Attending a horse racing tournament can be intimidating especially if it is your first time. The best thing about it is that you get to see the horses up close before placing your bets. You can also explore the venue before or after the race.
Well, if you are a fan of horse racing but it is your first time, you can even take pictures with your favourite bets!
Here is a quick guide for horse racing beginners:
Although there is no official dress code for visiting racecourse tracks, it is still recommended to wear comfy clothes such as pants, jeans, or shorts. If you reserved a seat, you should go with a smart casual.
What to Bring
It does not stop at wearing comfy clothes, you also need to bring some stuff with you!
If you are planning to visit during spring or autumn, it is recommended to bring a light jacket because the weather gets cooler as the nighttime approaches.
Using binoculars will help you see the horses at the parade ring without having to secure a spot up close. You can also use this to monitor the current running position of your bet.
It is unavoidable that light showers may occur during the race. It is recommended to bring an umbrella just in case.
You do not have to worry if you do not own one or if you forgot it at home because there are convenience stores inside the venue that sell umbrellas.
Pencil or Pen
Bring your pencil or pen so that you don’t have to borrow if you need one. This is basically for filling out your betting slips.
Well, if you have a lucky pen or pencil, might as well bring it with you!
It is recommended to arrive 60 to 90 minutes before the race starts. This is for you to have ample time to explore the facility especially if the venue has a lot of offered activities and leisure shops.
The Entrance Gate
On the day of the race, you can purchase a ticket at the booth near the entrance. The ticket is only around ¥200 ($2) for racecourses located at Tokyo, Kyoto, Chukyo, and Nakayama. The ticket for racecourses at Niigata, Fukushima, Sapporo, Kokura, and Hakodate is only for ¥100 ($1).
Visit the Information Desk
Upon entering, there is an information desk where you can get a guideline on how to bet. It includes the different types of bets and the procedures on how to buy betting tickets.
There is also a special booklet wherein the step-by-step process on how to buy betting tickets are shown.
Choose Your Seats
There are non-reservable seats and reserved seats. The best thing is that there is also a grass area where you can sit.
If you want to secure a spot, you can buy a reserved seat ticket at the booth located at the entrance of the gate.
The Parade Ring (Paddock)
One of the best experiences is that you get a closer look at the horses before the race starts. They go around the parade ring for a brief warm-up. This allows you to check the horse’s condition before placing bets.
You can also have your shirt signed by the jockeys as they make their way to the saddling area.
Placing Your Bets
As you place your bets, it is also important to look at the official racing program. This is because it contains some of the basic information about the horse’s statistics, jockey, trainer, and owner.
Here are the different kinds of bets:
- Win (Tansho)- select one horse to win
- Place (Fukusho)- select one horse to win the first, second, or third place
- Bracket Quinella (Wakuban Rensho-fukushiki)- select two brackets to finish first or second in any order. The colour of the jockey’s hat will determine its designated bracket number
- Quinella (Rensho-fukushiki)- select two horses to win the first or second place in any order
- Quinella Place (Waido)- select two horses to finish first and second, first and third, or second and third in any order
- Trio (Sanrensho-fukushiki)- select three horses to finish first and second in any order
- Exacta (Rensho-tanshiki)- select two horses to finish first and second in order
- Trifecta (Sanrensho-tanshiki)- select three horses to finish first, second, and third in order
You can also place your bets through vending machines. The betting ticket released by the vending machine is also valid for 60 days. So, make sure that you store it in a safe place.
Here are the simple steps on how to place your bets through a vending machine:
Step #1: Insert Your Money
Make sure that the bill is not crumpled or damaged because the vending machine might reject your payment.
Step #2: Insert your Betting Slip
Before inserting your betting slip, check if all of the marks are clear and visible. This is to avoid discrepancies regarding your bet.
Step #3: Confirm the details
Wait for a notification box that contains all of the details regarding your bet. Once you are done, click the confirm button.
Step #5: Your Ticket and Change
Retrieve your change and do not forget your betting ticket. This serves as your proof once you’ve decided to cash out your winnings.
Even though you have a lot of money, it is still recommended to limit your bets. Do not go over your budget.
After the period of buying tickets is closed, a bell will ring which indicates that the race is about to start.
To know the number of your horse, look at the colour of its jockey’s cap. This is because the jockey’s cap has the same colour as the horse’s gate number.
There are also panoramic screens which will help you see the current standings of the horses.
If your selected horse won, it is time to withdraw your winnings! You can see the final standings at the large screens.
To withdraw your winnings, look for payoff machines which are located near the exit or vending machines. Once your betting ticket is accepted, your wins will be automatically released.
Aside from having a fun time watching your favourite horse win the race, there are also a lot of activities to do. Most of the racecourse arenas have its own museum or public park where you can learn more about horse racing.
If you feel your stomach grumbling, there are also a lot of food stalls and dining options outside and inside the venue.
There is also a souvenir shop where you can buy shirts, pins, stationery, and even stuffed toys!
Make sure to visit the horses at their stables. The horses are well-behaved and calm. Just make sure to approach them gently and do not make any sudden movements.
Want to feel the thrill of riding a horse? There is a riding area where you can line up and go for a short ride. You do not need to worry if you do not know how to ride a horse because the staff will help you get on, off, and lead you around the ring.
Most Asked Questions
With thousands of attendees every event, questions are unavoidable. Well, here are the answers to the most asked questions:
How many races are there in a day?
There are usually 12 races in one day. However, there are days with fewer races especially if it is a major tournament.
Where can I get the racing program?
You can get your copy at the information desk. You do not have to pay any penny because it is for free. There are also other brochures and pamphlets to help you with placing your bets.
In which direction do the horses run?
Well, if the race is held in Tokyo, Chukyo, Niigata, it is counterclockwise. Other racecourses run clockwise.
What is the minimum bet?
The minimum wager for all types of bet is ¥100 ($1).
When do ticket windows close?
The ticket windows will close two minutes before the race begins. A bell will ring once the selling period is closed.
Can I refund betting tickets after purchase?
Unfortunately, refunds are not accepted after tickets are purchased.
Major Horse Races
To give you an overview, here is a quick rundown of the major horse races throughout the year:
- Hyacinth Stakes (Dirt 1600m)- a flat horse race for three-year-olds
- February Stakes (Dirt 1600m)- a G1 flat horse race
- Takamatsunomiya Kinen (Turf 1200m)- a G1 flat horse race for thoroughbreds four years old and above
- Fukuryu Stakes (Dirt 1800m)- a race for three-year-old colts and fillies
- Osaka Hai (Turf 2000m)- a G1 horse race for thoroughbred fillies and colts
- Satsuki Sho (Turf 2000m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies
- Oka Sho (Turf 1600m)- a G1 flat horse race
- Tenno Sho (Turf 3200m)- a race held twice a month, during spring and autumn
- Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (Turf 2400m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old fillies
- NHK Mile Cup (Turf 1600m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred fillies and colts
- Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (Turf 2400m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred fillies and colts
- Victoria Mile (Turf 1600m)- a G1 flat horse race for thoroughbred fillies and mares (four years old and above)
- Takarazuka Kinen (Turf 2200m)- a G1 flat horse race for thoroughbreds three years old and above
- Yasuda Kinen (Turf 1600m)- a G1 thoroughbred horse race held annually
- Sprinters Stakes (Turf 1200m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old thoroughbreds
- Shuka Sho (Turf 2000m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred fillies
- Tenno Sho (Turf 2000m)- a horse race held twice a year, during spring and autumn
- Kikka Sho (Turf 3000m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies
- Japan Cup (Turf 2400m)- the most prestigious horse race in the country
- Cattleya Sho (Dirt 1600m)- a flat horse race for two-year-old horses
- Mile Championship (Turf 1600m)- a G1 flat horse race for thoroughbreds three years old and above
- Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Turf 2200m)- a G1 flat horse race for thoroughbred fillies and mares (three years old and above)
- Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (Dirt 1600m)- a flat horse race for two-year-old horses
- Hopeful Stakes (Turf 2000m)- a G1 middle-distance race for two-year-old thoroughbreds
- Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (Turf 1600m)- a one-mile turf stakes race for two-year-old thoroughbred fillies
- Arima Kinen (Grand Prix) (Turf 2500m)- a G1 flat horse race for three-year-old or older thoroughbreds
- Champions Cup (Dirt 1800m)- a thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds or older
- Tokyo Daishōten (Dirt 2000m)- a thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds or older
- Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (Turf 1600m)- a one-mile turf stakes for two-year-old thoroughbred colts
Here are some of the horse racing fun facts you should know:
- Horse racing was introduced in Japan by a group of British residents in Yokohama
- The Japan Cup is recognized as one of the richest horse races in the world
- The Japan Racing Association (JRA) manages the 10 major racecourses in the metropolitan area while the National Association of Racing (NAR) manages 15 local horse racing courses
- Horses under JRA cannot participate in NAR events unless it is classified as exchange race or dirt-grade race
- Yutaka Take is known as the top jockey in Japan who won multiple championship titles and regularly competes internationally
- Japan’s top jump race is the Nakayama Grand Jump. It is a steeplechase horse racing held every month of April
- There are a lot of youth sports club and organizations built to promote horse racing
- There are a lot of horse race museums you can visit. Some of these are the JRA Racing Museum and Equine Museum of Japan
- Several equine enthusiasts are planning different programs to preserve the native Japanese horse breeds and traditional horse-related events
What are you waiting for? Plan your bets and attend a horse racing event! Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!