DOES THIS STORY SOUND FAMILIAR? A runty racehorse has captured
the imagination of a country that has fallen on economic hard
times. Fans pack her races, and books and DVDs about her fly off
the shelves.

LIKE SEABISCUIT? Yes, except that the 8-year-old mare Haruurara
is Japanese (the name means Gentle Spring)--and she has lost all
106 of her starts. Her most recent failure, on March 22, was seen
by a crowd of 13,000, many of whom lined up hours before the
track opened for choice seats. Undaunted by her record, bettors
at the track and the 21 satellite sites set up especially to
handle action on Haruurara's race focused instead on her being
ridden, for the first time, by Japan's top jockey, Yutaka Take.
With a record $4.8 million bet on the race, Haruurara went off as
the even-money favorite. She came home 10th in the 11-horse

WHAT'S SHE GOOD FOR? At a time when several Japanese tracks have
gone under, Haruurara has kept her home track, in the city of
Kochi, afloat. Last month the local government presented her with
440 pounds of carrots for "services to tourism."

WILL THERE BE A HAPPY ENDING? Haruurara holds a special place in
Japanese hearts. Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi praised her as
an example of fortitude in difficult times, saying her story
showed that "people shouldn't give up, even when they lose." And,
of course, there's a movie about her life in the works.

COLOR PHOTO: JIJI PRESS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (HORSE) LOVABLE LOSER Even with Take in the saddle, the thoroughbredcouldn't end her lifelong slump.