Monday, 6 March 2017 at 10:52am

The Japan Racing Association (JRA) and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) are delighted to announce that the 10 furlong, Group 1 Osaka Hai on Sunday, April 2nd at Hanshin Racecourse has been nominated as a ‘Win and You’re in’ race for the 2017 renewal of the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. This is the first time that a winner from outside of Ireland will gain guaranteed entry to the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.

The Osaka Hai was first run in 1957 and was upgraded from Group 2 to Group 1 for 2017. It is open to colts and fillies of four years of age and upwards. It has a great history and was won by Orfevre in 2013 before he won the Prix Foy and was runner up to Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe the same year. 

The winner of the Osaka Hai will get automatic, complimentary entry to Leopardstown’s flagship race on day one of Longines Irish Champions Weekend on Saturday, September 9th.  No Japanese horse has ever run in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and it is hoped that this new initiative will help to bring a Japanese Group 1 winner to Ireland this September.

Japanese horses feature strongly in the Longines World’s Best Racehorses each year and this reflects the strength of Japanese racing. More and more Japanese horses are running overseas and this gives audiences around the world the opportunity to see great horses like Maurice and A Shin Hikari who were the Japanese stars of 2016. 

Racing fans in Japan have shown a great interest in the major races around the world. Since 2016, Japanese fans have been allowed to bet on a select number of overseas races, provided a Japanese horse is running in the race. The QIPCO Irish Champions Stakes is one of these races so this is an additional incentive to have a Japanese runner in Leopardstown in September. 

In 2016, The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes was the joint second highest rated race in the Longines World's Best Horse Race Awards. Last year’s renewal was won by Almanzor in a race that contained nine Group 1 winners including Harzand who won the Irish and English Derbys, Found who won the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Highland Reel, the Longines Breeders Cup Turf winner and three Prix du Jockey Club winners, Almanzor, New Bay and the Grey Gatsby. 

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “Horse Racing Ireland is delighted to partner with the Japan Racing Association to have the Group 1 Osaka Hai as a Win and You’re in Race for the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, the first such race outside Ireland. It is an important goal of Leopardstown to have a Japanese runner in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. Pat Keogh and his team are very keen to promote the highlight of Longines Irish Champions Weekend to the widest international audience possible and Japan is very important in that. Last year the race was the joint second highest rated race in the world and the best in Europe. The partnership being announced today is a further development of the excellent relationship which has always existed between the equine industries in Japan and Ireland.” 

Masayuki Goto, President & CEO of Japan Racing Association, said: “I am very pleased and honoured that the Osaka Hai, which is newly promoted to Grade 1 race this year, has become the ‘Win and You’re in’ race for the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.  The Irish Champion Stakes is one of the most prestigious races in the world and I am sure that this partnership will not only enhance our new Grade 1 Osaka Hai but will further promote and encourage global racing.  It is my earnest wish that through this partnership, our Osaka Hai will develop as one of the great 10 furlong (2000m) races together with the Irish Champion Stakes.  I am truly grateful of the strong relationship between Ireland and Japan, and I look forward to further strengthening this excellent relationship.”