Japanese horse racing meets the Triple Crown

Japanese horse racing meets the Triple Crown

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It’s no secret that horse racing is kind of a big deal, what with the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes and all. Along with horse racing comes horse breeding, which is equally a big deal. Heck, even the iconic television character Tony Soprano had a horse, Pie-O-My.

Today’s entry is a lengthy article in the New York Times on Japanese horse breeding by Ashley Walker. Walker manages the Web site for Churchill Downs, Inc. and follows horse racing extensively. His article delves deep into the history of Japanese horse breeding, which essentially takes off with the addition of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence – a horse who never finished worse than 2nd in his 14-race career. After Sunday Silence failed to find a home in America after his racing career was over, Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida brought him to his famous Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido (which most recently bought the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem for $17 million). Since then, Sunday Silence has sired several prominent horses, including Cesario, Delta Blues, Deep Impact and Dance in the Mood; Walker estimates that the earnings of Sunday Silence’s descendants are over $500 million.

Clearly, horse racing in Japan is serious business. Here’s what Walker has to say about it:

Japan’s organization and presentation of the racing product, being completely different from our own, has produced gaudy results when looking at raw numbers.

Currently, the betting handle in Japan is almost double that of the American racing product. While that alone is a mind-boggling figure, when you take into account that they run approximately 60 percent fewer races than we do, it puts them squarely on top of the global racing scene.

So what’s all this mean in terms of American horse racing? Well, if you are really interested, Walker has more than enough to say about it. But let’s just say that this year’s Kentucky Derby champion Big Brown may not have an easy path to the Triple Crown.

Here’s Dance in the Mood taking home the CashCall Mile (Grade III) with ease:

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