Saturday, November 17, 2012

Courtesy Carrot Club
Harmony Fair is, in reality, Sophie's horse; I gave her a few to look at, and Harmony is the one she chose. Well, now the filly is ready to battle it out on the turf. Slightly built, the form guide that just landed on the table has her down as third favourite for the race tomorrow, although it will be interesting to see if the official odds agree with this. The start for Tokyo's 5R is scheduled for ten minutes past midday. Please give her your support...
Although one has the image of a modern facility thanks to 'Dream Vision' (the world's longest screen to follow the racing), the Kawasaki Keiba track has a long history attached to it.

Originally established in October 1948 at Totsuka as Kanagawa Prefecture Keiba, the racecourse was moved to its present location in the following year, with the renamed Kawasaki Keiba track ultimately holding its first race there in January 1950 - the five-day meeting attracting a crowd of over 51,000.

The riverside Komukai training area was set-up at the end of 1951, although the entire facility (track included) was sold in 1957 to the Kanto Race Club. New stands were added and others refurbished in the 1970s and 1980s, but the place was almost closed down in 1986. Public outcry saved the track, and eventually preparations were completed for night racing in 1995 - a highly-successful project bringing JRA and NAR race cards together under floodlit conditions, beyond working hours.

As it happens, Kawasaki is the only other track in addition to Tokyo-Oi to hold 'nighter' meetings in the Minami-Kanto region, but the emphasis is on creating a family outing atmosphere - an ideal spot for a nice summer evening out, a drop of beer and a picnic on hand, with people almost using the track as a park in amongst the urban sprawl. Even the training areas bring the horses closer to the public, being on the side of the river close by, and visible to anyone strolling along the river bank.

As well as the official track fan club, I also like the support the jockeys are given in the way of promotional goods - keyrings carrying the rider's name and colours, and even replica silks (get ready to sign something else, Hiro-san!). With Fairy Robe now stationed at the Kawasaki facility, you can be sure I'll be visiting there more often from now on.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nothing up on the blog today, simply because I've been out of the office all day - playing! First, I decided to get on the train and see how long it would take to get from home to the Kawasaki Keiba track, and after taking a few pictures, I then headed back towards Tokyo for the Oi meeting.

Tomorrow, seeing as yet another country (Azerbaijan) is tuning in, I promise to do at least two articles for you, including a look at the history of the Kawasaki track, but for now, here's an atmosphere shot from today's NAR event...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's all happening! Harmony Fair is set for her debut on the 18th at Tokyo (5R, 1400m on turf), with Masayoshi Ebina confirmed as the jockey. She was showing a reasonable amount of pace in her early training, so it will be interesting to see what this translates into on the track.

Mistoffelees is set to run again soon, either at Nagoya on 2nd December (a 1600m turf race), or soon after at Nakayama if a slot is unavailable. A few days later, on the 8th, Miracle Rouge hits the track again, this time in the fourth race at Nakayama (2000m on turf). That tiring uphill finish at my local racecourse should suit her style nicely, I reckon. A jockey for Miracle Rouge will be named in the near future.

Other news items: Mosto Verde is causing a great deal of concern with a thin bone structure, but, with luck, the passage of time will set things right, while Quadrille's debut will not be until next year now - no real problems, but more training is required, as with Quick Bread.

PS. A thought for the day. You know you have a problem when the three items that Postman Pat brings you include two letters from Carrot Club and one from the Shadai Group. Louis was rightfully called a Keibaholic earlier in the day. These things obviously run in the family...
Not so much to report today - the usual workout regimes for the majority of horses, although it looks like Lourdes No Hitomi is set to race before the end of the year. No dates have been set as yet, but naturally I have my fingers crossed for a Nakayama debut.

The other piece of news relates to Fairy Robe, who has arrived at the Yamazaki Stable in Kawasaki. She is apparently in good shape, and is scheduled for her final test on the 29th. After that, assuming she passes, she can start racing. One thing's for sure, I know she will be well looked after - a glance at the Hiromi Racing website (click on the Yamazaki Stable link to the right of the page) and the enthusiastic, hands-on approach of the folks working there assures me of that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Every now and again, about once a decade, the world is graced with an athlete that creates a legend. In the States, the early seventies saw the rise of two special horses - Secretariat, who we all know and love, was one, while the other was just as stunning, but hardly heard of outside the US. Time to put that right and talk about a filly called Ruffian.

The definition of Ruffian is 'a violent person, often linked to crime', which is most unfortunate. About the only thing violent about this Kentucky racehorse was her phenomenal speed!

Owned and bred by the Janney family, Ruffian was born in 1972. From ten starts, she had ten wins, all top class, and coming with an average winning margin of eight lengths per outing. She set new records in all the Stakes races she entered, earning herself the 'Queen Of The Fillies' moniker.

Then, in a match race, aping that of Seabiscuit and War Admiral, she took on Foolish Pleasure - the Kentucky Derby winner - in the early part of July 1975. She was leading by half a length when her ankle broke (an injury brought about by hitting the starting gate apparently), and she was passed for the first time in her career. Infuriated, she kept running, creating more damage. Vets tended to her straight away, but when she came around, she trashed around as if still in the race and broke more bones. She had to be put down.

Buried at Belmont Park, fittingly with her nose pointing towards the finish line, her's was the last match race ever held in the States, and Ruffian's death prompted new medical practices to allow horses to come around after surgery in more cultured surroundings.

I know of books on Ruffian, and there's also a TV film by all accounts, which I'd like to see. But what I'd really like to see is a Ruffian foal - shame that will never happen. Can you imagine the potential of a horse with Secretariat and Ruffian as its parents? The mind boggles...

By the way, we had over 150 visitors to the blog yesterday, which I think I can safely say is a new record. At one time last night, there were 51 people looking at it. At first, the blog was simply a way of recording the progress of my horses in a language I could understand, but it seems it's providing some enjoyment for a lot of others, which is truly heartening.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slowly but surely, the jockey profiles are starting to mount up. So far, we've covered Yuta Sato, Kota Motohashi, Shotaro Kawashima, Takashi Harita, Yutaka Take, Taito Mori, Fumio Matoba, Takayuki Ishizaki and Masashige Honda, as well as a brief - later to be expanded - look at the lady jockeys in Japan. There are already at least ten more names on my list to do, but today it's the turn of Gen Hayashi.

Born in Tokyo in November 1983, Gen was always a sporty type, but fell for the romance of Keiba in his early teens. He duly qualified for his jockey licence in March 2002, and had his first professional ride in the following month. In the spring of 2004, whilst with Yoshihiro Hakodate's stable, he was runner-up in the All-Japan Newcomers race, but then the legendary trainer died that June after being kicked by a horse.

Gen signed up with Kaoru Watanabe at Funabashi, but decided to go to America to study dirt racing. Despite a distinct lack of English at the start, he spent six months as an exercise rider, and then began racing, mainly in Kentucky. Within a year, he'd ridden 160 times in the States (including a G2 outing), winning no less than 11 times, and clocking up ten places and 27 shows along the way.

When his visa ran out at the end of 2007, Gen returned to the Watanabe Stable. All told, in Japan, he's won 168 NAR races, and has also made a few JRA appearances. I look forward to speaking with this challenger in English the next time we meet!
I've got a ton of short pieces I want to do, but without the help of a translator, I'm stuck. At least I managed to read the write-ups on Miracle Rouge and Mistoffelees in the current issue of Keiba Book, and everyone seems impressed enough with the newcomers.

Miracle Rouge was apparently thinking of something other than the race at the start, although apparently it's not a character flaw - it will hopefully be a one-off. But the finish was simply stunning, of that there's no doubt. Longer distances may suit her, although dirt was mentioned yesterday. Whichever, the huge reserves of stamina would give a great advantage in these scenarios. The future looks interesting if the right events can be selected to suit her qualities.

As for Mistoffelees, his run was impressive for a different reason, of course. Very few horses can leg it in the early stages and finish in the top three - they usually tire and end up in the middle of the pack if they're lucky. As such, Mistoffelees also shows a great deal of promise.

Today, an envelope arrived from the Shadai Group with pictures of the Sunday TC and Shadai TC horses I have a stake in, and a reminder that they'll be named in spring. This is always fun, although being inventive with names is hardly my forte, as everyone around me well knows.

The other thing that gave me a bit of a giggle this morning was a customized keyring for Sophie. I don't think I need tell you who the jockey is supposed to be!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I've just been watching a few TCK races on the TV (channel 9), and was touched to see Hironori Sato calming down his mount in the stalls with some gentle words and a pat on the neck, just as the horse was going into high-tension overload. This was perhaps a deciding factor in being able to finish well ahead of where the pre-race odds had him placed.

Hiro-san first came to my attention in the Poco Poco magazine, with his weekend Joba exploits being applied to his trade as a jockey. His conclusion, which fits in perfectly with my own policy and that of other Tokoro RC members, is that communication is of paramount importance if you're to get the best from a horse. There are a few other jockeys that are equally in tune with the horses, but it has to be said there are just as many that simply jump on and ride like hell.

In reality, motor racing is the same - short races may suit the majority, if the manufacturer can make a car strong enough, but for the likes of Le Mans (which lasts 24 hours), makers usually opt for more experienced drivers with mechanical sympathy. It's no good being the fastest for an hour, and then dropping out with a broken car. This 'feel' for the machine, being able to keep it running at 99% without ever going beyond the breaking point, translates into 'good hands' in the horse racing world. It's a joy to watch this level of craftsmanship, whichever type of track it may be on.

PS. In a different form of communication, we've now passed the 5000 visitors landmark, 60 days after we started the blog. This means an average of 83 visitors per day from all over the world. Today we welcome another new country to the audience - Sweden, with several hits from there this afternoon. 
I've managed to add video footage of the debuts of Mistoffelees and Miracle Rouge. Interestingly, in the post-race briefing, the jockey is saying that Miracle Rouge may be more suited to dirt. Looking at the official statistics logged after the event, the last three furlongs were covered in 33.5 seconds, which is seriously fast by any stretch of the imagination, let alone for a two-year old filly after such a long race.

I've also added Tenshinramman's last race. Although disappointing, you can at least see how she was given no chance to perform. Sadly, her first win isn't available from the JRA, but at least her August debut is on film: 201203040305h.asx. Now that was a great finish!

Even in this digital age, the nice thing to be able to report - at least from an author's point of view - is that new books keep coming out. Today I picked up Horse Racing Historica, which is a look back at Japanese racing, including some fascinating charts showing how times have come down through the years for each distance. I also spotted a history book on the Kawasaki Keiba track the other day, which I'll definitely pick up when I go across to the other side of the Tokyo Bay. Hope to do it real soon...
What can I say? A horse that bolts into the lead from the gate, and only gets pipped in the closing few yards by a cheeky horse that had used him as a pacemaker all the way round, certainly has potential in my books. Had it been a 1600m race rather than an 1800m one, I'm quite sure he would have won it. I reckon we have a handy little sprinter coming through.

As it is, second place is worthy of a beer to celebrate (the champagne only comes out for a win!), and I look forward to seeing him in action again soon. If you want to see the race, the JRA website has just posted this: 201203030405h.asx

That will provide the picture of Mistoffelees, so here's a shot of the beer I bought! Actually it's the 150th anniversary logo I want to draw your attention, too, rather than the contents. On a similar subject, one should remember that Sapporo has brought out its annual special edition beer, this time with Orfevre illustrated on the can...