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White Wonder toys with rivals in popularity stakes

Pure-white thoroughbred Sodashi is considered the most popular racehorse in Japan. And when it comes to plushie sales, the stats back it up.

Sodashi, Japan’s pin-up galloper who in December of 2020 became the world’s first ever pure white thoroughbred racehorse to win a Group One race, has a new accolade to add to her growing collection: the Sodashi ‘plushie’ has been officially declared the most popular of all time.


Sodashi, Japan's adored 'White Wonder', winning the Oka Sho of 2021. (Photo by JRA)

For those perhaps unfamiliar with the lingo, a plushie is just another word for a soft toy. But in the context of Japanese racing, plushies in the likeness of champion racehorses are coveted items indeed, prime examples of the country’s celebrated ‘Kawaii’ culture of cuteness.

Most horse plushies are fairly generic in nature – distinguished largely by coat colour, saddlecloths, blinkers (if applicable) and a fastidious dedication to the accurate depiction of any blazes, stars, socks or other markings. But in spite of these efforts at demarcation, from a distance most of them look the same.

Almond Eye the plushie... Note the accurate markings! (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Sodashi x Hello Kitty, a horse-jockey combo to follow. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Not so the Sodashi plushie, whose distinctive colouring makes her instantly recognisable and a guaranteed conversation-starter on Japanese racetracks.

Such is the scarcity of the Sodashi plushies that racegoers currently can’t purchase one on course. The JRA, via their authorised merchandise provider PRC, told Asian Racing Report that plushies in the image of the ‘White Wonder’ have already sold out on five separate occasions, taking total sales to a staggering (approximate) 87,000.

In terms of all-time gross plushie sales, beloved dual-Japan Cup champion and Fillies’ Triple Crown winner Almond Eye leads all comers. Gold Ship is second, the mighty Orfevre third.

Sodashi is fourth with a bullet. Whilst she hasn’t yet overhauled her retired predecessors (three of Japanese racing’s greatest modern champions, no less), the rapidity with which her likenesses have sold in such a comparatively short period have seen PRC rate her as the most popular plushie of all time, already surpassing fifth-placed all-time Kitasan Black in gross sales.

Turfy Shop sign: "Sodashi plushies all sold out." (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Sodashi plushie enjoying a day at Keiba. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Sodashi plushie is no stranger to the bright lights of Tokyo. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

Sodashi plushie tucks into a restorative iced tea. (Photo by Asian Racing Report)

For when it comes to Japan’s pin-up horse, the adulation is everywhere.  Key rings, pens, pillows, school stationary and coffee mugs are just some other examples of Sodashi merchandise that fans of the mystical mare are clamouring for.

Whilst the striking four-year-old filly’s impressive racetrack achievements should justifiably take centre stage (a recent Victoria Mile victory gave Sodashi a third Group One win), the adjacent plushie phenomenon remains an interesting case study in a Japanese horse racing culture so enamoured with the thoroughbred itself. And when your racehorses are as good as Japan’s, why not market them as the out-and-out stars of the show? As the JRA promotional tag goes, “Hero Is Coming”.

For Japan’s English language caller Murray Johnson, Sodashi’s emergent popularity transcended ‘kawaii’.

“There is the cute factor, she is such a striking animal,” Johnson told Asian Racing Report.

Sodashi scrapes home by a nose in the G1 Juvenile Grade Fillies at Hanshin. (Photo by JRA)

“But when this white-haired mare burst on the scene she seemed so mystical, like something out of a fairy tale, somebody riding her saying ‘Hi Ho Silver’ or something you would see galloping across the screen in a Peter Jackson film,” said Johnson.

“So you have this image of beauty and rarity, but of course she can also really run.”

After weeks of ‘sold out’ signs at Japan’s racetracks, the wait might soon be over however for fans of the ‘White Wonder’ hoping to get their hands on a Sodashi plushie of their own.

A new Sodashi plushie will be available in July, with the next iteration wearing saddle cloth number five to commemorate her latest stirring win, this time in the Victoria Mile at Tokyo in May.



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