I took advantage of the wonderful fine weather last Sunday and on the spur of the moment headed off to see the 29th running of the Japan Cup – a famous international invitational horse race.
I have fond memories of attending the first running of the Japan Cup (1981) and winning quite a lot when an American horse called Mairzy Doates (USA) won at the nice odds of 11/1. I backed it because its sire was Nodouble (USA) whose sire was Noholme (Aus) which was an Australian top class “miler’ (1600 metres) and was a full brother to Todman (Aus) – a champion sprinter and one of the best racehorses ever to be bred and raced in Australia. It won all but one of its races. I subsequently bought a stallion, from the late UK millionaire and prolific racehorse owner and breeder Robert Sangster, called Wise to Double (USA) who was also sired by Nodouble. Wise to Double was a very placid and incredibly handsome stallion but he was not a successful sire, although he did end up siring a very fast sprinter that won a few races in the country.
The Japan Cup is run over 2400 metres for prize money totalling US$ 5.6 million (in 2009) and was won by Vodka (JPN) who gained a break on the field around the 220 metre mark. It was a very popular local win as Vodka was backed into favouritism on course, and just lasted to beat two other Japanese bred horses, the fast finishing Oken Bruce Lee and the three year old filly Red Desire, with the world champion UK horse Conduit (IRE) finishing 4th after being boxed in on the fence and not getting a clear run until the race was all but over. They ran the 2400 metres in 2minutes 22.4 seconds which was the third fastest in the cup’s 28 year history. The existing race record is 2.22.1 Vodka’s winning margin was a nose with one and a half lengths separating second and third. Conduit is now set to retire to stud duties at Big Red Farm in Hokkaido.
The crowd was miraculously demonstrative and officially totalled 98,811. What a great place to hand out fliers! The multitude consisted of a majority of men of all ages, which is similar for race meetings the world over, but I was surprised to see so many young men and women there which obviously relates to the brilliant marketing of the Japan Racing Association’s “Club Keiba” – similar, I assume, to the “Young Member’s” concept that prevails throughout Australian racing clubs.
It was a very mild day with the sun shining brightly early and as I was by myself, I was able to stroll about to take photographs and check out the facilities. I must say that it has rekindled a spark within me and I will undoubtedly be fitting in more visits to Fuchu on Sundays in the new year.
The Japan Racing Association’s Fuchu racecourse is as good as any I have seen in the world and its amenities are truly marvellous. The thing that I found the most amazing about it nevertheless was that the entrance fee was just 200 yen – a very cheap way to be entertained and no doubt a nice way to relax and share some stimulating time with SSE students and friends. A “Smith’s School of English Koenji Day at the Races” seems a strong possibility for next year’s Japan Cup – if not before.
It took me around an hour from my home, in Koenji, to get to Fuchu keibajo. I caught the Keio Shinjuku line special express train from Shinjuku to Higashi Fuchu where I switched to a train that went off the main line to the Fuchukeibajoseimonmae railway station.
I really had an exceedingly exciting, emotionally uplifting, invigorating and mind boggling day. I didn’t gamble because I am not familiar with the Japanese horses, their form or the local racing scene, although when I think of it, in Australia I rarely bet even though I was a member of the Gold Coast Turf Club and before that the Western Australian Turf Club and went to the races on most Saturdays. If the truth be known I simply love to appreciate the athleticism of the horses and enjoy the social activities associated with the horse racing industry. I feel sure that you too would soon learn to understand and accept the pleasures of racing if you visited a race track with an open mind.
Vodka is the first Japanese mare to win the Japan Cup The fillies Mairzy Doates (USA) -1981, Stanerra (IRE) -1983 and 1989 Horlicks (NZ) which was well known in Australia as it done the bulk of its racing there where the prize money is more substantial than that in New Zealand. By the way Horlicks held the Japan Cup race record at 2.22.2 until it was broken, six years later, by Alkassed (USA) in 2005 when it ran 2.22.1
Cosmo Bulk was having its six consecutive start in the race and is something of a pop
idol in Japan. I noticed some signs in the mounting enclosure reading We Love Cosmo Bulk etc
Japanese owned horses have now won 15 runnings of the Japan Cup with overseas owned horses having won on 14 occasions.
The betting turnover on the Japan Cup meeting was 27,493.258,000 yen (US$ 318,279,364) and 19,162,550,600 yen (US$ 221,837,620) of it was gambled on the Japan Cup.
Smith’s School of English – Koenji