Horse racing in Japan is exciting and profitable for the smart bettor. To make money betting on Japanese horse racing at an online racebook, you need to understand something about the classes of horse racing in Japan. These classes are what maintain the competitive nature of racing events.

How Race Horses in Japan Are Classed

The Japan Racing Association is tasked with creating horse racing classes. It details all of these classes in an official Japanese horse racing handbook for horse owners and trainers. There are currently two types of horse racing events held in Japan. These are flat racing events and steeplechase racing. We will focus our attention on flat racing for thoroughbreds.

All flat races are classified according to earnings. This is done to establish a competitive atmosphere and make sure that horses are running against horses of similar ability. More competitive racing is conducive to more betting and bigger payouts.


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The classes of horse racing in Japan become more advanced as earnings increase. The primary classes are:

  • Newcomers and maidens
  • 1-win class
  • 2-wins class
  • 3-wins class
  • Open

Notice that horses are somewhat restricted by class. For example, a horse with a win cannot enter a newcomer or maiden race. But a maiden or newcomer can enter an open class, as can any horse. When horses are running out of their class, they are usually in a tough predicament. Horses placed in this situation rarely win.

Open class races are usually reserved for multiple winners. These races can be very tough and they present some very interesting betting opportunities.

Stakes Racing Classes in Japan

Stakes racing in Japan is classified much along the lines of stakes racing in the US. The races are graded on a numerical scale, with Grade 1 stakes events being the most prestigious. Horses that enter these stakes events in Japan would be comparable to the horses that are entered in the Kentucky Derby in the United States.

All stakes events in Japan usually carry a large purse. The earnings that a horse accrues can also sometimes be used to determine the class in which it will race. Horses with higher earnings are those which gain placement in the most important races.

Japan Horse Racing Classes as a Handicapping Factor

Anyone that bets on horse racing in Japan or in other areas of the world must take into account various handicapping factors. These factors may be given different weight according to the individual preference of the handicapper, but four factors are universal. These are speed, form, pace, and class.

Speed is somewhat obvious. All races are inherently about speed and who is the fastest. Form equates to the overall health of the animal. Pace is the manner in which the race shakes out once it has begun. Which horse is able to get the lead? Can they hold it?

All of these factors are somewhat subjective. They require interpretation on the part of the handicapper. Class is different. Evaluating the class of a horse is often more straightforward. The data is easier to interpret. Either a horse fits in with a certain group of rivals, or it does not. There is no middle ground.

For example, a horse that has never won a race is unlikely to be a good bet when it is forced to compete against horses that have won multiple times. The horses with wins under their belt have proven that they can win. The horse without a victory has not. This is why the maiden and newcomer class of horse race exists.

If you encounter a horse that has made $100,000 in its career which is facing horses that have earned far less in a comparable number of starts, the horse with more earnings could be the better choice. Why? Because it has to be competitive to rack up those earnings. It has proven itself.

Granted, no single handicapping factor is going to prove the abilities of a horse. You have to evaluate Japan horse racing classes the same way that you evaluate other factors. They are just one piece of the puzzle.

Would you like to try your hand at handicapping horse races in Japan? We would suggest that you open an account with one of our recommended online racebooks. You can receive access to handicapping data such as class ratings when you sign up and fund your account.

You can use an online racebookย  such as Bovada, AmWager, 5Dimes, Betamerica or Twinspires to bet on Japanese horse races right from the comfort of your own home with a phone or tablet. You can even get a free money bonus when you make your first deposit.

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