01/03/2017 10:18AM

NYRA offers $1 million to Japan-based Belmont Stakes winner


The New York Racing Association will offer a $1 million bonus to the connections of any Japan-based horse who wins the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 10, NYRA announced Tuesday.

NYRA is offering the bonus in hopes of making the race more attractive for Japanese officials to take simulcast wagering on the Belmont. In 2016, Japan was able to offer simulcast wagering on up to 24 international races annually. Last November, when the Japan-based Nuovo Record competed in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita, Japanese bettors wagered more than $7.5 million on the race despite the fact it went off at 4:43 a.m. on a Sunday in Japan.

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Last October, Japanese bettors wagered close to $40 million on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly in France.

“With Japan opening their simulcast markets to the world on a limited basis, we believe this has the potential for incredible growth for racing here in the U.S.,” Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice-president for racing operations, said in a press release. “In NYRA’s talks with Japanese officials, they have conveyed to us that races with Japanese horses would be preferred for simulcasting.”

Last year, the Japan-based Lani competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown, with his best showing being a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

To qualify for the bonus, a horse must have made at least three starts in Japan prior to starting in the Belmont and must be nominated to North America’s Triple Crown series. In the event the Japan-based horse is involved in a dead-heat in the Belmont, the bonus would become $600,000.

In September, Churchill Downs announced a “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” which would award a slot in the starting gate to the horse who earns the most points in two selected races at Japan tracks and accepts an invitation to run in the Derby. Points were awarded to the top four finishers of the Catteleya Sho Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 26, a race won by Monte Saint Legame.

The next Japan race offering Kentucky Derby qualifying points is the Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 19.

Panza noted that NYRA will make concerted efforts to attract Japanese horses for some of its other prestigious races, including the Metropolitan Handicap, run on the Belmont Stakes card, as well as the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, turf races for 3-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies, respectively, run on July 8.

NYRA will be offering travel incentives to further entice Japanese horses for these races.