Gambling: Land of the Racing Son; Deep Impact Has the Frenzied Hopes of Japan, and Its Horse-Racing Industry, Riding on His Back in Paris

By Vencat, Emily Flynn | Newsweek International, October 2, 2006 | Go to article overview

Gambling: Land of the Racing Son; Deep Impact Has the Frenzied Hopes of Japan, and Its Horse-Racing Industry, Riding on His Back in Paris


Vencat, Emily Flynn, Newsweek International


Byline: Emily Flynn Vencat

It is difficult to imagine a more classically European event than the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Since 1920, Europe's elite have gathered around Paris's Longchamps Racetrack to drink champagne and gamble at the Continent's most prestigious Thoroughbred race, with a purse worth [euro]2 million. This Sunday, however, the Arc is expected to draw its largest audience ever--some 1 billion television viewers and 55,000 in the stands--in part because a non-European is a favorite for the first time.

In Japan, Deep Impact needs no introduction. Last year the 4-year-old won the Japanese Triple Crown undefeated--a feat so rare, the colt has sparked hopes of a revival of horse racing, which peaked as a spectator sport in Japan 10 years ago. Worldwide, the rise of online poker and other forms of betting have cut horse racing's share of gambling revenue from 55 percent in 1965 to 9 percent today, and Japanese tracks have been particularly hard hit. Deep Impact's Triple Crown run slowed the decline in 2005, and now the beleaguered Japan Racing Association is hoping a victory in Paris will restore its lost growth. London bookies currently make Deep Impact a co-favorite, alongside Hurricane Run of France, to win the Arc.

It's something of a mystery as to why no foreign horse has ever won. One explanation is the slow, soggy turf of Northern Europe, a disadvantage in particular to American horses, which typically run on dirt. Japanese horses, however, do run on turf, and with growing investment from Tokyo billionaires like Zenya Yoshida and Fusao Sekiguchi, who owns Deep Impact, they are increasingly bred with an eye to winning on the growing global circuit. …

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