almond Eye scored a big win in Dubai, and Master Fencer ran a strong race in the Kentucky Derby to finish sixth.

Domestically though, the Derby is one of the big ones, and it’s just about everybody’s dream to win it. A Derby winner would always be considered something special, particularly when it comes to breeding after the horse’s racing career is over. A case in point is the great Deep Impact, who thrilled racing fans during his reign at the top, winning 12 out of a total of 14 races while gracing the racecourse, including the Derby in 2005. He invariably weighed less than 450 kg, but to see his turn of foot and him picking off his rivals down the home straight in a race has to be one of the greatest sights in modern Japanese racing. Fittingly, he has been the leading sire in Japan for the last seven years.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 16-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the NHC Tour for 2018 with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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