Ever experienced a real derby race? Maybe not the first thing you might think to do while in Japan, but horseback races are really popular in a country where gambling is nearly prohibited. Gambling on horse races is one exception. Betting offices are located in Asakusa, but what’s more fun than experiencing the real thing?
The Tokyo Yūshun (東京優駿), also called as the Japanese Derby (日本ダービー Nippon Dābii) is a Grade 1 flat horse race in Japan for three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies run over a distance of 2,400 metres (approximately 1 mile 4 furlongs) at the Tokyo Racecourse, Fuchū, Tokyoin late May or early June.
It was first run in 1932 and is the Japanese equivalent of the English Epsom Derby. It is the second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, preceded by the Satsuki Shō (the Japanese equivalent of the English 2,000 Guineas) in mid-late April and followed by the Kikuka Shō (the Japanese equivalent of the English St. Leger Stakes) in mid-late October.
Starting in 2010, the Tokyo Yūshun (along with several other JRA Japanese domestic Grade 1 races, including the other Japanese classics such as the Satsuki Shō and the Kikuka Shō) is open to international competition due to Japan’s inclusion in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ ICS Part I category, in which all graded black-type races in the JRA calendar are open to international competition. Races prior to 2010 were only limited to Japanese-trained horses (Like other Triple Crown Races, race prior to 2001 were only limited to Japanese-bred horse, which the bar was lifted gradually until 2010). The current rule allows fielding at most 7 entries either not bred/trained in Japan.
Japan dirt derby
The Japan Dirt Derby (ジャパンダートダービー?) is a Japanese Domestic Grade 1 flat horse race in Japan for three-year-old thoroughbred coltsand fillies run over a distance of 2,000 metres (approximately 1 mile 2 furlongs) at the Oi Racecourse, Shinagawa, Tokyo in late July.
It was first run in 1999 and is the Japanese equivalent of the American Kentucky Derby. But this race is the last leg of triple crown of minami-kanto keiba (nankan keiba), while Kentucky Derby is the first one of American triple crown races.
The majority of winners comes from the Japan Racing Association (JRA), another Japan horse racing governing body. As JRA do not host any dirt Grade 1 race exclusively for 3-year old horses. It is also the only 3-year old Grade 1 race in Japan that Geldings can enter.
Experiencing keiba yourself
For more information about Japanese horse racing or to see the schedule of when the races are held to experience one of the races in person, just visit this website.