Your legs are shaking. Your heart is beating out of your chest. You’ve been practicing tirelessly for this race for the past several weeks, and while there may be eleven other girls on the track with you, you can only see the one standing between you and victory. While this might be unfair to the other runners, there's that one special one who has been the forefront of your mind. So it’s only natural that you only remember her starting ability on the track, in the moments before the race begins. This is the mindset of Umamusume: Pretty Derby’s horse girls, and these are the rivalries that spawn between each of them.
Welcome to Tokyo’s Tracen Academy, a prestigious academy exclusively for horse girls where they sharpen their running skills. At first glance, it may seem that training is the most important part of a horse girl’s time at Tracen, but what really pushes each one above and beyond is the burning desire win at all costs – even against some of the top runners in Japan. While training certainly is important to stay in shape, nothing pushes a girl, especially a horse girl, past her limits like a good rivalry.
Let’s take a look at one of these rivalries, the rivalry between two fan favorites – Special Week and Seiun Sky. Despite a phenomenal beginning to her racing career, when Special Week attempted to run against Seiun Sky in a race on the Nakayama racecourse she unknowingly started a rivalry between her and her fellow horse girl. After this race, Seiun Sky practices specifically to beat Special Week and steals her first win towards a Triple Crown out from under her in her first Grade I race. From there on, Seiun Sky remains a top concern and close rival for Special Week whenever it comes to her races.
This rivalry isn't only interesting from an audience point of view, such as when Seiun Sky first beats Special Week in a race, but it's also what drove Seiun Sky to beat Special Week in the first place and later motivates Special Week to do the same. With a goal like becoming the best horse girl in Japan, rivalries like this can be extremely important. Facing an opponent of equal or even arguably better skill, mixed with an absolute refusal to let go of your own dreams, may be exactly what a horse girl needs to push herself to new heights previously thought to be impossible.
This might be why, as a show, Umamusume puts so much of an emphasis on rivalries. Every race throughout the show is less about every individual girl and more about how the main characters of Team Spica do against their rivals Team Regal. As the two most popular teams from Tracen Academy, Spica and Regal’s rivalry is one that never fails to excite the crowd, and it's easy to see why. With Team Regal having members that are all some of the most well-known and fastest horse girls in Japan, including the Triple Crown horse girl Symboli Rudolf, and team Spica having the shining newcomer Special Week and the breathtaking Silence Suzuka, each time these two go against each other is sure to be fascinating.
Not only are Spica and Regal homes to the fastest horse girls Japan has to offer, but they endlessly grow because of one another as well. Each time a Spica horse girl beats Regal, the team's top priority becomes learning why they lost and how to specifically defeat Spica next race, and the same can be said for the opposite situation as well. The horse girls of these teams have their sights set so high that, in a way, they need each other as a helpful push up to the top.
In a way, it's hard not to see the correlation with everyday life. At least at some point, each and every one of us has had sights set high, and some of us surely still do. While it's perfectly possible to just surpass yourself over and over again – and while that may be how some have gotten to the top – sometimes a little rivalry is helpful. Every so often, maybe each of us need races against our own Seiun Sky to push us above and beyond what we previously thought was possible to help us achieve our dreams.