Ban'ei (characters meaning 輓 (pull) 曳 (play), written as ばんえい) is a form of horse racing. Draft horses pull heavy sleds up sand ramps while being urged-on by jockeys balancing on the sleds.

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

As the popularity of the races has waned in recent years, regular ban'ei races are only held at the Obihiro Racecourse.[3][4] The Obihiro racecourse nearly closed in 2006 before Softbank, a Japanese mobile phone company, provided funds for the races to continue.[5] Odds Park Hai was established in 2007 as an expression of gratitude.[6][further explanation needed] Other companies, such as Rakuten[7][8] and Sapporo Breweries[9] have added their sponsorship 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 (c.1900).[11]

The popularity grew; in 1953, Hokkaido's four cities (Kitami, Asahikawa, Iwamizawa, and Obihiro) began to manage races. The former three closed operations in 2007 due to declining revenues. Obihiro racecourse is now the only one currently active, hosting races most Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Races are also held on additional days to mark special occasions, such as New Year's Day,[12] and there are numerous regional races known as ban'ei koshien.

Trainers prepare new horses in the beginning of April.


Course separated by lanes

The ban'ei course consists of a 200-metre (660 ft) dirt track with lanes separated by ropes laid in the sand. This creates ten lanes, each incorporating a starting gate and two hill-shaped obstacles. The second and steeper obstacle is called the Ban'ei Point. Horses haul sleds across this track, with the weight of each sled ranging from 450 kg (990 lb) to 1 ton, as seen in the Ban'ei Kinen event.[13]

Jockeys stand and balance on the sled, using long reins as a whip and weight slabs under the feet of the jockey in place of a saddle. Each jockey must weigh at least 75 kg (165 lb); if the jockey is underweight, slabs are added to meet the minimum weight.[13] Horses are often deliberately stopped after the first obstacle, and given a chance to rest before being ushered to climb the second. A horse has not finished until the entire sled is behind finish line.

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

The amount of weight each horse must pull is determined by several factors, with younger horses and mares pulling less than older horses and stallions. A horse's group and rating – which further determines the required weight – depends upon the amount of money the horse has previously earned. Horses compete in groups labeled 1–26, and groups are rated with Open, A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2 or D (in order of decreasing winnings).[14] This is similar to system used in Japanese thoroughbred racing. The weight allowance of jockeys is either 10 or 20 kg (22 or 44 lb) based on the number of wins.[14]

Because ban'ei racing is about strength rather than speed, the winning time of major races is often slower than lower-class races, where even a small overtime can have a horse disqualified.[15][16] With suitable ground conditions, horses pulling lightly-loaded sleds can clock speeds under 50 seconds.[17][18]

The condition of the track is described using measured-moisture percentage.[19] The track is repaired manually during or between races. Watering is used to prevent excess dust from irritating horses and people.[20] Heating systems allow racing during the winter months.[21]


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.[22][23] Most ban'ei horses start official racing[note 1][24][25] as two-year-olds after passing inspection held between April and August.[26] Horses that do not pass inspection are either sent back to a breeder as they can be used in events or tourism,[27][note 2] or to feedlot.[13]

Competing horses are mainly solid-coloured, but there have also been pinto ban'ei horses[28][29][30] and two dominant whites.[31][32][33][34]

Former racehorses not eligible for breeding are usually[35] sold for meat.[5] At the close of every fiscal year during the end of March, prolific retiring racehorses are honoured at their own ceremony. The National Association of Racing (NAR) annually awards the best horse.[36]

Japanese Draft Horse

The 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".)[37]

Eight draft breeds have been listed as eligible for the breeding program: Ardennes, Clydesdale, Shire, Brabançon, Breton, Boulonnais, Belgian and Percheron.[38] (This isn't directly comparable to breeding stock available – as of 2015, purebred stallions in stud are Bretons and Percherons,[39] while data regarding new registrations of broodmares from 2014 indicates that from purebreds, three form a majority: Bretons, Percherons, and Belgians.)[40]

Japanese Drafts are used mainly in ban'ei and horsemeat production.[39][41] The ideal horse has draft phenotype and "hybrid vigour".

The 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.[42] In extreme cases, a horse may have multiple facial markings and all legs marked with white. Open studbook policy has led to pinto (piebald) pattern; one female family[43] used in ban'ei can be traced to single stallion born in 1967,[44] while dominant white seen in two horses was spontaneous, manifesting in 2010.[note 5]

Prevalence of hereditary diseases is unknown, since at least one Western scientific source lists breed as "ban-ei" without hereditary diseases.[45] (As comparison, Japanese scientific database uses the correct breed name.[46])


  1. ^ Regional races ("ban'ei koshien") with finals for yearlings are held every in October.
  2. ^ Number of horses used in agrarian transport or manure production after 2006 is unknown.
  3. ^ Before 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



  • Kintaro (キンタロー) (1979–1986), won 32 races, 116,725,000 yen.[47]
  • Takara Fuji (タカラフジ) (1983–1990), won 27 races, 103,490,000 yen.[48]
  • Hikaru Tenryu (ヒカルテンリユウ) (1985–1992), won 27 races, 104,611,000 yen.[49]
  • Asagiri (アサギリ) (1987–1994), won 41 races, 102,512,000 yen.[50]
  • Maruzen Burgi (マルゼンバージ) (1988–1996), won 22 races, 107,517,000 yen.[51]
  • Fukuichi (フクイチ) (1991–1999), won 30 races, 111,481,000 yen.[52]
  • Sakano Tyson[53](サカノタイソン) (1996–2002), 19 starts (longest winning streak)[54]
  • Kanesa Black[55] (カネサブラック) (2004–2013), 72 starts (most wins)[56]

These horses didn't retire to stud:

  • Super Pegasus (スーパーペガサス) (1998–2006), won 42 races, 100,739,000 yen.
  • Kotobuki Ryan[57] (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", the horse's lifetime earnings must exceed 100,000,000 million yen[58]

Jockeys and trainers with over 2,000 wins[59]

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
  • Keisuke Suzuki (鈴木恵介) – since 1998, over 2,000 wins
  • Yoshiyuki Hattori (服部 義幸) – since 1985, over 2,000 wins[60]
  • Matsuda Michiaki (松田道明騎) – since 1990, over 2,000 wins[61]

Former jockey active as trainer:

  • Akihiko Kanayama, "Mr. Ban'ei" (明彦 金山) – 1969–1999, 3,299 wins[62] [63]
  • Hisada Mamoru (久田守) – 1972–1996, 13,964 starts, 2,103 wins[62][63]
  • Sakamoto Touichi (坂本東一) – 1975–2007, 21,188 starts, 2,678 wins[62] [63]
  • Chiba Hitoshi (千葉均) – 1979–2007, 20,431 starts, 2,106 wins[64][63]
  • Nishi Hiromi (西弘美) – 1980–2009, 22,939 starts, 2,479 wins[62][63]


  • Iwamoto Toshiharu (岩本利春) – 1979–2005, 19,263 starts, 2,085 wins[62][65][63]
  • Suzuki Shoutei (鈴木勝堤) – 1981–2010, 17,850 starts, 2,313 wins[66](Didn't obtain training license)[63]
  • Kaoru Ogase (尾ヶ瀬 馨) – 1992–2016, 20,687 starts, 2,064 wins[62][67]

Other Records:

  • Highest daily average: 1978 – 100,000,000 million yen[68]
  • Most racedays per year: 1995 – 156 days[68]
  • Highest sales since 2006: 2013 – 13.2 billion (nicknamed "Silver Spoon effect")[68]

Grade races

All held in Obihiro, over 200 metres.[69]


The Irene Kinen (イレネー記念)[70]
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

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

Three-year-olds and up

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

These were either high-stakes or graded races.[71]

  • 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) – n/a
  • 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. ^ "English -Banei Tokachi WebSite". Archived from the original on 2014-02-27. 
  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 2016 - 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. ^ "ばんえい十勝応援企画2016第2弾:おトク情報:楽天競馬". 
  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]【お知らせ】走路散水について(5/23)
  21. ^ [16]【お知らせ】本走路のヒーティング稼動および砂障害の撤去
  22. ^ [17] 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)
  23. ^ 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)
  24. ^ "【お知らせ】10/25~26全道祭典ばんば1歳馬決勝大会-ばんえい十勝オフィシャルホームページ". 22 March 2015. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015. 
  25. ^ [18]
  26. ^ "【平成28年度 能力検査について】ばんえい十勝オフィシャルホームページ". 
  27. ^ [19] 馬 - 2006
  28. ^ "駁毛(ぶちげ)のエンジェルガガ デビュー - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  29. ^ "異色対決 - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  30. ^ "ガンバレ、がんばる! - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  31. ^ "704kg ハクバビューティー - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  32. ^ "ハクバビューティー、負けん気爆発! - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  33. ^ "7月3日(日) ハクバボーイ - ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ". 
  34. ^ [20] JEAA journal issue 6 from 2011 where Hakuba Beauty (then known as "Hakubahime") is gene-tested for W17. (pg. 6)
  35. ^ [21] Ban-ei horse with second career as carriage horse
  36. ^ [22](in English)
  37. ^ 輓系馬の部(pg. 3)
  38. ^ 輓系馬の部(pg 2.)
  39. ^ a b [23]
  40. ^ [24] 繁殖登録雌馬の品種構成
  41. ^ 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
  42. ^ 実馬審査体型標準 - 輓系馬
  43. ^ [25] Pedigree of Almond Madonna, dam of Angel Gaga
  44. ^ [26] Hanuma
  45. ^ UFAW Electronic Supplementary Material - Appendices Horse breeds with inherited disorders
  46. ^ 世界最大級の馬,日本輓系種における妊娠全期間に渡る新しい胎子診断法の確立 Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Veterinary medical science, Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine
  47. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  48. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  49. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  50. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  51. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  52. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  53. ^ "地方競馬 データ情報". 
  54. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  55. ^ "地方競馬 データ情報". 
  56. ^ "公益社団法人 日本馬事協会". 
  57. ^ [27]
  58. ^ [28] 1億円達成馬
  59. ^ [29] 騎手名鑑
  60. ^ [30] 服部 義幸
  61. ^ [31] 松田騎手が2000勝達成
  62. ^ a b c d e f [32] ばんえい競馬の沿革
  63. ^ a b c d e f g 調教師リーディング
  64. ^ [33] 騎手情報
  65. ^ [34] 千葉均 (Retired as trainer)
  66. ^ [35] 騎手情報
  67. ^ [36] 騎手情報
  68. ^ a b c [37]
  69. ^ "ばんえい十勝オフィシャルホームページ". 
  70. ^ [38] Named after stallion that contributed to early ban-ei racing.
  71. ^ [39] 帯広ば競馬場 重賞レース一覧

External links