Horse racing in Japan

You might think that horse racing is only popular in the UK or the US so it might surprise you to know that in Japan there are over 21,000 horse races held each year.

Started properly in 1862 by a group of British residents on some marsh land just outside of Yokohama it was initially meant for foreigners to come and watch but the locals soon took an interest.

The Negishi Racecourse was constructed shortly after and horse racing in Japan has continued to grow ever since with more and more people placing a bet on the horse racing.

Yutaka Take is the most successful jockey in the Japanese racing scene but jockeys from all over the world have tried their hand in Japanese racing to mixed success. Mirco Demuro looks to be the man to beat in 2017, currently sitting at the top of the JRA racing tree he’s collected more than £11 million (1,597,301,000 JPY) for his efforts in Japan.

Racing Associations

Japan Racing Association

The Japan Racing Association is responsible for organising horseracing events at ten major racecourses in metropolitan areas of Japan. This includes some of the biggest races of the year such as the Japan Cup. Not limited to the flashy races though, some of the JRA’s races are on dirt courses.

National Association of Racing

The National Association of Racing is responsible for various local horseracing events throughout Japan. This includes many of the races that aren’t quite as prestigious but some horses that take part can travel abroad and race in other prestigious events.

The Japan Cup

The Japan Cup is the most prestigious horse race in the Japanese racing calendar. The race is scheduled for the last Sunday in November and is held at Tokyo Racecourse. The total race distance is around 2400 meters (1 ½ miles) which is run, like most horse races, under weights for different ages with a maximum of 18 horses taking part each year.

The winner of this hugely popular race takes home well in excess of £2 million, with further bonuses available based on a long list of other variables. It’s been won by a Japanese bred horse for the last 10 years with the second most regular country of origin for the winners being the USA.


Originally only horses that were bred id japan were allowed to take part but this was soon changed to allow horses from all over the world and during its relatively short history, the race has had winners from Japan, North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy.

The most expensive horse of all time, Fusaichi Pegasus, costing over $70 million is forever immortalised with a statue in Northern Horse Park, Hokkaidō, Japan.