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Ban'ei horses in Obihiro Racecourse
Contact No
Team members No
Type outdoor
Venue dirt racetrack
Country or region Tokachi, Hokkaido, Japan

Ban'ei (characters meaning 輓(pull) 曳(play), written as ばんえい?) is a form of horse racing where draft horses compete by pulling heavily weighted sleds up sand ramps while being urged on by jockeys balancing on top of the sleds.

The horses used in the races are often either purebred or crosses of Percheron, Breton, and Belgian breeds.[1][2]

Ban'ei races are now only held at the Obihiro Racecourse as the popularity of the races has waned in recent years.[3][4] The Obihiro racecourse nearly closed at 2006 before Softbank, a Japanese mobile phone company, provided funds for the races to continue.[5] Odds Park Hai was established at 2007 as expression of gratitude.[6] Other companies, such as Rakuten[7][8] and Sapporo Breweries[9] have since joined in and several support schemes have been initiated, including a race-sponsoring scheme for individuals.[10]


Ban’ei racing has its probable origin in agricultural work, when horses were used to pull farming machinery and sleds of wood. Eventually, the horses were tested for speed and strength in festivals of the late Meiji Era.[11]

The popularity grew, and in 1953, Hokkaido’s four cities (Kitami, Asahikawa, Iwamizawa, and Obihiro) began to manage races. Races were run until three Kitami, Asahikawa, and Iwamizawa closed operations in 2007 due to declining revenues. Obihiro racecourse is now the only one currently active and hosts races almost every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Races do not occur in March, as trainers use beginning of month to start preparing new horses. Races are also held on additional days to mark special occasions, such as New Year.[12]


Separated course by lines

The Ban-ei course consists of a 200 meter long dirt track with lines separated by ropes laid in the sand. This creates ten lanes, each with a starting gate and incorporating two hill-shaped obstacles. The second and steeper hill obstacle is called the “Ban’ei Point”. Horses haul sleds across this track, with sleds from 450 kg(when empty)[13] to 1 ton in “Ban’ei Kinen”.

Jockeys stand and balance on the sled, using long reins as a whip and weight slabs under the feet of the jockey to replace the lack of a saddle. Jockeys must weigh 75kg, and if the jockey is underweight, more slabs are added to meet this weight.[13] Horses are often deliberately stopped after first obstacle to give them a rest before being ushered to climb the second one. A horse has not finished until the whole sled is behind finish line.

After the race completes, race horses are freed from the sleds and led to the backyard, while sleds are moved back to the starting gate with the aid of a trolley.[13]

Amount of weight that horse has to pull is determined by several factors. Younger horses and mares are not required to pull as much as their older or stallion counterparts. Money earned by the horse helps to determine the group and rating, and therefore weight that must be pulled. The group the competing horse is in is labeled 1-26, and groups are rated with Open, A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2 or D.[14] This is similar to system used in local Japanese thoroughbred racing. Weight allowance of jockeys is either 10 kg or 20 kg based off of the number of wins. [14]

Because ban'ei racing is about strength and not speed, the winning time of big races is often slower than lower class races, where even small overtime can get horse quickly disqualified.[15][16] With suitable ground conditions horse pulling lightly-loaded sled can clock speeds under 50 seconds.[17][18]

Condition of track is described using measured moisture percentage.[19]

The track is repaired manually by trackworkers either during or between races. Watering is used to prevent excess dust for irritating horses and people.


Ban'ei horse on paddock

Horses in ban'ei are often either purebred or crossbred variations of Percheron, Breton, and Belgian.[2] Their weight can surpass 1 ton, which is twice that of a Thoroughbred.

Potential stock is chosen from draft horses raised for meat.[20][21] Most ban'ei horses start official[note 1][22][23] racing as two-year-olds after passing inspection held between April and August.[24] Horses that do not pass inspection are either sent back to a breeder as they can be used in events or tourism,[25][note 2] or to feedlot.[13]

Competing horses are mainly solid-coloured, but there have also been pinto ban'ei horses[26][27][28] and two dominant whites.[29][30][31][32]

Former racehorses not eligible for breeding are usually[33] sold for meat.[5] At the end of every fiscal year during the end of March, prolific retiring racehorses are honoured at their own ceremony. NAR gives yearly award to best horse.[34]

Japanese Draft Horse[edit]

Japanese Draft Horse (Nihon Bankei Shu, 日本輓系種) is a breed with open studbook[note 3] created by crossing purebred and halfbred horses together for five consecutive generations. (Horses that don't meet this requirement[note 4] have been registered since 2003 as "半血種".)[35]

Eight draft breeds have been listed as eligible for breeding program: Ardennes, Clydesdale, Shire, Brabançon, Breton, Boulonnais, Belgian and Percheron.[36] (This isn't directly comparable to breeding stock available - as 2015, purebred stallions in stud are Bretons and Percherons,[37] while data regarding new registrations of broodmares from 2014 indicates that from purebreds, three are majority: Bretons, Percherons and Belgians.)[38]

Japanese Drafts are used mainly in ban'ei and horsemeat production.[37][39] The ideal horse has draft phenotype and "hybrid vigour".

Breed doesn't have any colour or marking specifications. Colours of bay, chestnut, flaxen chestnut, black, gray and variety of roans have been recorded since they also exist in purebreds.[40] In extreme cases horse may have multiple facial markings and all legs marked with white.

Open studbook policy has led to pinto pattern - one female family[41] used in ban'ei can be traced to single stallion born in 1967,[42] while dominant white seen in two horses was spontaneous, manifesting itself at 2010.[note 5]



  • Kintaro (キンタロー) (1979 - 1986) won 32 races, winning 116,725,000 yen.[43]
  • Takara Fuji (タカラフジ) (1983 - 1990) won 27 races, winning 103,490,000 yen.[44]
  • Hikaru Tenryu (ヒカルテンリユウ) (1985 -1992) won 27 races, winning 104,611,000 yen.[45]
  • Asagiri (アサギリ) (1987 -1994) won 41 races, winning 102,512,000 yen.[46]
  • Maruzen Burgi (マルゼンバージ) (1988 -1996) won 22 races, winning 107,517,000 yen.[47]
  • Fukuichi (フクイチ) (1991 - 1999) won 30 races, winning 111,481,000 yen.[48]
  • Sakano Tyson[49](サカノタイソン)(1996 - 2002), 19 starts(Longest winning streak)[50]
  • Kanesa Black [51](カネサブラック)(2004 - 2013), 72 starts(Most wins)[52]

These horses didn't retire to stud:

  • Super Pegasus (スーパーペガサス) (1998 - 2006) won 42 races, winning 100,739,000 yen.
  • Kotobuki Ryan[53](コトブキライアン) (2002- 2016), 488 starts (Most starts, longest career)

To be listed to ban'ei racing's "Hall of Fame", horse's lifetime earnings has to exceed 100,000,000 million yen[54]

Jockeys and trainers with over 2,000 wins: [55]

Active as jockey or trainer:

  • Takumi Fujimoto(藤本匠) - Since 1983, over 3,500 wins
  • Ohkawara Kazuo (大河原和雄) - Since 1985, over 3,000 wins
  • Fujino Shuninchi (藤野俊一) - Since 1986, over 2,000 wins
  • Kaoru Ogase (尾ヶ瀬 馨) - Since 1992, over 2,000 wins
  • Keisuke Suzuki (鈴木 恵介) - Since 1998 - over 2,000 wins
  • Yoshiyuki Hattori (服部 義幸) Since 1985 - over 2, 000 wins

Former jockey active as trainer:

  • Akihiko Kanayama, "Mr. Ban'ei" (明彦 金山) - 1969-1999, 3,299 wins[56] [57]
  • Hisada Mamoru (久田守) - 1972-1996, 13964 starts, 2103 wins[56][57]
  • Sakamoto Touichi (坂本東一) - 1975-2007, 21188 starts, 2678 wins[56] [57]
  • Chiba Hitoshi (千葉均) - 1979-2007, 20431 starts, 2106 wins[58][57]
  • Nishi Hiromi (西弘美) - 1980-2009, 22939 starts, 2479 wins[56][57]


  • Iwamoto Toshiharu (岩本利春) - 1979-2005, 19263 starts, 2085 wins[56][59][57]
  • Suzuki Shoutei (鈴木勝堤) - 1981-2010, 17850 starts, 2313 wins[60](Didn't obtain training license)[57]


  • Highest daily average: 1978 - 100,000,000 million yen[61]
  • Most racedays per year: 1995 - 156 days[61]
  • Highest sales since 2006: 2013 - 13.2 billion (Nicknamed "Silver Spoon effect")[61]

Grade races[edit]

All held in Obihiro, over 200 metres.[62]


The Irene Kinen (イレネー記念)[63]
The Kuroyuri Sho (黒ユリ賞)
The Nanakamado Sho (ナナカマド賞) (formerly for three-year-olds)
The Young Championship (ヤングチャンピオンシップ)


The Ban'ei Derby (ばんえいダービー)
The Ban'ei Oaks (ばんえいオークス)
The Ban'ei Kikka Sho (ばんえい菊花賞)
The Ban'ei Daishoten (ばんえい大賞典)


The Temma Sho (天馬賞)
The Ginga Sho (銀河賞)
The Hakurin Sho (柏林賞)
The Queen Cup (クインカップ)

Three and four-year-olds[edit]

The Hamanasu Sho (はまなす賞)
The Poplar Sho (ポプラ賞)

Three-year-olds and up[edit]

The Ban'ei Grand Prix (ばんえいグランプリ)
The Obihiro Kinen (帯広記念)
The Ban'ei Kinen (ばんえい記念)
The Ban'ei Tokachi Oddspark Hai (ばんえい十勝オッズパーク杯)
The Iwamizawa Kinen (岩見沢記念)
The Kitami Kinen (北見記念)
The Heroines Cup (ヒロインズカップ)
The Champion Cup (チャンピオンカップ)
The Asahikawa Kinen (旭川記念)
The Hokuto Sho (北斗賞)
The Dream Age Cup (ドリームエイジカップ)

Abolished races[edit]

These were either high-stakes or graded races.[64]

  • Shiragiku Sho (白菊賞) - Established: 1976 Abolished: 2002
  • Hokuren Sho (ホクレン賞) - Established: Before 1973 Abolished: 2007
  • Seiun Sho (青雲賞) - Established: 1980 Abolished: 1988
  • Tsutsuji Sho (つつじ賞) - Established: 1980 Abolished: 1988
  • Ban'ei Fuzuki Sho (ばんえい文月賞) - Established: 1976 Abolished: 1988
  • Ban'ei Princess Sho (ばんえいプリンセス賞) - Established: 1977 Abolished: 2009
  • Taisetsu Sho (大雪賞) - Established: 1977 Abolished: 1988
  • Souun Sho (層雲賞) - Established: 1975 Abolished: 1988
  • Asahi okansho (旭王冠賞) - Established: Before 1973 Abolished: 2006
  • Chiho keiba zenkoku kyokai kaicho Sho (地方競馬全国協会会長賞) - Established: 1974 Abolished: 1992
  • Zen koei kaicho Sho (全公営会長賞) - Established: 1973 Abolished: 1992
  • Asahi Silver Cup (旭シルバーカップ) - Established: Before 1973 Abolished: 1988
  • Obihiro Daishoten (帯広大賞典) - Established: 1980 Abolished: 1987
  • Onassis Kinen (オナシス記念) - Established: 1975 Abolished: 1985
  • Hotarunohika Sho (蛍の光賞) - Established:1980 Abolished:1988
  • All Stars Cup (オールスターカップ) - Established: 2000 Abolished: 2004
  • Pegasus Sho (ペガサス賞) - Established: ? Abolished: ?
  • Carnation Cup (カーネーションカップ ) - Established: 2008 Abolished: 2009
  • Valentines Cup (バレンタインカップ) - Established: 2009 Abolished: 2010


  1. ^ Regional races("ban'ei koshien") with finals for yearlings are held every in October.
  2. ^ Amount of horses used in agrarian transport or manure production after 2006 is unknown.
  3. ^ (Before year 2003, horses of this breed were registered as "半血種(輓系)"(half-blood(draft))
  4. ^ Generations F1-F4
  5. ^ Birth year of Hakuba Beauty


  1. ^ Official English Info
  2. ^ a b JEAA Stallion Registration Regulations Secretary bylaws JEAA lists eight breeds that can be used to breed horses for ban-ei: Ardennes, Clydesdale, Shire, Brabançon, Breton, Boulonnais, Belgian and Percheron. ("アルデンネ、クライズデール、シャイヤー、ブラバンソン、ブルトン、ブーロンネ、ベルジアン、ペルシュロン")
  3. ^ [1] Racing Statistics 2005-2015 (Racing by Local Governments)(in English)
  4. ^ [2] Racing by Local Governments in Japan 2015 - Ban-ei (Draft Horse Racing)(in English)
  5. ^ a b A Horse-Racing Tradition Lumbers Into Its Final Stretch New York Times article on Ban'ei racing published 25 December 2006, accessed 24 October 2011
  6. ^ [3] ばんえい十勝オッズパーク杯
  7. ^ [4] 第49回楽天競馬ばんえい応援賞B4-2
  8. ^ ばんえい十勝応援
  9. ^ [5] サッポロビール賞シルバーカップA1・A2混合
  10. ^ [6] 個人協賛について
  11. ^ [7] ばんえい競馬の歴史
  12. ^ 年間開催日程
  13. ^ a b c d [8] ばんえい競馬コラム(Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2016)
  14. ^ a b [9] 平成28年度 帯広市ばんえい競馬番組編成要領
  15. ^ [10] Disqualification in normal race - weight 480kg, time 3:57:5, winner's time 1:50:6
  16. ^ [11] Winning times of Ban'ei Kinen(since 1973) - several times over four minutes
  17. ^ [12] Hokushou Battle: 490kg in 0:44:3
  18. ^ [13] Oidon: 490kg in 0:47:6
  19. ^ [14] Example record of scale used(After horse is retired, scale rating is changed to one used in thoroughbred racing)
  20. ^ [15] 88% percent of this industry is concentrated to Hokkaido and trend is decreasing.(pg. 2, classification "農用馬")(Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
  21. ^ 馬の改良増殖等をめぐる情勢 平成26年6月(pg. 2, 8.)(Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
  22. ^ [16]
  23. ^ [17]
  24. ^ Ability Inspection Outline for Heisei 28
  25. ^ [18] 馬 - 2006
  26. ^ Ban'ei Angel Gaga
  27. ^ Ban'ei Buchio
  28. ^ Ban'ei Almond Gambare
  29. ^ Hakuba Beauty
  30. ^ Hakuba Beauty
  31. ^ Hakuba Boy
  32. ^ [19] JEAA journal issue 6 from 2011 where Hakuba Beauty (then known as "Hakubahime") is gene-tested for W17. (pg. 6)
  33. ^ [20] Ban-ei horse with second career as carriage horse
  34. ^ [21](in English)
  35. ^ 輓系馬の部(pg. 3)
  36. ^ 輓系馬の部(pg 2.)
  37. ^ a b [22]
  38. ^ [23] 繁殖登録雌馬の品種構成
  39. ^ 輓系馬等の交配に伴う品種名一覧 They are also used in breeding of heavy crossbreds(輓交種) and Japanese Horse
  40. ^ 実馬審査体型標準 - 輓系馬
  41. ^ [24] Pedigree of Almond Madonna, dam of Angel Gaga
  42. ^ [25] Hanuma
  43. ^ List of offspring
  44. ^ List of offspring
  45. ^ List of offspring
  46. ^ List of offspring
  47. ^ List of offspring
  48. ^ List of offspring
  49. ^ [26]
  50. ^ List of offspring
  51. ^ [27]
  52. ^ List of offspring
  53. ^ [28]
  54. ^ [29] 1億円達成馬
  55. ^ [30] 騎手名鑑
  56. ^ a b c d e [31] ばんえい競馬の沿革
  57. ^ a b c d e f g [32] 調教師リーディング
  58. ^ [33] 騎手情報
  59. ^ [34] 千葉均 (Retired as trainer)
  60. ^ [35] 騎手情報
  61. ^ a b c [36]
  62. ^ List of active Ban-ei races
  63. ^ [37] Named after stallion that contributed to early ban-ei racing.
  64. ^ [38] 帯広ば競馬場 重賞レース一覧

External links[edit]