Michael Cox



‘Keep the noise down’: Tokyo wall turns Derby roar to a whisper inside quarantine

The JRA is going to great lengths to bring international runners back to Tokyo for the Yasuda Kinen and Japan Cup.

Anybody who has attended a Group 1 at Tokyo Racecourse understands the incredible noise 100,000 Japanese fans can make from pre-race fanfare through to the finish of a race.

That is why when Japan Racing Association officials installed new, state-of-the-art quarantine stables on the infield at Tokyo, they needed to consider the effect of crowd noise on the residents.

A crowd of 100,000 can generate a sound of more than 100 decibels, the sound of a stadium rock concert or a jet take-off from around 300 metres.

The biggest concern was for horses contesting the Yasuda Kinen, who would be most likely relaxing in the new barns when the Tokyo Yushun was held a week earlier.

Testament to the JRA’s attention-to-detail, a sound dampening wall – similar to those used to protect residential areas from highway noise – was installed along the grandstand side of the compound.

Noise testing was undertaken before, during and after Do Deuce’s Derby victory and the wall reduced noise to a maximum of 66 decibels, around the same level as normal conversation.

“That was outside the barns, it was even less inside,” said JRA vet Akiko Hirama. “You can hardly hear anything inside the barns.”


The new quarantine facilities at Tokyo racecourse. (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The 300-metre sand track at the new Tokyo racecourse quarantine facilities has a sound-dampening wall on the outside. (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The sandroll at the new quarantine facilities at Tokyo racecourse. (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The six quarantine barns contain two boxes each and in theory enable horses from six separate planes to spend their quarantine at Tokyo Racecourse at any one time.

JRA officials are certainly hoping the new set-up attracts more visitors. Foreign runners have been far less frequent in recent runnings of the Yasuda Kinen and Japan Cup.

The quality of the new barns, bolstered bonuses for the Japan Cup and the easing of Covid restrictions around the world should result in more horses returning.

When they do return, visiting horses will certainly be better rested and prepared than in previous years.

For the first three days of quarantine at the course, horses can use the 300m coarse sand track that circles the barns.

The new boxes measure 4.2m by 3.5m and are not only more spacious than the old boxes where visiting horses were previously kept nearby, but the barns feature much higher ceilings.

“They were inspired by the Hong Kong Jockey Club stables in Conghua,” Hirama said. “The grooms will stay in a hotel nearby but can check on the horses online via cameras on a password-controlled, individual stream.”

The new quarantine facilities at Tokyo racecourse. (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The larger boxes at the new quarantine facilities measure 4.2m x 3.5m (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The new boxes feature much higher ceilings. (Photo: Lo Chun Kit / Asian Racing Report)

The JRA has also increased the rich incentives for overseas-trained horses to return to the Japan Cup, which was dominated by visitors in its early years after being formed to test local talent.

Starting with Mairzy Doates in 1981, non-Japanese runners won nine of the first 11 editions of the race.

In time, Japanese horses have become a world force, and interest in contesting the 2400m race has waned.

Only two foreign horses – Falbrav (2002) and Alkaased (2005) – have won the Japan Cup this century, and only six overseas-trained horses in the last four years have contested it.
Covid has obviously played a major part but even prior to that interest had slowly diminished over a 20-year period.

The winners of more than 20 races around the world, including this weekend’s Irish Champion Stakes, are eligible for a US$3m bonus – on top of the first prizemoney of 400 million Yen (USD$3.7m) – should they win the Japan Cup.

The rich bonuses continue for placegetters, even a second-placed finish from an eligible runner would be enough to earn a US$1.2m top up, while those eligible will receive US$200,000 for an unplaced finish and every invited runner will receive a minimum US$100,000.



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