- For the road bicycle racing event, see Japan Cup (cycling).
- For the bowling event, see Dydo Japan Cup.
|Grade 1 race|
ジャパンカップ (Japan Kappu)
Japan's most prestigious horse race
Fuchū, Tokyo, Japan
|Website||Japan Cup - Racing Information|
(About 12 furlongs / 1 ½ miles)
|Qualification||3-y-o & Up, Thoroughbreds (safety factor: 18 horses; up to ten foreign-trained starters are allowed in the race)|
|Weight||3-y-o 55 kg 4-y-o & up 57kg|
2 kg for fillies and mares
2 kg for S. Hemisphere 3-y-o
|Purse||¥528,500,000 (as of 2010)|
|Bonuses||Additional money awarded if winner won in qualified international races (see below) plus ¥3,500,000 to the winning owner|
The Japan Cup (ジャパンカップ Japan Kappu, JPN G-1) is the most prestigious horse race run in Japan. It is contested at the end of November at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, Tokyo at a distance of 2400 meters (about 1 ½ miles) over the grass. With a purse of ¥533 million (about US $4.6 million), the Japan Cup is the richest race on turf in the world,  and one of the richest horse races in the world.
The Japan Cup is an invitational event. During a relatively short history, the race has established itself as a truly international contest with winners from Japan, North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy.
The Japan Cup has produced some of the most memorable finishes seen in Japanese racing. Along with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Melbourne Cup and the Breeders' Cup, the race ranks as one of the great end-of-year events.
The Japan Racing Association established the Japan Cup as an international invitational race in order for local racehorses to have the opportunity to compete against horses of an international calibre and to promote goodwill within the racing community worldwide.
With the economic crisis of 2008, the Japanese yen went under 100 yen per dollar, which makes the Japan Cup the world's richest turf horse race (and second richest horse race of any kind, next to the Dubai World Cup), passing the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which in 2008 was the world's richest turf race.
(Purse value for 2006-onwards running)
Total JPN ¥533,500,000 (about US$5.65 million)
- 1st JPN ¥250,000,000 (about US$2.65 million)
- 2nd JPN ¥100,000,000 (about US$1.06 million)
- 3rd JPN ¥63,000,000 (about US$668,000)
- 4th JPN ¥38,000,000 (about US$403,000)
- 5th JPN ¥25,000,000 (about US$265,000)
Bonuses include extra money added to the pot of the Japan Cup winner if they raced in one of the following races and finished likewise:
|Preparatory Event to Japan Cup||Qualification||Japan Cup Winner Bonus|
|Japan Cup||Current Year Winner||JPN ¥130,000,000|
|Current Year Runner-Up||JPN ¥50,000,000|
|Previous year winner, foreign-trained horse||
| Arlington Million
Canadian International Stakes
Irish Champion Stakes
Grosser Preis von Baden
|Current Year Winner|
Note: The Takarazuka Kinen and the Breeders' Cup Classic were previously bonus criteria for races prior to 2008; starting with the 2008 race however they are no longer criteria and were replaced by the Dubai Sheema Classic.
A horse can only apply for one extra bonus, and will be awarded the higher of the two if applicable (i.e. if a US-based horse won both the Arlington Million and the Breeders' Cup Turf, the bonus will apply to the latter rather than the former).
Previously, if the winner is foreign-based, they also receive an invitation to race in the Arima Kinen later in the year; however, starting in the 2007 race, with the status upgrade to an International Grade I, that invitation award has been discontinued.
The inaugural running in 1981 was restricted to horses trained in Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India, as well as ones that were specifically invited. An American mare triumphed as five-year-old Mairzy Doates, trained by John Fulton and partnered by Cash Asmussen, came home a length in front of the Canadian-trained Frost King, with The Very One, another from America, in third.
A year later restrictions on entry were abolished and the best horses from around the world were invited and the Japan Cup remains an invitational race.
There was again an American-trained victor in 1982, with three-year-old Half Iced getting the better of a thrilling battle with French fillies All Along and April Run by a couple of necks, with Stanerra a length back in fourth.
Stanerra, owned and trained by Irish retail millionaire Frank Dunne, returned to Japan in 1983, having enjoyed a brilliant season in Europe which included winning both the Hardwicke Stakes and the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. The tough and courageous mare was partnered by regular jockey Brian Rouse in the third running of the Japan Cup and proved a head too strong for the Japanese-trained Kyoei Promise. It was a very close finish as Esprit Du Nord from France was another head back in third.
The Japanese enjoyed a first home success in 1984 when four-year-old Katsuragi Ace defeated Bedtime, trained in Britain by Major Dick Hern, by a length and a half. There was further Japanese success in 1985, with the previous year's third Symboli Rudolf defeating Rocky Tiger in good style.
Jupiter Island became the first British raider to capture the Japan Cup the following year when the Clive Brittain-trained seven-year-old just got the better of compatriot Allez Milord, trained by Guy Harwood, by a head under an inspired ride from Pat Eddery.
The French made their mark in 1987 when the Robert Collet-trained and Alain Lequeux-ridden Le Glorieux came home in front, while the Americans struck for a third time in 1988 with the Robert J. Frankel-trained Pay The Butler, the mount of Chris McCarron.
In 1989 and 1990, horses from New Zealand and Australia came out on top. The 1989 renewal fell to the New Zealand six-year-old mare Horlicks when scoring by a neck, while a year later Better Loosen Up struck for Australian trainer David Hayes by a head from French-trained Ode, with another head to Cacoethes, trained by Guy Harwood, who had gone clear only to be caught close home. These two victories did much to promote Southern Hemisphere racing in the international arena.
Veteran American trainer Charlie Whittingham sent out Golden Pheasant to win in 1991. Owned by the Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team owner Bruce McNall and his superstar player, Wayne Gretzky, Golden Pheasant gave the USA a fourth Japan Cup victory, while the Japanese took the next three renewals with Tokai Teio (1992), Legacy World (1993) and Marvelous Crown (1994).
There had been a number of German challengers for the Japan Cup over the years but it was not until 1995 that a horse from that country proved successful, with five-year-old Lando triumphing under South African-born but British-based jockey Michael Roberts.
British trainer Michael Stoute landed both the 1996 and 1997 Japan Cups with the supremely tough and talented international campaigners Singspiel - by a nose - and Pilsudski - by a neck - respectively.
Pilsudski's victory in 1997 came on his final appearance and was his sixth Group/Grade One victory, with others coming in the Grosser Preis von Baden in Germany, the Breeders' Cup Turf and Irish Champion Stakes. Pilsudski took up stallion duties in Japan but moved to Ireland in 2004.
El Condor Pasa led home a Japanese one, two, three in the 18th running - the first time this had happened.
The Sunday Silence colt Special Week, third in 1998, gave Japan's highest profile jockey Yutaka Take his first success in the Japan Cup which is watched by enthusiastic crowds of over 150,000. The Hong Kong-trained Indigenous ran a brilliant race to be second with 1998 Epsom Derby winner High-Rise, racing for Godolphin, in third and 1999 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Montjeu fourth.
T M Opera O went into the 2000 Japan Cup unbeaten that year and emerged with his record intact, scoring by a neck from Meisho Doto with Godolphin's fast-finishing Fantastic Light a nose back in third.
Jungle Pocket continued the Japanese run of success in 2001, with the winner of the Tokyo Yushun sweeping home under French jockey Olivier Peslier to beat T M Opera O by a neck. The Japanese also had the next three with Golan, from Sir Michael Stoute's Newmarket stable, in sixth.
In 2002 the Group One contest moved to Nakayama Racecourse while Tokyo Racecourse was being renovated. The distance was shortened to 2200 meters (about 1 3/8 miles) on the right-handed outer loop course.
Italian-trained challenger Falbrav, ridden by Frankie Dettori, was a nose too good for the American raider Sarafan in another thrilling finish, with Symboli Kris S a neck away in third. It was Dettori's second Japan Cup success as he had previously won on Singspiel in 1996. Falbrav subsequently transferred from Italy to Newmarket, England-based trainer Luca Cumani and went on to take five more Group One contests in 2003.
For the 2003 renewal, the great contest returned to Fuchu and was won by the Japanese-trained Tap Dance City, who triumphed on soft ground by an amazing nine lengths from That's The Plenty. Symboli Kris S was again third.
The prize stayed in Japan again in 2004. Zenno Rob Roy led home a Japanese 1-2-3 with French ace Olivier Peslier in the saddle. Zenno Rob Roy's Japan Cup success was the middle leg in a run of three Group One wins in Japan.
A photo finish decided the 2005 winner, as Alkaased narrowly beat Heart's Cry for the cup by a nose. This finish gave Heart's Cry his third near miss in a G-1 race. The previous year's winner Zenno Rob Roy placed a third, beating Lincoln by a nose. The race time record was also broken from 1989, with a time of 2m 22.1s.
In the 2009 edition, another photo finish decided the winner, in which the five-year-old mare Vodka on her third Japan Cup try with the French jockey Christophe Lemaire won by a nose over the 2008 Kikuka Sho winner Oken Bruce Lee, at a time of 2 minutes and 22.4 seconds, the third-fastest Japan Cup ever run at the standard 2400-meter distance. Vodka's win would make her the 2nd-richest racehorse in Japan and the world; the two-time Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit would finish 4th on his final race of his career. Vodka placed 4th in the 2007 running to Admire Moon and 3rd in the 2008 running to Screen Hero, in which the latter ran 13th in the 2009 race.
No horse has yet won the Japan Cup on more than one occasion.
|1981||Mairzy Doates||5||Cash Asmussen||John Fulton||Arno Schefler||2:25.3|
|1982||Half Iced||3||Don MacBeth||Stanley M. Hough||Bertram R. Firestone||2:27.1|
|1983||Stanerra||5||Brian Rouse||Frank Dunne||Frank Dunne||2:27.6|
|1984||Katsuragi Ace||4||Katsuichi Nishiura||Kazumi Domon||Ichizo Node||2:26.3|
|1985||Symboli Rudolf||4||Yukio Okabe||Yuji Nohira||Symboli Bokujo||2:28.8|
|1986||Jupiter Island||7||Pat Eddery||Clive Brittain||Marquess of Tavistock||2:25.0|
|1987||Le Glorieux||3||Alain Lequeux||Robert Collet||Sieglinde Wolf||2:24.9|
|1988||Pay The Butler||4||Chris McCarron||Robert J. Frankel||Edmund A. Gann||2:25.5|
|1989||Horlicks||6||Lance O'Sullivan||Dave O'Sullivan||Graham de Gruchy||2:22.2|
|1990||Better Loosen Up||5||Michael Clarke||David Hayes||Gabe Farrah, et al.||2:23.2|
|1991||Golden Pheasant||5||Gary Stevens||Charles Whittingham||McNall / Gretzky||2:24.7|
|1992||Tokai Teio||4||Yukio Okabe||Shoichi Matsumoto||Masanori Uchimura||2:24.6|
|1993||Legacy World||4||Hiroshi Kawachi||Hideyuki Mori||Horse Tajima Co.||2:24.4|
|1994||Marvelous Crown||4||Katsumi Minai||Makoto Osawa||Sadao Sasahara||2:23.6|
|1995||Lando||5||Michael Roberts||Heinz Jentzsch||Gestüt Haus Ittlingen||2:24.6|
|1996||Singspiel||4||Frankie Dettori||Michael Stoute||Sheikh Mohammed||2:23.8|
|1997||Pilsudski||5||Michael Kinane||Michael Stoute||Lord Weinstock||2:25.8|
|1998||El Condor Pasa||3||Masayoshi Ebina||Yoshitaka Ninomiya||Takashi Watanabe||2:25.9|
|1999||Special Week||4||Yutaka Take||Toshiaki Shirai||Hiroyoshi Usuda||2:25.5|
|2000||T M Opera O||4||Ryuji Wada||Ichizo Iwamoto||Masatsugu Takezono||2:26.1|
|2001||Jungle Pocket||3||Olivier Peslier||Sakae Watanabe||Yomoji Saito||2:23.8|
|2002||Falbrav ||4||Frankie Dettori||Luciano d'Auria||Scuderia Rencati||2:12.2|
|2003||Tap Dance City||6||Tetsuzo Sato||Shozo Sasaki||Yushun Horse Syndicate||2:28.7|
|2004||Zenno Rob Roy||4||Olivier Peslier||Kazuo Fujisawa||Shinobu Oosako||2:24.2|
|2005||Alkaased||5||Frankie Dettori||Luca Cumani||Michael Charlton||2:22.1|
|2006||Deep Impact||4||Yutaka Take||Yasuo Ikee||Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co.||2:25.1|
|2007||Admire Moon||4||Yasunari Iwata||Hiroyoshi Matsuda||Darley Japan Farm Co. Ltd.||2:24.7|
|2008||Screen Hero||4||Mirco Demuro||Yuichi Shikato||Teruya Yoshida||2:25.5|
|2009||Vodka||5||Christophe Lemaire||Katsuhiko Sumii||Yuzo Tanimizu||2:22.4|
The Japan Cup is one of the graded races in the horse simulation game Derby Owners Club.