Thoroughbred auction markets held in Japan include the sale of foals, yearlings, and two year olds, training sales and the sale of broodmares. Their schedules and organizers differ little from year to year. Sales of foals are mainly held in July through October, yearlings in May through October and training sales of two year olds in May. Sales of racehorses and broodmares take place in October, or November.
Sale organizers include the Hidaka, Iburi & Tokachi Breeders' Associations, which runs the "Hokkaido Sales", which are the largest in Japan. The Japan Racing Horse Association, which hosts the "Select Sale," where high-priced horses are traded; the Aomori Prefecture Breeders' Association, which runs the "Hachinohe Sale;" the Chiba Ryoso Agricultural Cooperative Association, which hosts the "Chiba Thoroughbred Sale;" the Kagoshima Prefecture Breeders' Association, which runs the "Kyushu Sale;" and the Hidaka Higashi Agricultural Cooperative Association, which hosts the "Hidaka Training Sale."
Among these diverse markets, the most important markets in Japan are the yearling markets. These are followed by the foal markets (where young horses with potential are purchased) and finally, the two-year-old training sales (which supply ready to race firepower).
Yearling markets have historically been Japan's main auction markets. 2,400 horses go on sale at these markets each year, of which around 900 are sold. Yearling markets are held in breeding regions throughout the country such as the main breeding area Hokkaido, in Aomori Prefecture, in Chiba Prefecture and in Kagoshima Prefecture. These markets see horses from small and medium-sized breeding farms, which account for 75% of the total, put up for auction with their owners hoping they will sell for a good price. Yearling markets where only selected horses are put up for sale, include the "Select Sale," organized by the Japan Racing Horse Association and the "Hokkaido Selection Sale," which is administered by the Hidaka Breeders' Association.
Japan's yearling markets have produced such successful horses as T.M. Opera O (sire: Opera House (GB)), which won seven GI races and earned JPY 1,835,189,000 in prize money, which is more than any other horse has earned in the world. Also, Kiss to Heaven (sire: Admire Vega (JPN)), which won the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas).
Foal markets have soared in recent years as horse owners whose ambition is to own a future derby winner try to realize their dreams early. The Japan Racing Horse Association added a "Select Sale" foal market in 1998. This sale centered on horses produced by the leading breeder the Shadai Group. Foal markets have expanded rapidly since then.
Foal markets in Japan have produced numerous thoroughbreds that have become flagships for Japan's racehorses and breeding. These include Deep Impact (sire: Sunday Silence (USA)), a horse that became something of an idol in Japan after winning the Japan Triple Crown. King Kamehameha (sire: Kingmambo (USA), which won successive Derby (GI) and NHK Mile Cup (GI) races and Admire Moon (sire: End Sweep (USA)), which won the Japan Cup (GI) and Dubai Duty Free (GI). He also became a JRA horse of the year, and was traded for a large amount of money to Darley. The list is endless. another notable horse is Sunningdale (sire: Warning (GB)), winner of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (GI), among other great runners.
These markets have gradually become more firmly established since they originally began in 1997 as training sales. They are currently held in breeding and nurturing regions such as Hokkaido, Chiba Prefecture, and Kagoshima Prefecture (the sale is actually held in Miyazaki Prefecture). The techniques employed by the consigners to perform late-stage training and breaking, have advanced tremendously over the last ten years. This is not only meeting the needs of horse owners, but they now want to debut their horses immediately.
A two-year-old training sale produced Hishi Miracle (sire: Soccer Boy (JPN)), a horse that became the subject of a lot of attention after winning the Kikuka Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), Tenno Sho (GI), and other races. A more recent sales graduate, Pilseung Gangja (sire: Adjudicating (USA)), won the Segye Ilbo Cup, a major race in South Korea, after being exported to that country. These particular sales are expected to see an increase in purchases by overseas buyers in the coming years.