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Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Why horse racing is 'Big in Japan'

Horse Racing Japan: Orfevre

By Matt Majendie


(CNN) -- Big in Japan. It's a phenomenon well known to generations of rock bands, elevated from relative obscurity at home to apparent god-like status in the Land of the Rising Sun.


Met at the airport by screaming fans, groups struggling to get in their own charts get an unexpected -- and often career-reviving -- taste of Beatlemania, Orient-style.


This weekend, it's going international -- "Live at the Budokan" on tour, in Longchamp. Thousands of enthusiastic Japanese will invade Paris for an event that some say has become the crowning jewel in a new national obsession.


It's not pop music, but horse racing -- a sport that has emerged from a murky association with underworld gambling to become an aspirational pastime for a younger generation of Japanese racegoers and a rival to the likes of baseball and football.


"Many years ago, horse racing had a kind of bad reputation but there has been a big change in perception among Japanese citizens," Fumitaka Tsuruoka, the Paris representative for the Japan Racing Association, told CNN.


"It is true that horse racing still offers betting but it is loved by many people as a sport, which they could be enthusiastic about."


A party of some 5,000 horse-racing-mad fans is traveling to the French capital to see if their nation can finally end its hoodoo in one of the sport's premier events -- the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.


The passion and desire to win European racing's richest prize -- with a purse of €4 million ($5.4 million) -- is almost verging on an obsession, but it is an obsession with good reason.


Read more at CNN


Gate or post positions for the 2013 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 2013 - la piste en camera subjective