Built for horse racing in 1933, and reopened in 2007 the Tokyo Racecourse is the crown jewel in Japan’s horse racing circuit. With commanding views of Mt. Fuji, the course offers a range of events on turf, dirt, and steeplechase. With gambling on horses earning bookies more than $22.5 billion in 2015 alone, Japan’s horse racing is famous worldwide and the Tokyo Racecourse is its home its most prestigious cups; including the Japanese Derby, Yasuda Kinen and Nippon Derby.
However, the most famous event is the Japan Cup – a G1 event run for one and half miles on turf. Since it was first run in 1981, the cup has become a fixed point on the racing calendar with a $2.5 million prize pouch for the winner. The event is also known for encouraging international competition, applying bonuses to incentivise runners from outside Japan. In fact, some past winners have come from Britain, Australia, Italy, and Germany, amongst others.
Since recently completing a seven-year renovation period, the racecourse has gone to great lengths to make the venue and events accessible to as many people as possible. Constantly pushing for variety, a visit to the course is often described as more like taking a day out to an amusement park than a day at the races.
What Should I Know About The Course?
The Tokyo Racecourse is a colossal venue, and maps are provided for all visitors as standard. The venue is known for the huge capacity of its stadia, with a capacity for 223,000 with an average minimum draw of around 60,000+ visitors for events. With record high earnings of YEN72.6 billion, the racecourse is an extremely lucrative attraction, due in part to the flexibility and versatility of events on display.
The Turf course in particular allows for diversity and is partitioned off into four different courses, known as A – D that fluctuate in length from 2083m – 2140m and a width of 41m – 31m. The dirt course comes in at a length of 1899m and a width of 25m and the steeplechase (on turf) measures in at 1675m with a width of 25m. Of the three course options, turf events have continuously proven more of a draw.
Arranged in expanding rings, the turf course offers the most give with its long straights and sloping turns, while steeplechase offers a bigger challenge for horses, with its unforgiving, sharper turns. This also allows the course to accommodate all weather conditions, although Japan’s weather conditions are a lot more predictable than those found in Europe; making it a more attractive pull for attracting foreign competition.
The main difference between racing in Japan rather than Europe, is that events are run right and left handed, and the course has been designed in part to accommodate this – adding a 500m long straight run out of the stalls before the first turn to minimise the effects of a draw. The turf track also has a range of more subtle challenges, undulating throughout the race, and culminating in a rise of 2.3m from the 520m – 260m mark. This was a deliberate design choice that ensures tight finishes and spectacle in front of the racecourse’s Grandstand area.
What Should I Know About Who To Back?
Popular Jockeys: A solid shout is Yutaka Take, a multiple champion and celebrity, or Hironoby Tanabe. While there are many local professionals, Japan and the JRE have been so successful in enticing international riders such as Christophe Lemaire, Victorie Pisa and Ryan Moore, who all compete regularly.
Popular Horses: Horse racing is huge in Japan, with home-made banners lining the fences of the parade ring. Fans often outnumber the punters to see famous horses run, as seen with ‘Copona Rickey’ a 274/1 longshot who won in 2014 and turned into a household name. Deep Impact fielded by Yutaka Take is the Japanese Red Rum and punters currently favour Satono Diamon, Makahiki and Dee Majesty – all sired from Deep Impact.
Popular Trainers: With training perfected to a fine science, names such as Mitsumasa Nakauchida, Hidetake Otonashi are big but Katduhiko Sumii is especially lauded, having won the Dubai World Cup, Melbourne Cup, and Japan cup alongside numerous storied races in Hong Kong and America.
What Hints And Tips Are There?
Culture: The derby offers a completely different atmosphere from what punters in the UK or Europe can expect. A trip to the course is a very family friendly, with the course even having a mascot called ‘Turfy’ to entertain the kids. A huge bonus is that the language barrier should be an obstacle as all betting materials come with comprehensive with English instructions, along with end-to-end ‘How to Bet’ lectures that are carried out hourly. There is little of the rowdiness associated with conventional horseracing but the clamour from the crowd has been known to upset horses in the past, with jockeys comparing the noise to being at a football game rather than a race.
Ease In Everything: The facilities at the course are designed to act as a one-stop shop for any punters looking to place a stake. Automated betting machines allow you to place your stake very quickly and passing by the first floor to the stadia allows you to view the horses as they move from the parade ring to the trackside. Once the events start there is a 66.4m by 11.2m ‘Multiscreen Turf Vision’ screen that lets you fully view the action. And those of you interested in the nearly hundred years of the stadium’s history can visit the on-site museum that covers the country’s history with horseracing.
Expense And Accommodation: The cost of entry is only YEN200 (around £1.40) and food and transport are equally cheap. There is also a wide range of accommodation for nearby visitors and Japan’s excellent transport system helps you get to and from the venue easily.
Finesse: The course is famous for being big on spectacle but fairly easy for riders to navigate with its long central stretch and easy sweeping turns. It is pure strength and ability and favours a powerhouse over a nimble dancer.
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