October 27, 2016
Exclusive Topics for JAPAN AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL 2016 - 2nd Edition -
Despite Makahiki's Arc Failure, JRA's Inaugural Simulcast is a Success
This year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2,400m) had special meaning for Japan. Makahiki (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) victor, became the first Japanese entry in two years and 20th overall (18 horses) to embark on a quest for this French G1 race, the most coveted title in Europe. His sire, Deep Impact, also owned by Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co., Ltd., entered the race back in 2006 with a career record of 10-1-0 from 11 starts, but he finished third and later was disqualified due to a positive drug test. This year’s Arc was also the first time in which Japanese racing fans were able to bet on a homegrown challenger through JRA’s historic new overseas simulcasting.
Makahiki in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
But despite the big buildup to the Arc, Makahiki disappointed badly by finishing 14th. The race unfolded with an uncharacteristically fast pace early on, wearing out the inexperienced three-year-old as he fought to keep his position near the leaders but stayed wide throughout. Although Japan’s highly regarded colt faded from contention, the 2016 Arc added a new page to its history book as the top three finishers—Found (IRE, F4), Highland Reel (IRE, C4) and Order Of St George (IRE, C4)—all came from the same yard (Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien) and all shared the same sire (Galileo). Makahiki, who never managed to demonstrate his bursting finishing speed, is expected to rest for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, JRA’s new international simulcasting was a great success. Wagers placed in a 13-hour period beginning from 10 a.m. on race day nearly reached 4.19 billion yen, exceeding expectations. The figure was an impressive 2.3 times greater than the some 1.8 billion yen wagered on the Arc through Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), France’s state-controlled off-track betting system. In addition, the new system successfully demonstrated that it does not cannibalize betting on other races held the same day. Indeed, both Nakayama and Hanshin racecourses saw sales rise from last year. The strong interest in international racing among Japanese punters and the resulting sales should tempt more overseas racing organizations to carve out markets in Japan.
Lani in the Kentucky Derby
The JRA expects to name the Melbourne Cup (G1, 3,200m) at Flemington on November 1 as another one of its designated races. Other races also are angling to lure Japanese horses in hopes of satisfying the requirements of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and joining the list of designated foreign races, which eventually could total as many as 24. Churchill Downs closed a deal with the JRA in September, creating an opening for Japanese runners to qualify for the Kentucky Derby (G1, dirt, 2,000m) with points they earn in designated races in Japan, namely the Cattleya Sho (Allowance, dirt, 1,600m) for two-year-olds in November and the Hyacinth Stakes (Open Class, dirt, 1,600m) next February. Japan’s new road to the Kentucky Derby is now open to three-year-olds hoping to follow in the footsteps of Lani (USA, C3, by Tapit), who ran in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown in the U.S.A.
Japan’s racing and breeding businesses have been enjoying solid years in 2016. As of the end of the first week of October, JRA wagers were up 4% from the previous year. Also, the National Association of Racing (NAR) enjoyed a significant rise of 13.2% in average daily betting between January and August. The results were particularly encouraging in view of Japan’s sluggish economy due to weak consumer spending. The breeding industry has also prospered this year, with 23 foals/yearlings each auctioned for 100 million yen or more at the Select Sales in July, producing record-high gross sales of 14.94 billion yen in just two days. Annual increases were also achieved at The Hidaka Horse Breeder’s Association (HBA) Training Sale (May), Selection Sale (July), Summer Sale (August) and Autumn Sale (October).
Nanako Fujita, 19, who became the JRA’s first female jockey in 16 years in March, has made headlines by registering four JRA-wins as of the first week of October. Actively riding in NAR races as well, her eight wins on this circuit have also boosted interest and wagers in local racing.
Fall Season in Action
Kitasan Black (left) in the Kyoto Daishoten
Prep races for the Autumn G1 series have begun, so key runners predicted to run in this year’s Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m) on November 27 ran in the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m) on October 10. Kitasan Black (JPN, C4, by Black Tide) was the winner, chasing the pace in second then prevailing by a neck after taking command. He looks to be in good form in his bid to claim a third career G1 in his next challenge. Sounds of Earth (JPN, H5, by Neo Universe), who finished fifth in the Japan Cup last year, was a close fourth, 0.2 second behind the winner, while 2015 Japan Cup runner-up Last Impact (JPN, H6, by Deep Impact) crossed the wire in seventh.
The first major dirt race of the fall season, held on the same day as the Kyoto Daishoten, was the Mile Championship Nambu Hai. The winner in record time was Copano Rickey (JPN, H6, by Gold Allure), the 2015 Best Dirt Horse and son of Gold Allure, who scored his eighth career G1 title. In third, 4-3/4 lengths behind, was Hokko Tarumae (JPN, H7, by King Kamehameha), winner of the 2014 Champions Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m). Both horses will join 2015 Champions Cup runner-up Nonkono Yume (JPN, C4, by Twining) and third-place finisher Sound True (JPN, G6, by French Deputy) in their next start, the JBC Classic (dirt, 2,100m) on November 3
Queens Ring in the Fuchu Himba Stakes
The Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m), the major step-race towards the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) on November 13, was run on October 15 and won by Queens Ring (JPN, F4, by Manhattan Cafe), who scored her third grade-race title. Smart Layer (JPN, M6, by Deep Impact), who finished third in the race, will probably not run in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and instead will likely fly overseas to challenge the Hong Kong Mile (G1, 1,600m).
Vivlos, Pearl Code and Kaiserball in the Shuka Sho
Marialite (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact) will defend her title in the Queen Elizabeth Cup after coming off a fifth-place finish in the All Comers (G2, 2,200m), while 2015 Best Three-Year-Old Filly Mikki Queen (JPN, F4, by Deep Impact) will come into the race directly from her summer break. Three-year-old fillies who will challenge these and other outstanding female runners for the first time are Pearl Code (JPN, F3, by Victoire Pisa), Kaiserball (JPN, F3, by Empire Maker) and Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m) winner Jeweler (JPN, F3, by Victoire Pisa), who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m) on October 16. Vivlos (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), winner of the Shuka Sho, will be given the rest of the season off, so will not start in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
Isla Bonita (left) in the Fuji Stakes
While the 2016 Mile Championship will miss defending champion Maurice (JPN, H5, by Screen Hero), 2015 runner-up Fiero (JPN, H7, by Deep Impact), fourth-place Satono Aladdin (JPN, H5, by Deep Impact) and fifth-place Albiano (USA, F4, by Harlan's Holiday) will take part after the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400m) on October 29. Isla Bonita (JPN, H5, by Fuji Kiseki), who was third in 2015, kicked off his fall debut with a runner-up effort in the Fuji Stakes (G3, 1,600m). 2014 Best Two-Year-Old Colt Danon Platina (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) finished half a length behind in third, while Lord Quest (JPN, C3, by Matsurida Gogh), winner of the Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap (G3, 1,600m) in September, finished ninth.