Ascot Racecourse and the Japan Racing Association (JRA) have a longstanding relationship and indeed were founding partners in the Global Sprint Challenge in 2005, which now includes races from Japan, the UK, Australia, Dubai and Hong Kong. Nick Smith, Director of Racing at the Racecourse continues the story. Although yet to win an Ascot race, there have been some notable excellent runs for Japan including Agnes World, who was second in the 2000 King’s Stand Stakes, and Heart’s Cry, who was third in the 2006 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The last horse to run in the King George for a Japanese trainer was Deep Brillante in 2012, who came to Ascot on the back of a win in the Japanese Derby.
Although unsuccessful, Japan was still represented on the winners’ podium when Danedream, trained in Germany, won the 2012 race in the joint ownership of huge Ascot supporter and co-owner of
the Shadai Breeding empire in Japan, Teruya Yoshida who had also been responsible for Heart’s Cry’s visit. On returning home he said: “It was a world class race and to come so close with a horse that had travelled all the way from Japan was one of the greatest thrills that any owner could wish for. In Japan the King George is recognised as one of the most prestigious and important races in the global calendar.”
The love affair with the King George continues at his Shadai Stallion Station, where Heart’s Cry stands and is joined on the elite roster by previous race winners Novellist and Harbinger.
Royal Ascot 2016 saw the appearance of then top rated horse in the world, A Shin Hikari, and hopes are high for 2018 that the Yoshida-owned Frankel filly, Soul Stirring, might be targeted for the same race – the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and indeed the King George. To date, Soul Stirring is Frankel’s best offspring and the only Group One winner of his impressive fledgling stallion career.
The JRA offer a £1,000,000 bonus to any horse successful in the King George who goes on to win the Japan Cup, the nation’s premier international race over the same trip as the Ascot race, in November. There are also incentives for any King George winner who finishes second, third or fourth. This year, to celebrate the longstanding relationship between Ascot and the JRA, the Racecourse has recently showcased its Saddle Up For Japan” programme, which sees a range of initiatives across the course to promote the country’s culture, cuisine and racing. Green Channel, Japan’s leading racing channel captured all the flavour of the day.
Ascot Racecourse was honoured to welcome His Excellency Mr Koji Tsuruoka, Ambassador of Japan to the United Kingdom, and Mrs Youko Tsuruoka amongst our many VIP Japanese guests.