In response to the coronavirus outbreak, JRA decided to hold its horse races without spectators from February 29. As other racecourses are closed, racing fans can only bet by phone or via online.
With a number of G1 winners retiring at the end of last year, including 2019 Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux (JPN, by Heart's Cry), Cheval Grand (JPN, by Heart's Cry), Al Ain (JPN, by Deep Impact), Rey de Oro (JPN, by King Kamehameha) and Suave Richard (JPN, by Heart's Cry), this year's middle-long-distance spring G1 campaign for four-year-olds & up will likely be led by the top finishers of last year's Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.
Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) winners Wagnerian (JPN, H5, by Deep Impact) in 2018 and Makahiki (JPN, H7, by Deep Impact) in 2016, who finished the 2019 Japan Cup in third and fourth, respectively, will both kick off their 2020 campaigns with the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) on April 5. Saturnalia (JPN, C4, by Lord Kanaloa), 2019 Arima Kinen runner-up and Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) winner, commenced his four-year-old season with a comfortable two-length victory in the Kinko Sho (G2, 2,000m) on March 15. His connections announced that the colt will skip the Osaka Hai for the Takarazuka Kinen (G1, 2,200m) on June 28.
Other key contenders of the Osaka Hai will include 2019 Tokyo Yushun runner-up Danon Kingly (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact), who most recently won the Nakayama Kinen, and Lucky Lilac (JPN, M5, by Orfevre), who won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) and was second in the Nakayama Kinen. They will be joined by 2019 Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m) victor Chrono Genesis (JPN, F4, by Bago), who registered her third graded title in her latest start, the Kyoto Kinen (G2, 2,200m) on February 16, and Blast Onepiece (JPN, H5, by Harbinger), winner of the 2018 Arima Kinen and this year's American Jockey Club Cup (G2, 2,200m).
Last year's Japan Cup fifth-place finisher You Can Smile (JPN, H5, by King Kamehameha) captured his third graded title with a comfortable 1-3/4-length victory in his five-year-old kick-off start, the Hanshin Daishoten (G2, 3,000m) on March 22, and will head to the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, 3,200m) on May 3. World Premiere (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact), Fierement (JPN, H5, by Deep Impact) and Kiseki (JPN, H6, by Rulership), who finished third, fourth and fifth respectively in last year's Arima Kinen, were all Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) winners in their three-year-old seasons. World Premiere was scheduled to kick off his four-year-old season with the Osaka Hai and then head for the Tenno Sho (Spring) but was sidelined due to health reasons. Fierement will commence his 2020 season by attempting to defend his Tenno Sho (Spring) title. Kiseki, who finished a disappointing seventh after a poor break in his first start this season, the Hanshin Daishoten, will be another key runner in the Tenno Sho (Spring).
The first of the flat-turf G1 events of the year, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse on March 29, will spotlight last year's Sprinters Stakes (G1, 1,200m) winner Tower of London (JPN, H5, by Raven's Pass). The five-year-old kicked off the season with the Ocean Cup (G3, 1,200m) on March 7 by finishing third, 4-1/2 lengths behind winner Danon Smash (JPN, H5, by Lord Kanaloa), while carrying a top weight of 58kg, which was 2kg more than the rest of the field. After the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, he may fly to Great Britain either for the Royal Ascot or the July Cup (G1, 1,200m). The Takamatsunomiya Kinen will also feature Tower of London's stablemate and 2019 Best Three-Year-Old Filly, Gran Alegria (JPN, F4, by Deep Impact), and last year's Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) winner Normcore (JPN, M5, by Harbinger).
The steeplechase racing in spring will be highlighted by the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) on April 18. Oju Chosan (JP N, H9, by Stay Gold), Best Steeplechase Horse between 2016 and 2018, will aim for his fifth consecutive title this year after winning the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m) on March 14 to renew his own record by claiming his 12th consecutive graded steeplechase title. Last year's Nakayama Daishogai (J-G1, 4,100m) winner and Best Steeplechase Horse Shingun Michael (JPN, G6, by Shingun Opera) also kicked off the season in the Hanshin Spring Jump and finished second, nine lengths behind Oju Chosan.
The Victoria Mile for four-year-old & up fillies/mares on May 17 will include Lucky Lilac, Gran Alegria, Chrono Genesis and Normcore as well as last year's runner-up Primo Scene (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact), Kyoto Himba Stakes (G3, 1,400m) victor Sound Chiara (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact) and other female runners from the prep race, the Hanshin Himba Stakes (G2, 1,600m) on April 11.