HORSE RACES | The Japan Cup showcases the nation’s racing culture as the biggest annual event on the calendar


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Since its inception in 1981, the Japan Cup has become one of the biggest dates on the country’s racing calendar.

Now in its fifth decade, the Japan Cup also shares a pride of place among the biggest international end-of-year races, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe de France (in October), the Melbourne Cup Australia ( November) and the United States Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Held on the last Sunday in November each year, the 2,400-meter (approximately 1 ½ mile) race features the best thoroughbreds, jockeys and trainers from Japan and overseas.

At the 41st Japan Cup on Sunday November 28 at Tokyo Racecourse, a peloton of 18 people will compete for the winner’s prize of 3 million US dollars (342.45 million JPY), including 1.2 million dollars for the finalist and $ 750,000 for the third. square finisher.

For racing fans, betting on the event after it hits the circuit adds another element of intrigue. (Information on betting on Japan Racing Association races at racetracks and off-road betting facilities is described here.)

Foreign jockeys have been successful over the decades in the Japan Cup, with foreign-born riders winning 24 of the 40 races. Japanese riders tested their skills against top foreign competitions at the same time, increasing the appeal of the race for fans.

American jockey Cash Asmussen led Mairzy Doates to victory in the first Japan Cup, followed by Canadian Don BacBeth aboard Half Iced and British jockey Brian Rouse on Stanerra in 1982 and 1983.

In 1984, Katsuichi Nishiura (Katsuragi Ace) was the first Japanese jockey to win the race.

In 1992, Yukio Okabe (Tokai Teio) became the first two-time Japan Cup winner.

Special links of a legend with the Japan Cup

Legendary Kyoto-born jockey Yutaka Take is the only four-time Japan Cup winner. His victories in 1999 (Special Week), 2006 (Deep Impact), 2010 (Rose Kingdom) and 2016 (Kitasan Black) add to his impressive track record.

On board the late Deep Impact, a son of the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes Sunday Silence winner, for seven Grade I wins in his storybook career, Take’s career and the beloved Thoroughbred drew greater attention abroad, adding to the growing international recognition of talent over each year at the Japan Cup.

In addition to Take, other Japan Cup winners include the French Olivier Peslier (Jungle Pocket, 2001; Zenno Rob Roy, 2004), the Italian Frankie Dettori (Singspiel, 1996; Falbrav, 2002; and Alkaased, 2005) and three-time popular winners. Yasunari Iwata and Christophe Lemaire, the reigning and current champion Japan Racing Association wins the leader.

Iwata won her first Japan Cup aboard the Admiral Moon in 2007, beating Pop Rock de Peslier by a header, then guided Beuna Vista and Gentildonna to back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012.

A year later, British jockey Ryan Moore rode Gentildonna to a Japan Cup victory, making the Deep Impact filly the first (and only) repeat champion in racing history in front of a crowd of 97. 000 spectators at Tokyo Racecourse and a nationwide television audience.

After the race Moore said, “From what I saw of her, she never had a bad race. Each time, she showed up and won or finished second or third. Her form this year, even though she hadn’t won, she looked great.

Australian horse racing announcer Murray Johnson, who has worked for NHK radio and television since 1991, has witnessed many of the greatest moments in Japan Cup history. He also explained why the event is important, both in Japan and abroad.

“The Japan Cup will always be at the top of the international calendar, but it’s fair to say that the Japanese who remain have become much stronger in general, but at home in particular,” said Johnson. JAPAN Before.

He pointed out that “2005 was the last time a foreign horse (Alkaased, born in the US) won the race.

“This year,” added Johnson, “three foreign competitors are in the race with Japanese ownership in two of them, Japan and Broome, and legendary Irish coach Aiden O’Brien is coaching them both.

“The international jockeys have a brief opportunity to share the top prize, so we’ll see two of them this year, Ryan Moore and Cristian Demuro.

“Once COVID restrictions ease in the future, more jockeys will be back to compete in 2022. It’s hard to beat Japanese horses on their own turf, but at least this year we have horses in visit which could be competitive. “

Indeed, the showcase at the end of November offers an exciting platform for good (and great) horses and elite jockeys to compete in a race that lasts a little over 2 minutes and 20 seconds on the grass. .

Case in point: After Lemaire led 5-year-old Vodka to victory in 2009, she was voted Japanese Horse of the Year for the second year in a row. Two years later, Vodka was inducted into the Japan Racing Association Hall of Fame.

Lemaire met expectations in 2018 and 2020 aboard Almond Eye. In a storybook ending, coach Sakae Kunieda’s special equine ended his career with a Japan Cup victory last year.

It was Almond Eye’s JRA record for the ninth victory in a G1 turf race, and Lemaire couldn’t hide his feeling of satisfaction in his post-race remarks.

“As this was his last start, it was very special for me and I’m delighted we were able to win,” said Lemaire.

He continued: “The pace was right for her and she reacted well in the home stretch. The others who approached us didn’t worry me at all. Almond Eye is a perfect mare and has no weak points.

Like Vodka and Deep Impact, some of Almond Eye’s most glorious moments as a racehorse have occurred in the Japan Cup ー and similar feats over the years have helped solidify his prominence in the racing calendar. in Japan and around the world.

Other famous names related to racing

Adding more notoriety to the race, the 1991 Japan Cup winner Golden Pheasant, Gary Stevens’ ride, was owned by Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall and Kings superstar hockey player Wayne Gretzky.

Stevens, three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, won 18-1 with a triumph of two lengths over the filly Frenchy Magic Night in front of 140,000 spectators at the Tokyo racecourse.

Interestingly, Japanese coaches have won 15 consecutive Japan Cups, while foreign-born coaches have triumphed in nine of the first 11 editions of the annual event.

Meanwhile, foreign-born jockeys string together four-year victories in the 2021 extravagance: Hugh Bowman (Cheval Grand, 2017), Lemaire (2018, 2020) and Oisin Murphy (Suave Richard, 2019).

Murphy’s name has appeared in countless press articles and reports after leading Marche Lorraine to a surprise 45-1 win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 6. Trainer Yoshito Yahagi’s Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine became the first Japan-based horses to win Breeders’ Cup Races.

It’s another reminder of the Japan Cup’s connection to the greatest of the best in world racing.

Find out how the race works: watch the preparations and highlights for the Japan Cup in November 2020.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here Sunday, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter ed_odeven.


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