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Hokkaido farm bets on crowdfunding to care for retired racehorses

Facility provides 'safe space' for former stars of the Japan Racing Association

Rose Kingdom, former winner of the prestigious Japan Cup, is now a resident of Versailles Resort Farm in Hokkaido.

KUSHIRO, Japan -- A racehorse producer in northern Japan has turned to crowdfunding to create a home for retired horses.

Versailles Farm, in the town of Hidaka on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, opened Versailles Resort Farm in the spring of 2019. But the facility needed a little fixing up, so the farm asked the public for help, raising about 13.8 million yen ($127,000) in a crowdfunding round between April and June.

"I want to create a safe space where retired horses can spend out the rest of their lives," said Representative Director Takafumi Iwasaki.

The money will be spent on an upgrade of the facility, rebuilding aging stables and installing security cameras, with construction scheduled for completion in February 2020.

Versailles already houses about 20 retired racehorses, including Taiki Shuttle and Rose Kingdom.

Taiki Shuttle won five Grade One (GI) races at home and abroad -- earning a place in the Japan Racing Association's Hall of Fame -- while Rose Kingdom won the prestigious Japan Cup.

Most retired racehorses generate little revenue unless they have had very successful careers, in which case they can be put up for breeding. Otherwise they are a financial drain. Each retired horse receives a monthly subsidy of between 10,000 yen and 20,000 yen, but the bulk of their maintenance cost is born by farms.

In mid-September, a vandal cut off the manes of two former racehorses at the farm during visiting hours. Versailles hopes to prevent this in the future by installing security cameras and building a fence at a cost of about 3.7 million yen.

The farm recently kicked off a fresh round of crowdfunding, hoping to raise an additional 2.5 million yen by the end of November. Contributors will receive gifts such as calendars and wallpapers for smartphones and PCs featuring photos of retired racehorses.

In June, Versailles launched a three-tiered members club to support retired horses. For 2,000 yen, 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen a month, members can receive benefits ranging from free farm tours to discounts on the use of farm accommodations. There are already 146 members.

The town of Hidaka has produced many star racehorses. Iwasaki hopes Versailles Resort Farm will give the horses a chance to continue to delight tourists and former fans in a safe, comfortable environment.

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