Japanese horse racing, known locally as ‘keiba,’ is more than just a sport; it’s deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and has millions of passionate fans. What sets it apart from many other sports in Japan is its unique status as one of the few that allows public gambling, making it a cherished pastime among the Japanese people.
With Japanese trainers making their mark on the global stage, attention is increasingly turning to the exhilarating horse racing events that unfold in Asia. Remarkably, these skilled trainers are venturing overseas to compete in some of the world’s most prestigious races, with star racers like Derma Sotogake making their nation proud, clinching an impressive second place in the prestigious Breeders Cup Classic in 2023.
If you’re interested in trying your hand at betting on this captivating sport, our guide can help you understand the markets and odds to get started.
Most Famous Japanese Races
Horse racing takes place daily at various tracks in Japan, but it is the most popular race on the schedule that captures the imagination of mainstream fans. For that reason, the most prestigious races on the calendar are among the most prominent when betting on the sport. Below, you can learn about the most famous races on the Japanese schedule.
The opening leg of the Japanese Triple Crown is the Satsuki Sho, which is staged annually in April. The field of horses aged three competes for over 2,000 meters, with legendary winners of the Classic including Geoglyph, Gold Ship, and Deep Impact.
The Takarazuka Kinen headlines racing action in June staged at Hanshin Racecourse. It is one of just two all-star races, with the field competing over 2,200 meters. There have been some famous race winners in recent years, including Equinox in 2023 and Titleholder in 2022.
The richest race in Japan comes in the form of the Japan Cup, which is staged annually at Tokyo Racecourse and boasts a purse of $5.8 million. Anyone traveling through Asia should not miss out on seeing this race. This race is run over 2,400 meters on turf, with recent winners including Almond Eye, Contrail, and Vela Azul.
There are few more popular betting races worldwide than the Arima Kinen. It is one of two all-star races to be staged in Japan, and it has been staged annually at Nakayama Racecourse since 1956. The field covers a total distance of 2,500 meters, with recent winners of Grade 1 including Equinox, Chrono Genesis, and Efforia.
Popular Betting Markets
There are many ways to bet on horse racing with the most popular bookmakers in Japan. Each market requires something slightly different to get returns, and you can learn about some of the most popular below.
Win betting is the most popular option of wager with most bettors, as you will simply place your stake on the runner you believe will win the race. You will be awarded the returns if your selection crosses the line first.
Place betting is often a shrewd option among gamblers, as it will cover the insurance of your runner finishing in second or third, as well as first. Third will be covered if there are a higher number of runners involved. However, the returns on shorter-priced selections in the win-betting market will be very slim on this market.
A popular betting option among experienced gamblers comes in the form of the Exacta and Trifecta. To land the former, you must select the runners that finish exactly first and second in the race. It is harder to land a Trifecta, as you must put your stake on the runners that finish first, second, and third in the exact order.
Distance betting is very popular when there is a short-price favorite, as there could be better value in making a wager on the distance the runner will win by. You need to correctly predict the number of lengths that a horse will win by to get returns on this market.
Tips For Horse Racing Betting
Study The Form
It goes without saying, but the form is one of the most important factors to examine before selecting any horse racing event in Japan. Bettors must examine the form of each horse involved in the race, their win/loss record, and the distances and terrains that victories have come over. Horses with prior experience over course and distance will always hold an edge over their rivals.
It isn’t just the horse form that bettors should examine, as greater attention should be drawn to the strike rates of both jockeys and trainers. Yards in excellent form will always be considered a strong point, while trainers with poor recent track records may be enduring a lull in performance from their runners in training. Jockey form is also important as those with winning records will ride more confidently.
Class Of Horse
Many of the biggest races in Japan are Grade 1s, meaning that bettors will be looking to find runners with proven experience over the distance and track at the highest level. Visit japanbets.com to read about Japan’s top 10 greatest horses of all time, which will help make an educated choice. Horses that have only won at Grade 2 or Grade 3 level will often have to raise their performance levels to compete with the best in Grade 1 companies. Therefore, assessing the highest grade a runner has won is always important.
Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in Japan today, with bettors often looking to land wagers on the action. Examining the latest form of horses is essential before selecting the latest action on track, while bettors must also consider the form of the trainers and the jockeys.
Newcomers to betting on the sport should also examine all the betting markets before making wagers on the action, as they should ensure that they know what is required to gain returns from their selections when betting on the sport. However, the long-term popularity of betting on the sport in Japan looks extremely bright.