Lisa Allpress is hoping her competitive streak and previous experience in Japan can give her an edge in this weekend's World All Stars Jockeys series at Sapporo Racecourse in Hokkaido.
The New Zealand champion, who at #248 in the TRC Global Rankings is one of the highest-rated female riders in the world, is part of the international team, which also features Ireland’s Colm O’Donoghue (world #85), Hong Kong’s Karis Teetan (#93) and French-born U.S. rider Julien Leparoux (#35).
They are up against Japan’s finest, including Yutaka Take (#33), Christophe Lemaire (#4), Suguru Hamanaka (#169) and Nanako Fujita, winner of the Women’s World Cup in Sweden in June ahead of competing in the Shergar Cup jockeys’ event at Ascot and the only female rider in Japan.
Allpress has arrived in Hokkaido ahead of the four-race series, which runs over two meetings at Sapporo. She has also picked up a further three rides including Daimei Fuji in the G3 Keeneland Cup on Sunday.
“I’m super excited. When I got here yesterday I felt that connection with Japan again. I really like Japan. It’s a nice place to be and the people are lovely,” Allpress said.
“I just hope the horses go well. A lot is the luck of the draw. I’m here to enjoy myself but to do my best and go as close to winning as I can. We’ve already been so well looked after.”
Allpress’ participation in the series is the 20th occasion a New Zealand rider has competed for the title, though Shane Dye and James McDonald have ridden as Australian representatives.
Dye finished second in 1991, while Jim Collett finished fourth in 1997 and fifth in 1995. Other Kiwi jockeys to have ridden in the series include Lance O’Sullivan, David Walsh, Tony Allan, Opie Bosson, Darryl Bradley, Michael Walker, Leith Innes and Samantha Collett.
“I remember going through my apprenticeship and hearing all about the World Jockeys Super Series and the trip to Japan and it’s always been something I’ve aspired to do,” Allpress said.
Allpress earned her invitation to the series after sealing her third New Zealand jockeys’ premiership last season.
She is familiar with Japanese racing, having ridden there on three previous short-term contracts, winning 11 races and finishing second in the G3 Niigata Daishoten (2000m) at Fukushima in 2015 aboard Nakayama Knight.
“I’m hoping my experience here stands me in good stead for this series. I know how they race here and I’ve ridden on the dirt before, not that I really like it.
“They ride on a long rein here and push hard in the first 400m of the race. It shouldn’t take me long to get back into the swing of racing here.”