Horse racing weathers storm caused by COVID-19 in Japan

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has halted almost all sporting events in Japan, horse racing has been the rare exception. The races, of course, have been held under very strict guidelines, but the Japan Racing Association has thus far avoided any cancellations.

The JRA has held its events behind closed doors since Feb. 29. Even Grade I races such as the Spring Tenno Sho, NHK Mile Cup, Victoria Mile and the Oaks, all of which regularly draw thousands of fans, were run on empty racecourses. The Japanese Derby, another GI race, will join that group on Sunday.

“At first it felt weird to see the racecourses without any fans,’’ star jockey Yutaka Take was quoted as saying by Sports Nippon on Monday. “But as the pandemic continues, I appreciate more and more that we have races. I hope fans enjoy the races while staying home.’’

The JRA has kept the number of people involved in holding races to a minimum and limited access to racecourses. Not even horse owners are allowed in on racedays. Horses can only take part in designated races, determined by the area they belong to, and jockeys are prohibited from competing at more than one racecourse on the same weekend.

Despite holding races with no fans, the JRA’s earnings, 10 percent of which is returned to the national treasury, hasn’t taken a big hit. The JRA earned about ¥ 650 billion from Feb. 29 to May 17, down just 9 percent from the same period in 2019.

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Post time: Jun-05-2020