All three races will receive significant prize money boosts and the Tokyo Derby will become the NAR’s first ¥100,000,000 (AU$1,066,994) win purse; the Japan Dirt Derby, which, like the Teio Sho, is open to JRA horses, will increase in worth from ¥102,000,000 (AU$1,088,334) to ¥119,000,000 (AU$1,269,723).
The JRA administers 10 racetracks and had 288 race fixtures in 2021; the NAR, traditionally fulfilling the role of lower grade betting fare, has 15 courses, all being dirt surfaces, and had 1,106 thoroughbred fixtures last year (the NAR also stages Ban-ei draught horse races and Anglo-Arab races).
While other sports shut down through much of the pandemic, racing on the JRA and NAR circuits continued behind closed doors and that has been to its benefit.
The JRA’s successful marketing campaigns that emphasise the sport’s heroes have, since reopening, helped draw more young people to the racecourse, including women. Fans, unable to attend on-course and off-course betting facilities through the worst of the pandemic, turned on their TVs to watch and more of them switched to telephone and online betting.
In a recent and rare interview with Japanese media, the JRA chairman Masayuki Goto spoke of the sport’s current vitality.
“Japanese racing successfully grasped the situation and this enabled horseracing to establish an important position in society during the pandemic and this has contributed to the continuation of the cycle. I believe the popularity of Japanese racing will definitely take it to the next level,” he said.
In that vein, Titleholder’s crowd-pleasing win in the Takarazuka Kinen was a feelgood performance in keeping with the current buoyancy of Japanese racing as a whole. More than 2,000,000 fans voted for which horses they wanted in the race and the event drew 43,297 attendees to Nakayama, producing betting turnover on the day of ¥32,365,717,800 (approx. AU$345,340,546).
Record-breaking Titleholder powers to Takarazuka Kinen glory
The JRA’s total annual turnover has been climbing year-on-year since 2011. It has risen from ¥2,299,063,821,000 (AU$24.5 billion) that year to ¥3,100,065,804,000 (AU$33 1 billion) in 2021. Its total yearly prize money has increased in tandem: having dipped to ¥98,556,075,940 (AU$1.05 billion) in 2012, it was back to turn-of-the-century levels in 2021 at ¥119,783,222,350 (AU$1.28 billion).
The booming trend is mirrored in the NAR statistics which had total flat racing turnover in 2011 of ¥314,884,315,200 (AU$3.3 billion), rising year-on-year to ¥913,217,242,120 (AU$9.7 billion) in 2021.
Total prize money for NAR thoroughbred races increased as a result, being ¥14,435,962,000 (AU$154 million) in 2014 and rising to ¥25,104,703,000 (AU$268 million) in 2021. Average prize money per NAR race is relatively healthy at ¥1,787,504 (AU$19,072).