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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 16:05 GMT
Japanese cheer on no-hope horse
Haru-urara (second left) battles on
Sure-fire loser: Haru-urara takes on the competition
Japan's favourite racehorse did what she does best on Monday - clocking up her 106th straight defeat.

Haru-urara, a runty chestnut mare, galloped in a gallant last-but-one at the Kochi racecourse, where a record crowd gathered to watch her exploits.

Her popularity is put down to Japanese fondness for the hopeless but plucky underdog, correspondents say.

"It's better if she loses", one punter said of the four-legged celebrity who duly obliged, coming in 10th out of 11.

Cashing in

Haru-urara, or Gentle Spring, slogged through the mud at the racecourse south-west of Tokyo, roared on by more than 10,000 spectators who had come from all over Japan to watch her.

She was ridden by Japan's star jockey, Yutaka Take, but even his skill could not break her losing streak.

Crowds rush into the Kochi racecourse to see their favourite
Japanese punters cannot get enough of their favourite runner
Japanese television ran footage of the race, focusing on the mare with her trademark pink "Hello Kitty" hood.

"All the fans seem to be going home happy," a reporter covering for Asahi TV said.

"They feel that it was OK for her to lose."

Correspondents say Haru-urara, the eternal loser who does not give up, has struck a chord with those Japanese who have lost most during the past decade of economic stagnation and job losses.

Her spectacular lack of success is also proving as profitable as it is inspirational. Kochi racecourse, nearly bankrupt, has seen its revenues shoot up.

Others are also cashing in with "Haru" tours, t-shirts, good luck charms said to contain a hair from her tail, books, and postage stamps. There is a pop song about her and a movie is in the works.

The excitement surrounding Haru-urara has even infected Japan's prime minister.

"Isn't it good that she gets support whether she wins or loses?" Junichiro Koizumi said after her latest defeat.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Her popularity may lead to a film"



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