TRC Global Rankings have been affected most by racing in Hong Kong and Japan of late, and that looks likely to continue on Sunday with the G1 Japan Cup at Tokyo, which is one of the world's 'Big Seven' races - those with a prize fund of more than $5 million*.
One of the features of this race is the clash not just between foreign-trained horses and the local champions, but also that between riders from around the world.
It is fair to say that Japanese riders do not enjoy the most positive reputation around the world. For many European racing fans, the memory of the 2014 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe lives on. Then Yuga Kawada on Harp Star, Yuichi Fukunaga on Just A Way and Norihoro Yokohama on Gold Ship all put their mounts at a big tactical disadvantage.
The rate at which foreign-based riders have been used on top Japanese horses suggests that this reputation may be within the consciousness of Japanese connections as well. Either way, it reflects the fact that Japanese racing is a highly competitive environment that the likes of Ryan Moore, Christophe Soumillon, Mirco Demuro and Christophe Lemaire are shipped in to compete with the top locals.
All four riders mentioned have won this week’s Japan Cup since 2009, and Moore, Soumillon and Demuro all feature as TRC Global Rankings top 10 riders in the freshly minted edition.
The table below contains the current standings of riders with Japan as their Modal Country in the rankings, Demuro heading the list from Kawada who, Harp Star now in the wing mirrors, won this year’s G1 Japanese Derby on Makahiki.
Current TRC Global Rankings for jockeys with Modal Country as Japan
However, it is fallacious to believe Japan has no top-notch riding talent because of a few misadventures in Europe. That would be like judging European riders by their fortunes at the early Breeders’ Cups.
The big mover in the TRC Global Rankings jockeys standings this year has been Keita Tosaki, who is certainly no greenhorn at 36 but has climbed from #38 at the start of the year to his present spot at #13 (he was as high as #11 in the 23/10/2016 classification) as a result of winning no fewer than 13 graded races in Japan in 2016. On the right is a graph of his ranking, with the right tail showing his stellar year.
The ninth-ranked Japanese-based rider is a big improver in the standings this week. Suguru Hamanaka won Sunday’s G1 Mile Championship at Kyoto on Mikki Isle, dashing his mount clear off the home turn and holding horses ridden by Lemaire and Moore in a thrilling finish (see the YouTube video below). Hamanaka has hovered around the top 50 in our classifications every week since the first rankings on 5/1/2014.
With this weekend’s big meeting in mind, it is worth mentioning Hayato Yoshida, who is only 27 and another big mover in our rankings. The rider of Japan Cup fancy Gold Actor, he was first ranked at #394 on 8/11/2015 and is now as high as #117. It would be no surprise to see him climb higher.
Yutaka Take is perhaps the most familiar name among Japanese riders and his vast experience spans the 1999 Japan Cup, which he won aboard Special Week. Take has impressed of late with his handling of Kitasan Black, another horse with a good chance of withstanding the foreign challenge in this weekend’s epic.
*The other races in the 'Big Seven' are the Dubai World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Dubai Turf and the Breeders' Cup Classic. It will, of course, become a Big Eight in January, with the first running of the Pegasus World Cup in Florida, which - at $12 million - will top the lot.