Hanako Varian

Hanako Sonobe 

Born in 1976, in Saitama Japan. 

My passion for horses began from the age of 14 when I learnt to ride and got into showjumping at a riding club close to home. I was privileged to meet the ex racehorse Captain Cook whom I rode and competed. Captain and I formed a close bond and he inspired me to learn more about 'the horse'.

Opportunities to be around horses in Japan are very limited and most children who are interested in riding often learn to ride on ex racehorses. Furthermore, there are not many opportunities to get an education relating to horses so I decided to go to university in the UK to learn more. 

I studied at the Royal Veterinary College for one year and then joined the University of West England where I finished a BSc Equine Science.

After university I returned to Japan seeking a job where I could combine my language skill with my horse knowledge. It would be the first time I was introduced to horse racing as I took up a role working at a JRA subsidiary company called The Japan Association for International Horse Racing. Here we dealt with any international racing matters and worked closely with the International Department in the JRA.  I spent two and a half years in this role and had to quickly learn all the aspects of the horse racing industry and also the different roles within the racing authority in order to translate and interpret accurately to the various visitors.

I believe my contribution to the industry comes from bringing a strong knowledge of Japanese and worldwide racing coupled with an innovative and open eyed approach to business.

This knowledge would become a foundation for me when I applied to join the very first Darley Flying Start Program (a management course for the horse racing industry which was established by HH Sheikh Mohammed of UAE in 2003.) I was very lucky to be accepted in the first ever group and spent two years traveling the world visiting countries including: Ireland, UK, America, Australia and UAE. 

My prior experience working gave me an opportunity to compare Japan with many different countries that I travelled through. During the course, I learnt many aspects of the industry including breeding, pedigrees, breaking, training, feeding, veterinary, sales, racecourse management, business, law, marketing, hospitality and finance. 

Following the Darley Flying Start course, I initially worked with a consigner in Florida preparing two year olds for the breeze up sales before moving to Newmarket in 2006 where I took up a position within Darley as a marketing co-ordinator for Darley Japan. I would spend ten years working for Darley Japan and during that time my role evolved to become Director of Racing. This involved managing HH Sheikh Mohammed’s racehorses in the JRA racing program as well as the strategic running of the company.

In 2016 I finished working for Darley and moved on to progress my own business as a bloodstock consultant whilst also allowing more time to get involved in Varian Stable with Roger. I believe my contribution to the industry comes from bringing a strong knowledge of Japanese and worldwide racing coupled with an innovative and open eyed approach to business. I also have a deep passion for 'the horse' and would like to further contribute and evolve the opportunities for retired racehorses to have a second career. I get my inspiration from my retired racehorse, Captain Cook as for sure I wouldn't be here without him.