12/19/2003 1:00AM

Japan is home to the world's richest races


In 2003, 49 of the world's 100 richest Thoroughbred flat races were run in Japan, where overall prize money is second to none. While the Dubai World Cup is the richest race on earth, Japan is host to the world's richest turf race, the Japan Cup, and the richest race for 3-year-olds, the Japanese Derby. It also takes first prize with the richest race for 3-year-old fillies, the Japanese Oaks, and the richest one-mile race on any surface, the Japanese 2000 Guineas.

So dominant is Japan that 23 of its 49 races in the top 100 are Grade 2's. It is revealing that four of those Grade 2's have purses larger than the Kentucky Derby, which checks in at No. 58.

The United States places second in the world standings with 19 races in the top 100. However, when the Japanese total of 49 is added to Hong Kong's 10, and the United Arab Emirates's six, Asia's growing power in the racing world becomes increasingly evident. In all, Asia accounts for 65 races in the top 100.

Japan and the United States are followed in the standings by Hong Kong with 10, and Australia with seven - among them the world's richest race for stayers, the Melbourne Cup, and the world's richest race for 2-year-olds, the Golden Slipper Stakes. Next comes the UAE with six, then Britain, France, and Ireland with two each, and finally, Canada and Germany, with one apiece.

Japan is also dominant purse-wise in the world of jump racing. The Nakayama Grand Jump takes first place with prize money of $1,275,880. Second is the Nakayama Daishogai at $1,141,937, and third is Aintree's Grand National Steeplechase at $931,860.

This list was compiled using the conversion rate into U.S. dollars on the day each race was run. As a result, some minor discrepancies arise. For example, while the Hong Kong Derby, run in March, and the Hong Kong Vase, run in December, are both worth HK$14 million, an increase in the value of the Hong Kong currency in September made the Vase slightly more valuable in U.S. dollars.