Courses for Horses: A Look at the Big Four of Japanese Racecourses

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Horse racing in Japan is centuries old. But the first race on Japanese soil in a recognizable western format was actually organized by a group of Brits in 1862.

Today, Japan is home to ten racecourses of the Japan Racing Association. Tokyo, Nakayama, Kyoto, and Hanshin are known as the Big Four. Along with the Chukyo racecourse, all Grade 1 races are held at those courses. All of the ten tracks have right-handed courses, apart from Tokyo, Chukyo, and Niigata, which have counterclockwise ones. In addition to the racecourses already mentioned, Japan’s other courses are Fukushima, Kokura, Sapporo, and Hakodate. Let’s take a closer look at the Big Four of Japanese racecourses.

Hanshin Racecourse

The site of Hanshin Racecourse was once owned by the Kawanishi Aircraft Company, which manufactured combat planes in World War II. In 1949, Keihanshin Keiba KK built the racecourse, and it transferred to the Japan Racing Association in 1955. A major reconstruction was completed in 2006. Hanshin Racecourse is located in Western Japan in the beautiful city of Takarazuka, which is nestled between the Nagao and Rokko mountain ranges, with the Muko River running through the city center.

The racecourse contains one dirt course, one jump course, and two turf courses. It hosts major races like the Osaka Hai, the Takarazuka Kinen, the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, and the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, and from 2008 to 2015, Hanshin Racecourse hosted the prestigious Japan Dirt Cup, which is now known as the Champions Cup. If you are able to visit Hanshin Racecourse, you will love soaking up the thrilling atmosphere. In the meantime, you can always play horse racing slot games instead, such as the fabulous Scudamore’s Super Stakes slot game, which is available at online casinos such as Casumo.

Kyoto Racecourse

Built in 1999, the Kyoto Racecourse has two turf courses, one dirt course, and one jump course. With a capacity of 120,000, the premier racecourse holds several major races throughout the year, including the Tenno Sho, the Mile Championship, the Kikuka Sho, the Shuka Sho, and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. Kyoto Racecourse is located in Fushimi-ku, a ward in the city of Kyoto.

Nakayama Racecourse

In the coastal city of Funabashi in the Chiba Prefecture, you will come across the 165,676-capacity Nakayama Racecourse. Although the modern course was only built in 1990, the horse racing site dates back to the early 20th century.

The course’s calendar is comparable to the Tokyo Racecourse. It includes prominent races such as the Satsuki Sho, the Nakayama Grand Jump, the Nakayama Diashogai, the Sprinters Stakes, and the Grand Prix. The jump course is of particular interest as it offers several unique configurations, including two of the most challenging jumps on the course. Those jumps are only used a few times a year, such as at the Nakayama Daishogai races.

Tokyo Racecourse

Located in the city of Fuchu, in the Tokyo Metropolis, this course is considered to be “the racecourse of racecourses” in Japan.

Numerous prestigious races are held at Tokyo Racecourse each year, including the Japanese Derby, the Yasuda Kinen, the NHL Mile Cup, the February Stakes, and the Japan Cup. The course was built back in 1933, but it has gone through many renovations since. It currently has a capacity of 223,000. After the most recent renovation, completed in 2007, the course became home to the world’s largest video screen, measuring 218 feet by 37 feet. However, the Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City in the United States beat the record in 2009 when it installed a 104-foot by 84-foot screen. If you have the chance to visit Japan’s racecourses, the Tokyo Racecourse should certainly be top of your list.

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