On a sunny afternoon last Sunday, more than 60,000 people witnessed Loves Only You, ridden by Mirco Demuro, win the Japanese Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu. The race, 11th of the day’s 12, was scheduled to start at 3:40 p.m, but fans filled most seats by noon.
The major reason people visit the racecourse is, of course, to place a bet and hopefully return home a little richer. Sales for the Japanese Oaks this year reached about ¥17.5 billion and the biggest payoff for a ¥100 bet was ¥179,960.
But there are plenty of reasons other than betting to visit a racecourse. Some fans simply love to watch beautiful thoroughbreds compete, while others enjoy taking pictures of the races. Fine weather can make a leisurely day at the track an enjoyable experience for anyone.
You might find yourself among the crowds visiting Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday for the upcoming Japanese Derby, also known as the Tokyo Yushun. Here are some tips to enjoy one of the biggest horse races in Japan.
The Tokyo Racecourse is located in Fuchu City and offers turf, dirt and steeplechase courses (all counterclockwise). The Japanese Derby is the 11th of Sunday’s 12 scheduled contests at the venue and will feature 18 3-year-old horses competing in a 2,400-meter race. The winning horse will earn ¥200 million.
The Japan Race Association allows 10 types of betting. The simplest is “Win,” in which you select a horse you think will win the race and bet on that horse’s number.
Rather than simply betting on the winner, you also can select the horse you think will finish first, second or third. This type of bet, called “Place,” is available when more than five horses compete. When seven or fewer horses are entered, you can select the first or second finisher.
You can also bet on one horse to win or be placed in the top three called “Each Way.”
In the “Bracket Quinella,” a fan selects two brackets (groups) of horses that they expect to contain the first- and second-place finishers. A similar bet for individual horses is simply called the “Quinella.”
“Quinella Place” lets bettors choose a pair from among the top three finishers (first and second, first and third, or second and third). Betting on all three top finishers in any order is called a “Trio.”
A bet choosing the first and second horses in the correct order is an “Exacta,” while a selection of the top three horses in the correct order is a “Trifecta.”
The last type of bet is a “Win 5,” which involves selecting the winners of five different races designated by the JRA.
To purchase your bets, you have to fill out the betting card that has the columns of racecourses, race number, type of bet, horse or bracket number and amount. In the old days, bettors had to purchase their bet at ticket windows, but now there are hundreds of automatic vending machines at the racecourse. These machines also pay out winning bets.
For more information on betting, please visit the JRA’s official website at japanracing.jp/en/.
As mentioned above, betting is not the only way to enjoy horse racing. Many people visit the racecourse because they love thoroughbreds. For those, it’s highly recommended to visit the paddock. Before every race, participating horses and jockeys come out to the paddock and walk around, giving fans a chance to see the horses from only a few meters away.
Some bettors observe the horses’ physical and mental conditions to decide which horse to bet on, and it’s the best opportunity that horse-loving photographers will have to get a great photo.
A big screen behind the paddock shows the list of horses and weights, jockey names and odds for each type of bet.
Of the 12 races on Sunday, five will be contested on turf and seven on dirt. The first race, a 1,400-meter contest for 3-year-old horses that have not yet won a race, is scheduled to start at 9:40 a.m. The Japanese Derby is set to begin at 3:40 p.m.
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