The Japan Cup is considered to be one of the most prestigious horse races in Japan. This is known to be ジャパンカップ or Japan Kappu. It is an international Grade 1 Flat horse race that annually occurs every last Sunday of November.
The Japan Cup is an invitation-only international event. This means that whether it is a local or international horse, only those that have been invited by the Japan Racing Association can participate in the tournament.
Japan Racing Association
The Japan Racing Association (JRA) is a public company in Japan that handles and organizes local and international horse racing events. It was established in 1954 to operate central horse racing in Japan (Chūō Keiba, 中央競馬).
The JRA also manage the racecourses, horse-training facilities, and sports betting facilities for central horse racing. It has a total of ten racecourses around Japan, with three situated in Hokkaido.
Additionally, the JRA organize Grade 1 races for two years old and older horses. It has a total of 26 horse racing events that it organizes annually held over the course of a year.
The horses that are allowed to compete in this race are three years old Thoroughbreds or older. Additionally, horses need to weigh 55 kilograms if they are three years old. Four year old and up horses need to weigh 57 kilograms. Although there is a 2 kilogram allowance for fillies, mares, and for three-year old horses from the Southern Hemisphere.
There is a total of 18 horses that annually competes for the Japan Cup in Tokyo. There are also up to ten foreign-trained starter horses that are allowed in the race.
Purse of the Japan Cup
The purse or the amount of prize money that can be won in Japan Cup is the second highest turf race in the world. This is because the Japan Cup has ¥624,000,000 purse or approximately $5,823,792 as of 2015.
The total prize money of the tournament is then divided into the first five horses that finished faster than others. The following amount they can win based on their position are the following:
- First place → ¥300,000,000 (approx. $2,500,000)
- Second place → ¥120,000,000 (approx. $1,000,000)
- Third place → ¥75,000,000 (approx. $625,000)
- Fourth place → ¥45,000,000 (approx. $375,000)
- Fifth place → ¥30,000,000 (approx. $250,000)
This purse comes second after the Melbourne Cup tournament in Australia. Japan Cup is also the third biggest purse in the world of all horse racing tournaments after the Dubai World Cup.
However, foreign horses that compete in this tournament have the chance to increase their winnings. This is because the Japan Cup has bonuses where extra money will be added to their prize money if they win in competitions outside Japan.
In 2012, the bonuses that can be added depended on the position that the horse won in foreign competition in the same year. If the horse placed first, second, or third, the money that could be added to their winnings could be ¥80 million, ¥32 million, and ¥20 million, respectively. The following competitions that they should have won first to third positions are the following:
- Canadian International Stakes → The Canadian International Stakes is a Grade 1 Thoroughbred stakes race for three years old in Toronto, Canada.
- Cox Plate → The Cox Plate is a Group 1 Thoroughbred horse race for three year old and under the Weight For Age (WFA) conditions. This is the richest WFA race in Australia.
- Epsom Derby → The Epsom Derby is more commonly known as the Derby Stakes. It is a flat race for Thoroughbred three years old colts and fillies in Britain.
- Irish Derby → The Irish Derby is the equivalent of the Epsom Derby in Ireland. It is a Group 1 flat horse race for Thoroughbred three years old colts and fillies.
- Prix du Jockey Club → The Prix du Jockey Club is more often known as the French Derby. It is a flat horse race for Thoroughbred three years old colts and fillies in France.
- Grand Prix de Paris → The Grand Prix de Paris is another Group 1 flat horse race in France. This race is for three years old Thoroughbred colts and fillies.
- Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud → The Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud is a flat horse race in France for Thoroughbreds. It is for four years old and up horses.
- Dubai Sheema Classic → The Dubai Sheema Classic is a Thoroughbred flat horse race in the UAE. It is a Group 1 race that is open to four years old and up horses.
- Dubai World Cup → The Dubai World Cup is one of the biggest horse racing events in Dubai. It is a Thoroughbred horse race for three years old and up horses.
- International Stakes → The International Stakes is a flat horse rain held in England. It is a Group 1 race for all horse breeds that are three years old and older.
- Champion Stakes → The Champion Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race for all horse breeds. The horse needs to be three years old and older to compete in the tournament held in Ascot Racecourse, England.
- Breeders’ Cup Classic → The Breeders’ Cup Classic is a Grade 1 flat horse race in the United States. It is a WFA race for Thoroughbred three years old and up horses.
Foreign horses also receive an early invitation to Japan Cup in the same year they won. The bonus money can also be applied if they finished first and second place in the Japan Cup. The following races that are considered for this are:
- Breeders’ Cup Turf → The Breeders’ Cup Turf is a Thoroughbred flat horse race in a turf race track in the United States. It is a WFA race for three years old and older horses.
- Grosser Preis von Baden → The Grosser Preis von Baden is a flat horse race in Germany. It is a Group 1 race for Thoroughbred three years old and older horses.
- Arlington Million → The Arlington Million is an annual Grade 1 flat race in the United States. It is for Thoroughbred three years old and older horses.
- Irish Champion Stakes → The Irish Champion Stakes is a flat horse race in Ireland. Th is for Thoroughbred three years old and older horses.
Additionally, horses can also be granted an early invitation if they placed first in the indicated foreign competitions below. However, keep in mind that the bonus money can only be applied if placed first, second, and third place in Japan Cup. The competitions this applies to are:
- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes → This is one of the most prestigious horse races in England. It is open to all horse breeds that are three years old and older.
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe → The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or commonly known as Arc is the second most prestigious flat horse race in Europe. It is for Thoroughbred three years old and older horses.
The Race Track of Japan Cup
Japan Cup is held at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, Tokyo. The horses run a distance of 2,400 meters of 12 furlongs length of course. The surface of the track that horses run on is turf, which makes it easy for Thoroughbred horses to compete.
Additionally, the track in the Japan Cup is left-handed. This means that horses running around the track take left turns compared to the right-handed tracks found in other racecourses in the world.
Most Famous Horses of Japan Cup
There are many local and foreign horses that have competed and won in the Japan Cup. However, there are horses that have made a name for themselves during the competition and afterwards. These are Deep Impact and Gentildonna.
Deep Impact is one of the most famous local racehorses in Japan. This is because he won all races of the Japanese Triple Crown which are the Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Yushun, and Kikuha Sho. Not only that, but he won seven Japanese Domestic Grade 1 races. He has been part of the Japan Racing Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He currently has total race earnings of ¥1,454,551,000.
Gentildonna is a retired Japanese Thoroughbred horse that has won the Fillies Triple Crown. She was voted the Japanese Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2014. Additionally, she has entered the Japan Racing Association Hall of Fame in 2016.