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INTERVIEW | New JRA President Masayoshi Yoshida on the Mark Being Made by Japanese Stallions

New JRA head Masayoshi Yoshida shares insights into the nation's success in developing world-class horses and a thriving thoroughbred industry.

Masayoshi Yoshida assumed the presidency of the Japan Racing Association (JRA) on September 12. JAPAN Forward is delighted to present this two-part exclusive interview offering insights into his perspectives. At the age of 65, Yoshida now leads the JRA, representing the pinnacle of horse racing in Japan. 

Join us as we share his insights on notable Japanese stallions and their offspring enjoying success on the global scene. He includes comments on the thoroughbred superstars of the 21st century in Japan. 

Yoshida also shares his views on the importance of private farms as a vital part of the nation's horse racing ecosystem. What's more, he notes, "Our racing system has also evolved to aspire to the highest echelons on the international stage."

Excerpts follow.

Japan Racing Association President Masayoshi Yoshida in his interview on November 15, 2023, in Tokyo. (© Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Last of two parts

Part 1: INTERVIEW | New President Masayoshi Yoshida Outlines His Vision for the JRA

Impressive Thoroughbreds Emerge From Lineage of Japanese Stallions

Continuous, the winner of the 2023 British St. Leger, is a progeny of Heart's Cry, while Auguste Rodin, the British Derby champion, was sired by Deep Impact. Both emerging from the lineage of Japanese stallions, their victories in prestigious races stand as a resounding testament to the strength of Japanese horses.

That's absolutely correct. Bringing breeding mares from Europe to Japan and mating them with Japanese stallions has garnered attention for Japanese stallions even overseas. The fact that horses born through this process have won the British Derby and St Leger, classic races, demonstrates a definite elevation in the level of Japanese horse racing. 

Notably, Heart's Cry, a product of Shadai Farm, and Deep Impact, bred by Northern Farm, showcase the commitment of private farms actively reinvesting their sales revenue into the realm of horse racing.

Breeders' Cup
Auguste Rodin, piloted by Ryan Moore, wins the Breeders' Cup Turf in Arcadia, California, on November 4, 2023. (Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY SPORTS)

It's just a shoe!

Insights on Deep Impact Progeny Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin, an offspring of Deep Impact, honed its skills in Ireland and secured victory in the historic British Derby, the very birthplace of horse racing.

Admittedly, the outcome was surprising. However, experts in international horse racing remained unfazed, stating, "It's not surprising at all." 

When picturing Deep Impact's offspring, the conventional image is of a powerful surge in the final stretch. The astonishment arose from Auguste Rodin, a descendant of Deep Impact, clinching victory in the Derby on turf known for slower times, contrary to the swift tracks in Japan where Deep Impact shined. 

Deep Impact
Deep Impact (right), ridden by jockey Yutaka Take, crosses the finish line in first place at the 72nd Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on May 29, 2005. At Tokyo Racecourse.

However, voices within the international horse racing community counter, stating, "Deep's offspring aren't confined to that style." This prompts contemplation on whether our preconceptions were overly ingrained. Some argue that Japanese horses face challenges in winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe because they aren't bred for the conditions at Longchamp in France in October. Nevertheless, I believe it hinges on the horse's ability to adapt to the environment.

Auguste Rodin will continue competing in 2024.

We look forward to seeing him participate in the Japan Cup next year. Apart from the Japan Cup, the JRA hosts numerous international races.

Japan's Racing Success Through Equinox and Almond Eye

Equinox secured victory in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) with a remarkable time of 1 minute 55.2 seconds. While Japan's tracks are known for being conducive to fast times, it's not just about the track conditions. If it were solely about favorable track conditions, even lower-class races should yield good times. But that's not the case. Equinox and Almond Eye's exceptional abilities allow them to achieve astonishing records.

Equinox has consistently held the top position in the
Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Prior to Equinox, Deep Impact, Epiphaneia, and Just a Way each took their turns as the world's number one racehorse.

How do you interpret the factors that have contributed to the elevation of the level of Japanese horse racing over the past two decades?

I believe the primary factor is the reinvestment by private farms, fueled by the stable revenue of the Japan Racing Association (JRA). You can cite individual elements, such as the arrival of Sunday Silence as a stallion in Japan [in the mid-1990s]. However, our racing system has also evolved to aspire to the highest echelons on the international stage.

Japan's Role on the Globe Stage

With the continual elevation of Japan's horse racing standards, the role that Japan plays on the global stage in horse racing is expected to become more significant and weighty. How do you perceive the role of Japanese horse racing on the world stage?

Former President Goto often states, "In horse racing, where thoroughbreds run, there are no borders." This reflects the underlying concept that thoroughbreds are a shared global asset. I share this perspective. 

In August next year [2024], we will host the Asian Racing Conference in Sapporo. Given Sapporo's proximity to breeding areas, it symbolizes the cycle where horses, after their racing careers, return to breeding. 

Japan is likely unique in having such close communication between breeders and organizers. In Sapporo. I believe we can effectively convey the strengths and characteristics of Japanese horse racing to stakeholders from various countries, mainly in Asia. We have also received requests to discuss service aspects for our customers.

JRA President Masayoshi Yoshida (© Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

The Future of Japanese Horse Racing

What future vision do you have in mind for your endeavors?

My fervent desire is for horse racing to become a source of enrichment in the lives of many. Traditionally, the Japanese have possessed a penchant for anthropomorphizing various entities, rooted in the belief that gods reside in all things. I believe horse racing aligns well with this unique Japanese sentiment or culture. Much like each person carries a unique narrative, so does each horse. 

While horses may not articulate their stories verbally, the essence lies in our ability to project our emotions and sentiments onto these animals. As long as there are stories and many people involved in horse racing, I believe the wish to firmly establish horse racing as a culture in Japan will surely come true. I consider it my mission to make this happen.

About Masayoshi Yoshida 

Masayoshi Yoshida was born on November 17, 1958, in Gunma Prefecture. He graduated from Takasaki High School and Waseda University's Faculty of Letters. In 1983, he joined the Japan Racing Association (JRA) and has since held various positions, including Chief of the Comprehensive Planning Department's Business Planning Office, Director of the Chukyo Racecourse, and Director of the Racing Department. Yoshida became a Director in 2016 and assumed the role of Managing Director in 2021. He was Vice President from March 1, 2023, until taking the reins as President of the JRA on September 12.

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(Read the interview in Japanese.)

Interview by: Manabu Suzukifor JAPAN Forward

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