Horses race at Hanshin

Horses race at Hanshin

Naoji Inada

JRA Continues Racing Under Tighter Measures

Oka Sho (G1) will run as scheduled April 12 following state of emergency.

The Japan Racing Association announced April 8 it will continue to hold meetings behind closed doors as large parts of the country adjust to new measures introduced under a state of emergency.

The JRA has tightened its own measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 while giving the go-ahead for the first classic of the season, the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas, G1) at Hanshin on April 12.

The state of emergency announced by prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 7 hands additional security powers to regional governments in a number of prefectures in and around Tokyo and other densely populated central areas of the country. 

From this weekend, jockeys will have to serve their pre-race quarantines in personal "certified adjustment rooms" rather than in communal coordination quarters at the tracks.

Japan is famous for putting its jockeys in lockdown before racing, a measure designed to prevent any hint of corruption rather than the spread of disease.

In addition, from April 18, jockeys will not be able to ride at two different courses over the period of a single weekend. This means any riders with intended mounts in the April 19 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas, G1) will not have the option of taking rides on Hanshin's Arlington Cup card a day earlier. 

Further measures were announced around the movement of horses—and therefore stable staff—designed to reduce traffic between the JRA's main western training center at Ritto and its eastern base at Miho.

Horses entered at below stakes level will have to be campaigned in their own sector of the country until measures are reviewed at the beginning of May. 

Japanese racing fans might be starved of a trip to the races—or indeed off-track betting offices—but they continue to watch and bet in large numbers from home.

When the public was excluded over the first weekend of March, betting turnover across all meetings was 82% of the 2019 figure, a result which held at 83% the following weekend. 

Several key races—including Mozu Superflare's win in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1), and the Hanshin Daishoten (G2) won by You Can Smile—actually posted increased turnover from 12 months ago despite all business being conducted online or by phone.  

As well as the domestic action this weekend, the JRA is offering simulcast betting on Danon Premium's challenge for the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) in Sydney.